I was listening to a recent podcast where the host shared a listener’s comment about how he felt that he could no longer be as discerning about the projects he took on because of the current economic situation. He specifically mentioned that he was torn between refusing some projects based on his personal principles and accepting the work because he needed the revenue.
The listener didn’t give any specifics, but it made me consider where I would draw (and have drawn) my own line.
I’ve left more than one job where my personal philosophies significantly differed with the owner or manager to the point of a complete loss of respect for the individual (I’m sure they weren’t a fan of mine either!).
I also know I would not take on a marketing client who wanted me to bring my talents to bear on trying to accomplish goals and put forth a point of view of which I was in fiery opposition. For instance, I would not choose to do work for any of those pay-day loan companies. I think they take advantage of people and I wouldn’t want to be a part of using my marketing ideas to bring them more people to take advantage of.
As my brain tends to do, it started running scenarios and what-ifs about the listener’s specific situation…
Was it actually a problem of principle or a problem of pride?
Was the person turning down work because it was diametrically opposed to his personal beliefs, or was it work that they thought was beneath them?
For example, I would not choose to work at Walmart because I’ve heard too many first-hand horror stories about how they treat their employees. However, if I lost my job and was having no luck finding a new one while eating away at my savings and falling behind on paying my bills — but Walmart was hiring — I’d absolutely take a job there to earn money until I could find a job I liked better.
There was a point where I had a fancy-schmancy job in a training department earning a pretty penny and feeling good about my place in the world when the place started to go out of business and laid-off hundreds of workers in one fell swoop. There was even a nice compensation package for those who were shown the door (me included) — but I was not having luck finding any sort of full-time job in my field. When the comp package ran out, I took a job delivering pizzas in the evenings and on weekends so I could continue the job search during the day.
Some people might have turned their nose up at delivering pizzas when they were used to wearing a shirt and tie to work in a corporate office everyday and had an important-sounding title printed on their embossed linen business cards — but that would be a decision based on pride, not principle.
In these tough times you may be faced with a similar choice of having to consider work that you might have thought you’d outgrown at this point in your life (pride) or taking on client work that goes against your human need to contribute to society rather than take from it (principles).