Career Responsibility

A few people asked variations on this question: If I work for a company that seems to have priorities I don’t agree with, am I partially responsible for its results?

Answer: Of course you are.

If you assist your company in achieving its objectives, you’re contributing to its results. So naturally you’ll share responsibility for the consequences of those results.

If this realization is unpleasant, you certainly have options. You can stop working for that company. You can switch to another company whose priorities are aligned with your values. You can also start your own business or do freelance work if you prefer.

Perhaps the worst choice is to continue serving a company whose values are too far out of alignment with yours. Staying in this situation can be morally and emotionally draining. If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s better to deal with some short-term financial setbacks than the long-term negative consequences to your career, health, and relationships.

How do you find a company whose values are in alignment with your own? Don’t bother reading the companies’ mission statement. Ask around. Ask in places where people won’t benefit by lying to you. Find people who work there, and talk to them directly. Ask about the company on independent message boards. You may not want to put too much weight in one person’s answers, but with enough questioning you’ll likely see a pattern emerge.

If you encounter companies with questionable values, realize the reason they exist is that people are willing to work for them. If people weren’t willing to work under those conditions, such companies wouldn’t exist.

A common pattern I see is that companies with questionable values that make their employees uncomfortable usually prioritize physical world values over nonphysical values. For example, they may value profit (a physical world construct) over fairness (a nonphysical ideal). Companies with strong employee loyalty typically place a higher priority on nonphysical ideals, such as creativity, leadership, and service.

All physical values are by definition impermanent, since everything of a physical nature is itself impermanent. Consequently, working for a company that devotes itself to the impermanent is unlikely to feel good, especially since fear-based motivation will inevitably be used. On the other hand, working to express a permanent, nonphysical ideal in physical form is likely to feel very good, particularly when that ideal is inspiring and motivating to those who pursue it.

When choosing a company to work for, to partner with, or even to patronize as a customer, take a moment to consider the values you’re supporting and the long-term consequences of those values. This is an important part of living consciously.

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© 2007 by Steve Pavlina. If you find these ideas helpful, please leave a donation for Steve so you can enjoy the spirit of giving too.