I just turned down a lucrative contract because in my heart I’m ethically opposed to the company’s corporate owners.
When I was first contacted by their director of engineering, I had a negative gut feeling that it just “wasn’t me,” but I put off the concern in an effort to challenge my assumptions. I wanted to explore whether I actually understood the implications of their work before judging them. Also, I’m not going to lie, the money was pretty attractive.
The proposal process went further than I had anticipated it would, and I failed to do the due diligence necessary to evaluate the company’s ethics prior to implying that I was interested in the gig. At the 11th hour, I backed out. I no doubt burned that bridge (not that it was one I necessarily wanted), but what I really regret is that I put someone in a bad position with their superiors. I had acted foolishly by denying my true feelings from day one.
Why am I telling you this story? Because despite the missteps I took in getting there, I ultimately made the right decision for myself and felt relieved once I admitted the truth.
Of course I wish I’d handled the situation with greater maturity, but in the end I fought one of my worst flaws and I won: I didn’t follow through with something I felt was wrong just to save face. I’ve done it before and I’ve regretted it every time. I promised myself I’d never do it again, and I stuck to it.
The next time I’m at this crossroads, I will own up to the truth sooner and present myself honestly. Not only because of the pain and frustration it causes others when I don’t, but because I owe it to myself to never compromise my morals. It’s a slippery slope once you do.
“You have a responsibility to the community at large to make sure that what you’re signing up to design is worth being designed. That’s right, kids: I’m interjecting ethics into the mix. You are responsible for the work you put into the world.”
When have you been in an ethical dilemma on a project and how did you handle it?
What would you have done in my situation?
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