A CNN documentary called ‘Blackfish’ is making news right now. The piece exposes the controversial practices conducted by Disney World and other marine park executives in the mistreatment of killer whales and the consequent human tragedy that resulted from it. Whilst watching the documentary I was struck by the testimonials of previous employees of these establishments and how the work they had performed during their employment had left them with long lasting regret and sorrow. One man who had taken on a job to capture the whales was so distraught when recalling his actions that he was moved to tears. I wanted to blame him for being part of the cruel hunting process but hearing him explain his position made me empathize with the man who was first relieved to have found a job and then horrified with what that job entailed.
There is no arguing the fact that finding a job right now is no easy task and after experiencing long periods of unemployment people are moved to accept any job that comes along. Desperate times lead to desperate measures and when it comes to a matter of survival, human beings will do whatever it takes to save themselves and their families; sometimes resorting to making money illegally, immorally or unethically. Which begs the question what if you are hired to do a job that is legal and appears respectable but upon further investigation requires behavior which does not sit well with your personal ethics? The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word ‘ethic’ as ‘rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad.’ Two words stand out to me in this definition, ‘rules’ and ‘ideas’, because these are both things that can change or expand with circumstance or influence, which mean ethics exist on shaky ground.
Some positions of employment have become synonymous with unethical behavior. Telemarketers can easily take advantage of lonely, elderly people who are often talked into purchasing something they do not need or cannot afford just because they were pleased to chat at length with the salesperson. Car sales personnel are also dubious in their business practices, luring the customer in with offers that are too good to be true and then upselling them products and services that are delivered to the buyer in a confusing manner. When commission plays a factor, an individual’s ethical beliefs can become compromised due to the competitive environment that can not only influence salary but job advancement and security too.
The tobacco industry is still going strong, regardless of the highly publicized detrimental effects of their products. Clever marketers brainstorm ways to introduce cigarettes to every generation of potential smokers without considering the ethical repercussions of their actions. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are a hot bed of unethical practices, employing people to perform jobs that range from experiments on animals to bribing doctors into prescribing drugs that are yet to be proven safe.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg where shady business practice is concerned and most of the time what they are doing is not actually illegal. However, everyday people go to work with the intention of bringing home a pay cheque at the end of the month but for many employees maintaining their personal ethical beliefs at work becomes a luxury they cannot afford.