HSP Ethics at Work

triangular red alert sign in front of dark storm cloudSigh. Just when I was getting on my financial feet again, a big storm blew up at work, and I’m not sure my job will survive it.

This has happened before. Frequently, in fact. When an employer bad-mouthed a single parent co-worker for staying home with a sick child, I felt compelled to stand up for her. I was fired within the week (and so was she, a few months later).

I’ve  also departed from several companies over dishonest sales tactics or false promises to customers or clients. Employers salivate over my ability to connect, but become disgruntled when I decline to dishonor those connections to their advantage.

Then there have been more complex situations, involving bullying circles, or employees close to the boss who exploited that situation at the the expense of others. I haven’t always been the target in these situations, but I know what it feels like. I couldn’t stand by and watch the same thing happen to others.

Naturally, in many, probably most, of these situations, an employer was quick to try and make me the problem (so much more workable than reconsidering their own behavior). And for a long time, I internalized that feedback, along with the general assumption that anyone with a history of job interruptions must have “something wrong with them.” Which wasn’t completely untrue. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was clinically depressed during many of these incidents, which seriously undermined my ability to make good choices about who I worked for (or feel that I had choices). But it says something about American business ethics that I didn’t randomly luck into better environments more often.

Even as I recovered from depression, I continued to experience major disconnects between my values, and mainstream values in the workplace, not only with employers over what was ethically acceptable, but with co-workers about what was ethically unacceptable.4 grey figure in the background and a black figure in the foreground with an arrow pointing at the black figure They might gripe vigorously in private about the same problems I perceived, but when it came time to stand up, I found myself standing alone.

In the current situation, communication got heated. I don’t know what will happen. I have no financial safety net whatsoever. You’d think that would have me worried, and wondering whether I should’ve made an issue of the point in question at such a cost. But I don’t think about it that way. I said what I needed to say. It was the right thing to do, whether my employer sees it that way or not. I feel at peace. I might lose my job, but I’ll still have myself.

Financial disaster isn’t comfortable, but it isn’t permanent either, and is soon forgotten once ameliorated. Suppressing your own conscience for money, that’s another story. Maybe some people can do that. I can’t. If I subject myself to an environment where I let fear override my strongest values day after day, what am I telling myself about their importance, or mine? Regardless of what we say, it’s what we do that’s our strongest expression of who we really are, not only to others, but to ourselves.

I have years of largely positive history with my partner in conflict, which I find hard to ignore, even in light of his current very different behavior. I don’t know whether that’s a reflection of faith in him, or just a reluctance to believe I could be so wrong about someone for so long. I’ve confronted him with some things I know he may not want to examine. I suspect he was a little bored, and hired me to shake things up, but wasn’t as ready for that as he thought he was.

Note to self: Next time you get that kind of offer, consider who’s taking most of the risk.

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