Monday, May 12, 2008
Does being ethical pay?
That's the headline on the paper someone's reading in this coffeeshop, and in my experience, I'm inclined to say that no, being ethical does not pay. Particularly in the fields of business and politics, even those who go in with the best intentions often find that in order to succeed, they have to sell their principles to the highest bidder. There are exceptions, as there are to every rule, but I personally have found that sticking to my ethical tenets has had mostly unfavorable consequences. By ethics, I don't mean the religious right's definition of a "virtuous lifestyle," I mean basic human decency: don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal. And as much as I believe in this way of life, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wants to make a name for themselves or a lot of money. Someone with strong morals would have second thoughts about serving their own self-interest at the expense of another, or compromising their beliefs in order to succeed. But a psychopath, one who by definition has no sense of ethics or empathy, would have no problem doing whatever it took to help themselves, and those are the people who rise to power and flourish in life. I left a well-paying job because I couldn't reconcile my principles with those of my employer. Then I went into debt. And now that I'm doing something I like, I'm still in debt, even though I feel ethically sound. Sticking to my principles might be good for my overall well-being, but it hasn't been good for my career.