Money, morals & compromise

I’ve been thinking a lot about unscrupulous people, morality and principles, and jobs.

I like to think I wouldn’t compromise my principles for a job, but when you’re in a situation where you are desperate for money, you’re left to decide if you want to pay rent or stick to your values 100%.

After reading Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber, I’ve become even more passionate about this topic. Most jobs are just a means to get by. I don’t think anyone working the floor at Walmart is really passionate about being there. If they could leave and have a better paying job with a better company, I’m sure they would. But Walmart is able to get by paying minimum wage and being anti-union because there will always be people that need money and will take the first job that hires them.

This need for money for basic necessities fuels subpar jobs and unscrupulous companies.

An article recently came out about Subway franchises. In one area of California, the man in charge of overseeing a region of franchises was a franchisee himself. He had his inspectors go in and make false reports in order to get his competitors to sell their stores to him.

One of the inspectors came forward and said they did make false inspection reports when their boss told them to. Would this person have done that if they had money to fall back on?

Many of us think we would not write the reports, but if you have zero savings and rent to pay and a kid to take care of, you don’t have the luxury of quitting on the spot to stick to your values.

There are always going to be people who will go along with schemes like this because of their need for greed or lack of values. But I believe there are many more people who want to stand up to their boss and tell them no when they’re asked to do something that they believe isn’t right. Saying no can often mean the need to quit, but not all of us having the money saved to do that.

My work experience

My first job out of college was nice at first. I loved the flexibility; I could work from home and work when I wanted. I was there for three years and I should have left sooner.

I had no real work experience before this job so I had no idea what to expect. I made social media posts, wrote SEO blog posts, and other random things. I cringe at the stuff I was posting for these companies, stuff I’d never post now. Things promoting shopping and buying more.

My boss was also not the best. No communication, no feedback, no opportunities to move up. In 3 years, I asked for a raise once and was told no. I never took a vacation during this time. I worked all the time!

By the end of my third year I realized I wasn’t valued at the company. I was taken for granted. I gave my 2 weeks, and was told to leave in 2 days. I quit that day.

I’ve thought a lot about my values and this job never lined up with them. My boss cared about how to make a buck out of clients, not how to really help them. Social media marketing is not beneficial for these companies, and writing 400 word blog posts doesn’t do anything either. I started tracking data around the things I was doing, but when I realized nobody cared so I stopped.

I would never take that job now. After I quit, I was contacted by someone who had worked at that same company (someone who I did freelance work for but never paid me). They wanted to hire me for a higher salary to do the same thing. I told them if they paid me what they owed me, I’d think about it. I knew they never would, and even if they did, I’d never take the job. They never replied.

Money & Values

I now have enough money saved that if anything ever came up that compromised my values, I could quit on the spot.

This is one reason I’m bullish on universal basic income. It gives people a safety net to avoid unscrupulous bosses and companies. UBI could end up helping to reduce many of these jobs and unethical companies because people won’t NEED to have a job.

There will still be people that take these jobs though, because $1,000 a month is not enough to sustain a whole family. But other people will see the $1,000 a month as enough money to keep them afloat for a month or two until they get another job that better fits their values.

I’m super frugal partly so I can stick to my values. I’m currently transitioning from full-time to freelance at my company due to some clients dropping off. Luckily I can take my time and decide if I want to stay freelance or look for work at another company. If money wasn’t an issue, I’d stay freelance with this agency forever, because their values and mine are so well aligned. Since eventually I’ll need a monthly income, I plan to really look for a company I align with, where I think I can do the best work. It may take a while, I may need to cheap out on groceries and not go out to eat too much, but I know it will be worth it.