Would you accept a job at an organization that went against your morals?

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It's your move. What would you do? (Photo credit: Cristian V., Creative Commons/Flickr)

You found a job you love and think you are close to getting it. In the process, you learn some things about the organization that make you uncomfortable. What do you do? A community member shares her experience:

I recently had the experience of interviewing with an organization for a position I was very excited about. I got offered and attended a second interview, being one of two candidates up for consideration. I thought, finally, it’s happening! But then I found out about a few policies that simply do not jive with my personal morals. If I had known beforehand, I wouldn’t have applied. Thankfully, I had read something in the news recently that brought it to light (the info wasn’t exactly obvious on their website!).

So I was stuck with a difficult decision. Do I continue on, possibly get offered a job that would be great experience (after nearly a year of searching)? Or follow my morals and hope something better comes up? Ultimately I decided to retract my application.

I’m curious if others have experienced a similar situation. Would you have done the same thing? Does the job market affect how you would make that decision?

What do you think?

Have a career question you’d like to ask the community? Send it to me allison [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Comments (22)


  1. Edith writes:
    July 24, 2012 at 10:48 am

    It would depend on the size of the organization. If it were small enough or flat enough that I felt I could influence those policies in any way, I would totally jump on board. If it were a large, hierarchical organization, I’d have to walk away.


  2. David Morris writes:
    July 24, 2012 at 10:54 am

    If you take the job then your actual morals match theirs even if the morals you wish you had don’t. Maybe they wish they could actualize better morals.


  3. Tiffany writes:
    July 24, 2012 at 11:07 am

    I work raising money at a Catholic nonprofit hospital. I was raised Catholic but certainly disagree wtih some tenents of the church, but I took the job because our hospital treats people of every faith/background and the community, not the hospital administration, would suffer without the money I raise. But it’s a tough call and I question decisions here to our board every week.


  4. Tiffany writes:
    July 24, 2012 at 11:08 am

    *tenants!* oh typos…


  5. Nicole writes:
    July 24, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I recently had to make the same decision. I just couldn’t do it and it was hard because the job was perfect for me but I could not go against something I believe is right! You will feel better about your decision to do what’s right in your heart.


  6. Judith writes:
    July 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I definitely would have done the same thing. I will not take a position or work at an organization that goes against my morals. After searching for almost a year I know that you were a little skeptical in deciding to retract your application, but at least you walk away knowing that you still have your morals. No position that you decide to accept should go against that. Keep the faith and keep on looking I know the right position will come.


  7. Lloydy912 writes:
    July 24, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    For sure I would do the same thing. Money doesn’t really matter if the company’s policy is contradictory with morality.


  8. Sean Sokhi writes:
    July 25, 2012 at 1:58 am

    Aside from this consideration which I agree with, I think it’s very crucial that there should be a matching of values between the individual and the organization, especially in the long run and if you want to make a genuine contribution towards its Vision and Mission. There is just no value in taking a job you don’t believe in because your beliefs do not line up with theirs.

    Also this thinking about changing the organization from the inside hinges on the time and effort you spend growing with it, which then leads you to become a person who can influence new thinking.


  9. Robin writes:
    July 25, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I would have done the same thing. I’ve been out of work for quite a while, and I think the fact that I am very selective of companies I would work for hasn’t helped. I will hold out as long as possible to ensure that I am not contributing to a company that goes against my beliefs.


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    July 25, 2012 at 7:27 pm

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  11. Kathryn Johnson writes:
    July 25, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I just read a story in a book by Stephen Covey that illustrates integrity (which is what I think is at play here). It’s about the tennis player Andy Roddick who was playing against Fernando Verdasco in the third round of the 2005 Italia Masters tournament in Rome. It was match point in favor of Roddick. As Covey tells the story:

    It was match oint in favor of Roddick. When Verdasco hit his second serve, the line judge called the ball “out,” and the crowd began to cheer for Roddick. Verdasco moved toward the net to shake hands, as if the match were over. but Andy Roddick didn’t accept the point. Instead, he said that the ball was “on” and called the umpire’s attention to a slight indentation on the clay court which showed that the ball had landed on – not beyond – the line. Surpised, the umpire allowed Roddick to overrule him and the point was awarded to Verdasco. Everyone was amazed. In a game not typically played on the honor system – but on the umpire’s calls – Roddick had made a call against himself and went on to lose the match.”

    The point of the story is that Roddick lost the match that day but he gained credibility and trust.

    I think your actions in relation to this job demonstrate integrity and say a lot about your character. Even though it won’t be a topic of conversation in future interviews, character has a way of shining through. Good for you.


  12. Philip Grover writes:
    July 26, 2012 at 9:30 am

    You must read the book Defining Moments, by Joseph Badaracco! Seriously. It will give you the courage and wisdom you seek. You will find serenity doing what you know to be the right thing. All the best to you, pg


  13. Barbara writes:
    July 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I would ner compromise my principles. I commend you for retracting your application. The right job will come along. Here’s hoping that I get interviewed for my “right” job.


  14. Difficult Decisions in Hard Times writes:
    July 28, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    May I offer a different viewpoint? I think one’s financial situation has a lot to do with how one would handle this. I have been trying now to get a decent paying job for about 2 years, ever since I graduated with a doctorate degree. I have applied to numerous jobs on idealist and other places, but I never make it to the interview stage. By a decent paying job, I mean something that pays an individual more than poverty wage. I speak several languages and have had quite an illustrious career history (working overseas and in government advisory positions) but unfortunately have fallen on hard times and make about 50 cents an hour more than minimum wage and my job is part-time, so no benefits, days off, etc. I keep applying for idealistic jobs because I think it is important to go after one’s dream. It is, however, also important to keep a roof over one’s head.

    I just got laid off from my part-time job – it was a government position and was my only source of income. Because I make such a low wage, however, and worked numerous unpaid internships, I was unable to save up to keep a cushion for emergencies. I had $54 in my bank account. Within 2 weeks of being laid off, I was offered a job with an organization where the work is against my morals big time. Was it much of a choice for me? Despite having sent out over 350 job applications, I’ve had no luck with idealistic jobs – this was the only organization that would hire me. To have turned down this organization would have meant no income whatsoever and I did not have the luxury to do that.

    I am hoping that perhaps this position will offer me a chance to get back on my feet again so that one day I will have the luxury of continuing to go after idealist jobs. But when you have to focus on how you are going to eat every day and whether you will have enough to keep the power on, morals tend to go by the wayside. Sad but true. Kudos to all who stuck by their guns. I pray one day to better my financial situation so that should I ever have to make this decision again, that next time it will be a choice instead of a necessity.


  15. Nelly writes:
    July 29, 2012 at 12:53 am

    While it was honorable decision was it the wisest? As individuals on idealist.org there is an assumption that we pursue a higher calling in which humanitarian work is what fuels us. A desire to give back, but as the Bhagvavad Gita tells us we should understand this is only one lifetime and we must live life as such and find peace. Spirituality aside a year without a work? That’s so difficult! No one said that was your ultimate career you could have used it as a stepping stone to achieve your ultimate goal. If it went against your core beliefs never compromise. But life is about sacrifice in the pursuance of the goal…


  16. Typorcist writes:
    July 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    @Tiffany:”tenets”. You were close.:)


  17. Chasity writes:
    July 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I have had this conversation with several people. It is very difficult for me to work for some place that is doing bad in the world. I don’t want to contribute to it if I feel that I can’t change it. I worked at Seattle Children’s and always knew that I was contributing to something good.


  18. Doris Howard writes:
    July 30, 2012 at 3:34 am

    Well I guess, this is a test of professionalism and principle at the same time. However, if you think that it will greatly affect on how you work perhaps it’s time for you to make a decision. In the end, you won’t have regrets as long as you stick to your principles.


  19. chris writes:
    July 31, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I had the similar situation. A non-profit with very strong connections wanted me to do something less than law abiding (and that’s all I’ll say about that). It was a life changing moment for two reasons: first, I had to decide btwn getting the job and doing what they needed. Secondly, I had to think what was it about me that they asked me to do it. I.E. if you want something done, ask someone dirty to do it.


  20. Kathy Dawson writes:
    July 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Watch out folks. It’s a lot easier to say no to an offer than to extricate yourself when an organization changes around you. it takes vigilance and making time/room for discussing and matching the core values to programs, policies, partnerships, and personnel decisions to maintain organizational commitment to those values.

    Changes in management and board leadership, unethical people in positions that can damage the org’s reputation, and simple mission drift can produce a moment when you find you are and have been in an organization with values that no longer match yours. Then the calculus of what to do is much more complicated.


  21. Anon writes:
    August 2, 2012 at 10:20 am

    It has been so wonderful reading all of the responses to this question. As the original question-asker, my decision was already made but I was really quite curious how many people would have done the same thing.

    I will say, as it wasn’t clear above, I am currently employed so that probably made the decision a lot easier. I’m not sure what I would have done if I had been employed, to be honest. I am incredibly lucky that I was financially able to make this decision.

    As for changing the culture from the inside? A really great thought for a small organization, or an issue that is easy to get to in a low-level position, but at a large organization where the moral conflict is at the center of their principals? It just isn’t always possible. I commend those of you who challenge yourselves to change the culture of an organization to fall more in line with your principals, and if I had the opportunity, I hope I would do the same!


  22. Julien writes:
    August 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Richard III only has one matinee on Sunday, July 17th. The Directors mltlauuy decided that they would rather have more nighttime performances of Richard and more daytime performances of As You Like It.


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