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On weighing ethics and morals at work

  • Work

I was on leave for the week that’s just passed, but had to deal with something (from work) that was stressing me out the whole time, which makes me feel like I really want a re-do of this break.

Alas.

I knew that going into a consultancy that I might be asked to do work for clients that I wouldn’t be ethically aligned with.

It’s annoying how much I was/am affected by this thing, because I’m still trying to practice stoicism and internalize how I’m the only thing I have control over.

Yeah, I’m being purposefully vague here, since I can’t go into details of what the thing actually is. The closest parallel I can draw is if I was vehemently against alcohol and being asked to work on something that would very much make me complicit in more alcoholism.

I’ve worked on brands that don’t fully align with my own beliefs — not just one, but two oil and gas companies come to mind. I’ve played it out in my mind then too, chalking it down to not having much agency over the type of work I can work on.

There were numerous reasons for that: my relative junior status at that point in my career, the company I was in, the fear of not having a plan B and being passed over for future work and promotion readiness…

This time, though. This time, I assessed the request, and weighed it against my moral compass. Everyone has their own tolerance of what is acceptable to them, and I made the personal call that I cannot accept my complicity and potential culpability. It would be the kind of thing that weighs down on my mind and heart, and I wouldn’t be able to function fully as a designer.

That isn’t to say that any part of me was comfortable at any step of this pushback. There was a constant little voice in my head egging it on, trying to figure what takes priority — my moral compass, or the extreme people pleaser part of me?

I feel incredibly appreciative of the support from different dimensions in the business: my people manager (who is also the lead of the design team), my teammates (one of whom also backed out), and a mentor from another part of the organization.

(I’m crossing my fingers that I won’t have to strike out all of these words with a sad update come Monday.)

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