How to work for evil corporations?
April 20, 2010 8:51 PM   Subscribe

How do I get over working for a company that I am morally and ethically against? This is my first job out of college.

After working happily at a PR/Comm firm for almost two months now, I am starting to feel uneasy after being assigned to team projects a few weeks ago for clients that I am politically and ethically against. I'm not just talking about working with clients that are vaguely bad - I'm talking about straight up evil (I am a very vocal liberal, and their practices are constantly subject to mass criticism on the Blue to which I have always agreed.)

This isn't to say that this firm specifically works with improving the public image of evil companies. When I applied for a job there, they also had some awesome clients in their portfolio - fantastic non-profits and innovative start-ups, and they did some excellent work for them too. But I guess they always kept their clients with a negative public image on the down-low (they weren't listed on the website), and I guess I'm learning that my passion for doing the right thing is greater than my passion for good PR.

It's only been two months, so it's not like I can just quit, and even if I started looking for new jobs now I feel like I have this wart on my resume, as well as this extremely short employment term that would make hiring managers suspicious. But I'm feeling trapped - and not to get all melodramatic, but I feel like I'm getting more "blood" on my hands every day for playing for the wrong side. I also feel like a self-righteous ass...I know that I should be lucky that I even found a job. But it's wearing down on me - I can't tell anyone about the specifics due to confidentiality so I hold all of this in, and I work my butt off (which I have no problem with, if it weren't for corporations I disagreed with). I can't fall asleep, I drink at night, and I get a tightness in my chest from feeling like such a hypocrite.

How do I deal with this? Any other Mefites been in this position and been able to switch over to the good guys, AND turn out sane?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (47 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If it it's only been two months, you don't have to put this on your resume at all. It'll just look like you took a couple of extra months after college to find a job. An employment "gap" right after college is the least noticeable employment gap there is.

As for feeling like an ass, I used to have the same problem with wanting to leave a job while others were still desperate for jobs. Someone pointed out to me that by leaving, I would be helping those people out by freeing up a job.

I can't fall asleep, I drink at night, and I get a tightness in my chest from feeling like such a hypocrite.

I've moved on from jobs over far less than this. Good for you for having a conscience and wanting to do the right (or at least not harmful) thing. Now go do it!
posted by ignignokt at 8:57 PM on April 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Use your influence to reduce the amount of evil-doing in whatever little ways you can. Then you can know that since the evil would have been done anyway at least you reduced a little. This reminds me of when Sandra Bullock's character took the job at the big company she had been fighting against and was able to implement her own agenda.
posted by thorny at 8:58 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cognitive dissonance can be a subtle and extreme generator of depression. Change now.
posted by leafwoman at 9:00 PM on April 20, 2010 [9 favorites]

Sure you can quit, and you've the best of reasons should you ever be asked about it in future interviews.

I had a job once where my supervisor told me—I quote—"Fiasco, I'm not telling you to lie or be dishonest, but if you do, you'll go a lot further with this company". I gave them the rest of the afternoon's notice. (They later went bust and became famous in Australia for their corporate incompetence and venality)

I never regretted doing that; on the contrary, I'm quite proud of having done it. So can you.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:01 PM on April 20, 2010 [9 favorites]

I can't give you any practical advice about this, but I'll tell you that some of my heroes, some of the greatest heroes, are self-righteous asses. (but a lot of them were poor heroes too.)
posted by Some1 at 9:02 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it's this bad, and it's only a few weeks in, you're heading to a bad place. Look, others are saying you should change jobs now, and you may end up there. But if you're at the point where you're already considering leaving, I'd talk to your work coordinator about switching to a different team. They may be unhappy about it, but they may agree if you make clear how badly it's affecting you. Worst case scenario, they tell you to suck it up, and you still have the option of quitting.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 9:10 PM on April 20, 2010

You have a conflict of interest and feel you cannot ethically represent this client. Start looking for a backup gig now, and talk to your boss.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:12 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

You had my support for quitting at "'blood' on [your] hands every day." (If not before that.)

Your next AskMe could be about identifying PR/Comm firms that work exclusively for good guys.
posted by salvia at 9:14 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get out of PR or work for a nonprofit you really believe in. Seriously, you will always have this problem at agencies. I know from experience. Unless you can talk them into an awesome corporate giving or sponsorship campaign, you probably won't rest easy.
posted by lunalaguna at 9:16 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Maybe another way to look at it is this is an opportunity to gather intel so you can be a more effective PR person for causes you are passionate about. "Know thy enemy" and all that. If you're truly that miserable, then of course, begin a job hunt in earnest, and when asked why you are looking to make a change say that while you respect your colleagues at your current firm and are learning a lot, you have also realized that while you can be a great advocate for all your clients, you prefer to work with people and organizations that align with your personal ideals. Something along those lines sounds professional, mature, thoughtful, and very self-aware.

As easy as it would be to urge you to bounce and leave this job behind, I suspect a large part of working in PR is representing clients that you do not particularly like. It makes me think of defense attorneys who are fairly confident that their client is guilty, but also believe everyone is entitled to an excellent defense. In this case, it may not be such an obviously noble ideal as jurisprudence at stake, but in a free society, everyone's voice deserves to be heard and presented in a myriad of contexts, no matter how odious their message may be. Also, it's hard to fight against ideological opponents when you don't know who they are, what they believe, and how they are articulating their mission. I think you could do your best work for even the most distasteful of clients and still find a way to make it all balance out in the end. Consider it an exercise in preparation for a more appealing job, volunteer your services to causes you are passionate about, or donate to organizations that you admire and might be struggling against people like your less endearing clients. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 9:24 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Since the question is about how to do the work, and not how to quit, I would say, take a professional attitude. By that I mean, you are providing a service to the best of your ability to someone who deserves your professional (not personal) commitment, and who is paying you for a quality product. Think of what lawyers do: they defend people who are clearly guilty, and companies that have broken the law, and they don't say, my client's an asshole, screw him, because their professional duty demands loyalty to the client independent of the moral worth of a particular client. They commit to a process and to providing the best possible advice to someone so that they can have their case heard impartially. Doctors may not refuse to treat a patient because they happen to be a gang member or an enemy soldier. I realize that the broader interests of justice and humanity are not engaged in PR work the same way they are in law or medicine - my point is that you need to adopt that sort of mental attitude. Again, I realize that PR is all about not having your case heard impartially, I'm not saying it's the same thing. But you need to get yourself in a space where you see client service - professional excellence - as an end in itself, fulfilling in its own right. Where you take pride in your work even if you don't like who you're working for.

If you're really not capable of doing that independent of your own personal political proclivities, then you're just going to have to tell yourself that the world will not be any better off if you can't pay rent, and suck it up for a year until you can find something better.
posted by Dasein at 9:26 PM on April 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

This is your first job out of college. Keep that in mind. If you're looking for a silver lining, use this experience to grow.

When you chisel away the funding, the business partners, the clientele, the products, etc. of nearly any job except hugging kittens for a living, you can find something ethically or morally (based on one's own standards) offensive or unpleasant. Welcome to capitalism in a pseudo-democratic society (in which, much to your issue, PR informs the voting process), where even the non-profits need to take money from people they'd rather not be associated with and the academics need to find military applications for their technology to get proper funding.

I realize this is a very cynical and exaggerated reply, but you have a lot of growth opportunity in finding a way to succeed in this environment. Maybe it's working to maintain a good client:bad client ratio for the company, maybe it's helping those clients understand authenticity will always triumph over PR, maybe it's just donating a small share of your paycheck to worthy causes. There is always some way to turn bad into good. Don't give's too easy, and you won't learn anything from it.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 9:30 PM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

First off, no job is worth your health, physical or mental. If you can't find a comfortable place with this employer, quit.

That said, your only choices aren't quitting or selling your soul. Your first option is to discuss this with your boss and tell him what you told us, and see if it's possible for you to avoid working with clients that the company itself is too embarassed to list on its website. Your second option is to do what you can yourself, within the confines of the job, to avoid working with those clients. Idealism is great; idealism backed up by practical know-how of how to maneuver and accomplish idealistic things is powerful.
posted by fatbird at 9:32 PM on April 20, 2010

Lunalaguna has it. The wages of agency work is Philip Morris, et al.

I guess I'm learning that my passion for doing the right thing is greater than my passion for good PR.

Good for you, kid. Even if you somehow manage to make the uneasy compromise (and most people do), do you actually want the changes in you, of you, that it would entail?

I try not to get too judgmental about other people's moral compromises, but one thing I say when questioned about stuff like this is that everybody has a point where they say, "this far, and and no further", and I always try to respect that. Those points are important, even if I might disagree about their placement.

If you must, look for an agency that specialises in a particular industry less likely to grossly unethical (IT, perhaps) - your odds of dodgy clients will go down. Do keep in mind, though, that PR, Communications, Marketing, Advertising - this is an industry built on amoral duplicity. It's a rare job indeed where you won't be - tacitly or explicitly - encourage to lie or misrepresent. Working with people that make those compromises, or making themselves can be sometimes spectacularly unedifying.

I have one of those jobs now where I don't need to do that now, and I cling to it like a limpet.
posted by smoke at 9:32 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you do talk to your boss, don't phrase it as "I'm too righteous to work with these guys". Put it in practical terms: I'm uncomfortable and unhappy working with these clients, and thus with my job. I want to work here with clients that make me proud to do my best for them, and I hope we can find an arrangement that will allow me to do that. Don't put it in ultimatum terms. Put it in terms of you wanting to do a great job, and what you need from your boss to do that. Be sure to single out some instance when you were happy with a particular task you did for a particular client and how you want to build on that success.
posted by fatbird at 9:36 PM on April 20, 2010 [9 favorites]

If you need to continue to work in the job, the simple thing to remember is that you are new and probably incompetent. If you weren't the one working on this, someone else just as good or better would be. So don't flatter yourself that your efforts are somehow helping these companies in a way that wouldn't happen if you quit.

Second, maybe tell yourself you'll give it a year and really try to see it from the other side's perspective. Even if they are evil, they have their rationalizations and justifications. What are they? Learn them. This is your opportunity to get out of your "very vocal liberal" comfort zone and expand your mental and empathic horizons, even if it just means that you'll oppose these interests more effectively later.
posted by shivohum at 9:52 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

At my last job, I had to do a short consulting engagement for a client, a company who's name (that I can't disclose here) is utterly synonymous with "evil" in the United States. I felt completely filthy working with them, as if anything I did that benefited them was at the same time making the world a worse place to live. Unfortunately, refusing to do this work would have cost me my job, and the prospect of homelessness and starvation won out over my desire to make the world a better place.

I learned something from this: liking what you do, and feeling like your acts are moral, are luxuries afforded only to those who do not have to work. The rest of us have to compromise.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:56 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would echo what dasein said about lawyers taking a professional approach. the thought process is that everyone is entitled to a defense. you could adopt a similar mindset and say that online and everywhere else people say what they want about the company, and that every company has a right to present its side of the story.

That being said, I think you might be a bit melodramatic. I'm not sure what the company could be doing to be so evil such that you think there is blood on your hands. If it is in fact at this literal point than whistle blower protection would come into play. If customers are buying their products voluntarily and employees are working there voluntarily then I would say there is a fair exchange. It's really hard to tell without you giving more information.
posted by chinabound at 9:57 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Find the good in what you are doing as a whole. I used to work for a company that made a special sort of linguistic software, and our main customer was a certain gov't agency that I personally find morally reprehensible. But... our work was also used in other applications, ones that advanced knowledge and communication in non-evil fields. I reminded myself that the computers that we can't live without today were created to calculate missile trajectories. I look for the larger future of my work.
posted by Billegible at 9:58 PM on April 20, 2010

I worked for an evil law firm (the one that represented Union Carbide in the Bhopal disaster), an evil accounting firm (AIG), and an evil wall street firm. I worked for each company for a year. I considered them evil, but these were my first jobs and I really needed the experience. I now work for a small state college and work to benefit peoples' lives. The early experience working for those three firms was very helpful for my career and my life. It helped me realize that what those companies offered was not what I wanted. The experience was good since it showed me how the "other side thinks." It is a pragmatic approach, but it worked for me.
posted by fifilaru at 10:11 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you should stay, and after a year, begin putting out feelers so you can eventually land a job at a PR company that has fewer (or zero) evil clients.

When you work as someone else's mouthpiece, you are occasionally going to hate the things you have to say. It's OK to hate what you're saying and be ethically OK with it at the same time. But you also need to know what's unethical and what you cannot and should not say. From reading your post, it seems that this has to do more with discomfort and supporting something you've always hated than actually lying or doing anything unethical.

You need to figure out what your line in the sand actually is. If someone asks you to cross it, you obviously need to say no, whether that means refusing to do the project, asking for a transfer or tendering a resignation notice. But in the meantime, if you actually want to do PR, you need to keep holding your nose and do the odious tasks assigned to you.
posted by Happydaz at 10:30 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Would you rather quit over ethical concerns now, or later when you have kids, a mortgage, marriage plans, health conditions that make you difficult to insure, or sick parents to take care of?
posted by amtho at 10:40 PM on April 20, 2010

How do I get over working for a company that I am morally and ethically against?

I have several answers for you, depending on your temperament and where you want to go.

a) don't get over it. get out and find a company you would enjoy working for. You may not have an opportunity to do so, given how tough the economy is, but you won't know unless you look. You may also have to take a hit in pay, however, finding a good fit with an average salary is so much better than finding a poor fit that pays great. The latter will suck out your soul.

b) view the problem in the big picture. Will it matter one bit whether you do or do not make a stand? Is the company truly evil, or are you unhappy with your job because it's a poor fit for other than moral reasons, and you are looking for justifications for why you are unhappy? Not saying you are, but be open to the possibility. You may find that your current company isn't evil in the grand scheme, or that its evil is a petty kind that you can live with.

c) hold your nose for as long as you can. The company's ethics and yours don't match, however, the pay is great and you think you can compartmentalize things and hang in until you've made your money. Maybe you have a goal you want to attain (financial or otherwise) and working for this company is the best way to achieve it. That doesn't mean you have to work at the company for life. View it as just a job and move on when you can.

I don't know which one of these you might choose, however I can say that if you pick (a), it's not going to be a huge black mark on your resume, especially since it's your first real job. Apologize to your boss and explain that it's nothing personal. Then move on. You'll be fine (but if you can, line up another job before you leave).
posted by zippy at 10:46 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

From a cynically pragmatic perspecive, you could view this as a rare opportunity to really shine in your field. It's easy to do PR for companies who are "good." Everybody loves them anyway, you just need to get the word out and they'll be embraced. But to do successful PR for companies who might be considered "evil"? Now that's a real accomplishment!
posted by platinum at 11:39 PM on April 20, 2010

'They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom/ For trying to change the system from within...'
-leonard cohen, first we take manhattan

Yeah, get out as quick as you can. But be sure to get some good data to post to wikileaks first!
posted by kaibutsu at 12:44 AM on April 21, 2010

My husband has a very similar yet not-so-extreme problem. He's PR for clients that openly ask him to lie, cheat, exaggerate, play dirty games, seek revenge, the list goes on. He was appalled to see that in order to attend to the lists and lists of to-dos, he had to sort of go to bat for the clients and found himself doing just these such things. His situation is not as extreme as yours sounds, because the clients in question are not bad people, just desperate for their PR to work and be successful. So he has found a way to mediate to some degree, and then will flat-out just not do some of the more extreme things that the clients in question ask for. He also has grown more firm in his stance and will offer alternatives to their blood-seeking ideas, but that doesn't always work either.

He is self-employed as PR, and you are at a company. Lots of the leeway he has, you don't. My suggestion is to talk to your bosses, but if you think they will not care or make it harder for you (for your honesty), then look for a different job but know that in PR, it's probably lots of the same everywhere you go. In my husband's case, it is the clients themselves who scheme and plot. So even without a boss at a company to answer to, my husband has to answer to his clients. In short, I think it's the profession on a whole, but of course, we have a limited view based on our own experiences.

My best of luck and support to you... I have more than an inkling about how you feel.
posted by LillyBird at 1:19 AM on April 21, 2010

Quit now. Blabity...blabity blabity Hitler, do you?

In all seriousness, you're at a point where you can be the guy who goes against the grain because he believes in what he stands for, or you can be the guy who says stuff like "i do it to feed my family".

Which guy are you?
posted by hal_c_on at 1:52 AM on April 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Start looking for a new job (aim to try to stay a year, in the meantime, write your resume) and as you do it, figure out how you can balance your karma. So, a percentage of income to a charity that works against these people, volunteer work for a charity that works against them (maybe you can do PR!) or some other private means of undermining their goal (staying within the boundaries of whatever conflict of interest or confidentiality agreement you signed.)

But do try to balance it out because as someone said upthread, what you're describing is a great way to get seriously depressed.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:38 AM on April 21, 2010

I once had a very, very, very good opportunity to work at FOX News. Taking the position would have cemented my career in many different ways. I agonized over the decision for weeks, but ultimately turned it down because I knew that if I saw Roger Ailes in the hallway I would have walked up to him and punched him in the face.

Mu advice: there are a lot of companies out there more suited for you.
posted by camworld at 4:55 AM on April 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

Congratulations! You just learned an important life lesson. As Calvin's dad would say, "It builds character." You, and Calvin, have now noticed that building character often involves something sucking a lot.

Lots of above posters have said that your cognitive dissonance will lead you to feeling depressed. I want to be clear on this: We're not talking anomie. You are doing something that you hate, five days a week, and because you're straight out of college and the new guy (or gal) at the office, you're probably working hard at getting respected, too. This is an extremely dangerous combination, and if you stay, you may be headed for burnout. Going down in flames is really terrible for your mental health and your career. It's one thing to be "the guy (gal) that wasn't cut out for this job." It's another to be "the guy (gal) who one day woke up sobbing and just couldn't go back to work."

Don't bother going to your boss to talk about it. Your boss knows that you represent evil clients. You are the one who gets to work with them because you're the low man (woman) on the totem pole. Higher-ups likely get to pick their clients. My understanding is that this is the way it works in almost all firm-type professions, including law, architecture, PR, and graphic design.

If you want to do PR for good (as opposed to PR for evil), you have two options. One is to join a firm whose commitment to good is part of their brand. They're out there; if you don't know either way, look at their client list but go into an interview and be very clear about your expectations by saying, "I want to work in this field to make the world a better place, and I want to be assured that as a firm, that is also your goal." Talking about your character building experience can only help you because it shows an interviewer that you can do the work, you'd just prefer to do it for altruistic reasons. There's nothing wrong with that. The second way to go about this is to do PR for a non-profit organization. You won't get the variety you'd get at a firm, but you'll get an excellent, fulfilling job doing PR for a cause you believe in, with no hidden agendas, and slightly less money.
posted by juniperesque at 5:09 AM on April 21, 2010

Have you considered talking to your employer and specifically asking if you could be excluded (or play a very minor role) when working with clients such as these? If you're planning to quit anyway, this couldn't hurt.
posted by three bear minimum at 5:39 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

My advice? Stay for now, look for another job and leave when you can and in the meantime, do something extra good in the world to balance things out.

I would have a VERY hard time at a place like that. Heck, someone at my office subscribes to newsmax (ugh!) and I feel gross just handling it when it comes in the mail.
posted by Mysticalchick at 5:54 AM on April 21, 2010

Are you more worried about the effect it's having on you now, or the effect it will have on the future (say, when you go to look for a more ethical position and they see this on your resume)?

If the latter, I can tell you that this company/organization is not something you will be judged on. I work in advertising and people often move from representing one side of an ethical/social issue to clients very much on the other.
posted by mippy at 6:09 AM on April 21, 2010

It's only been two months, so it's not like I can just quit, and even if I started looking for new jobs now I feel like I have this wart on my resume, as well as this extremely short employment term that would make hiring managers suspicious.

How is it a wart on your resume? Just don't list it! It's not like you HAVE to list all of your previous jobs on your resume!

But that said, what do you think PR is FOR? Obviously, it exists to make bad people look good, because good people don't really need any help.

Maybe you should get into politics, working for political advocacy groups you approve of.
It makes me think of defense attorneys who are fairly confident that their client is guilty, but also believe everyone is entitled to an excellent defense. In this case, it may not be such an obviously noble ideal as jurisprudence at stake, but in a free society, everyone's voice deserves to be heard a... -- katemcd

By that I mean, you are providing a service to the best of your ability to someone who deserves your professional (not personal) commitment, and who is paying you for a quality product. Think of what lawyers do: they defend people who are clearly guilty, and companies -- Dasein
Katemcd is right, when she says nothing as noble as jurisprudence is at stake. The idea that "everyone is entitled to have their voice heard" when talking about huge corporations fucking up the world is nonsense. They already have their voices heard. What they want is for people to help them lie and mislead effectively. Freedom of speech is all well and good, but it's debatable whether or not corporations should have similar freedoms. (The law says they can, but many disagree)

The second argument about professional commitment is ridiculous. The same argument could be made about arms dealers. They're just providing a product to people who are paying for it. The idea that you're some being virtuous by "providing a service for money" to bad people, because bad people deserve services too is ridiculous.

And keep in mind; engaging in PR directly helps people keep doing what they're doing. They're actually on the front lines of shadiness, actively participating. Whereas lawyers don't advise criminals how to avoid getting caught so they can keep engaging in crime. (or at least they're not allowed to)

Some people are moral, and some people are not. Right now, you seem to be in the first category, bothered by doing things you think are wrong. That's a good thing, and to the cynical and world weary, you probably seem naïve. They'll imagine that over time your conscious will grind away like theirs has. I think that probably happens to most people. But certainly not all of them. And anyway, why accelerate the process?
posted by delmoi at 6:32 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Congratulations! You just learned an important life lesson. As Calvin's dad would say, "It builds character." You, and Calvin, have now noticed that building character often involves something sucking a lot.
It could either build character, or destroy it, depending on what he decides to do.
posted by delmoi at 6:35 AM on April 21, 2010

Take the pay cut now and move out of the private sector into nonprofit before you get any older and find yourself wearing golden handcuffs. There is no way to sugar coat the kind of personal sacrifices you will have to make in order to live a professional existence that is in line with your principles. You will make less money and you should get comfortable with that now while you are young and can easily make adjustments to your lifestyle. Gain assurance that you've made the right decision from the knowledge you have already that no amount of money will allow you to spend away the sense you will always feel deep down that you are a fraud if you do not take this action.
posted by The Straightener at 6:46 AM on April 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

What's wrong with learning about their strategy, learning what they do and how they think by working for them, and then using that knowledge later as competitive intelligence?
posted by anniecat at 7:26 AM on April 21, 2010

tl;dr version at end of perspective.

You are working for a corporation, not a small time 2 man firm that you could easily walk away from. The upside of working for a corporation, do some really great work with some really innovative startups and the like. The downside of the same, you do a lot of work and some of it is something you may not agree with as well.

What I would advise you to do is to volunteer at a local left organization without mentioning to anyone that you are working on a right wing account, as far as anyone should know in that organization, you work at so and so great firm that does some great work for startups and non-profits that are reflected on the website. That way as much as you are being asked to put in on the "right" at work, you are working equally hard on the "left" too.

Or engage in any liberal activity that you feel meets your values and beliefs system be it volunteering or what not.

At the end of the day, look at a few bigger perspectives, everyone makes a choice as to what paths they choose to pursue in life. We all end up having a need for each other no matter what choice of belief we may have.

tl;dr version
Don't hate on people for having made a choice for another school of thought than your own. If they only chose the one that you chose, then what's the point of living as a human and having the ability to make choices?
posted by iNfo.Pump at 7:51 AM on April 21, 2010

Start looking for a job that doesn't suck out your soul and cause you to turn to alcoholism.

In the meantime, keep working at your crappy job and do the best possible job for your evil clients that you possibly can.

How are you going to eventually make the world a better place if you have no job and can't pay off your student loans?

Uncompromising idealism is all well and good, but I'll tell you something: if I was offered a high-paying job at a corporation, I would take it in a heartbeat despite the fact that I hate most large corporations with a fiery passion and do as much as I can to keep them from staying in business. Why would I work, and do the very best work I could, for an employer I despised? Because: a) there aren't a lot of jobs for people our age and if I live under a bridge I can't really make the world a better place in any meaningful way, b) if I don't have a job, I have to spend all my time looking for work or fighting off my loan company instead of volunteering for activist causes or doing other stuff that does good in the world, and c) if I make a lot of money, I can donate some to causes that I believe in -- I can take money out of the pockets of EvilCorp and use it to fight against EvilCorp.

Nobody should work a job that makes them so unhappy that they can't sleep at night. That's why you should leave this one. But remember that, unless you are extremely lucky, uncompromised ideals are generally reserved for either those who already have it all, or those who have nothing left to lose. The rest of us have to strike deals with the devil and cope with it as best as we can.
posted by kataclysm at 8:24 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you can do your work honestly, like promoting the fact that BigBadCo is reforesting an area in East Dakota, then you have a valid ethical position. If you have to help them lie, i.e., clean coal, painting them green when they're environmental nightmares, then ask your bosses if you can work for the companies that are non-evil. They might accommodate you. If not, find a new job, asap.
posted by theora55 at 9:10 AM on April 21, 2010

If your job offends you, you're morally obligated to stop doing it. That's it. Everything else should be a second priority to not being part of the problem.
posted by supercoollady at 9:41 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Large part of PR is crisis-mgmt. In most cases it means the company did something wrong, the public perceives it that way or something bad happened. If you are going to eliminate yourself from a large part of the PR role, I think you are in the wrong field.
posted by chinabound at 9:45 AM on April 21, 2010

It sounds like your company has multiple clients? Can you talk with your supervisor about being switched to a different client/project? I would try that before outright quitting.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:53 AM on April 21, 2010

when i learned that something completely against my sense of morals was going on at a place i worked, i left and kept the job off my resume. one of the best decisions i ever made. a job that drives you to ALCOHOLISM is not a job to keep.
posted by raw sugar at 10:34 AM on April 21, 2010

If you left, I don't think it would be a wart on your resume. You could either (a) omit it or (b) tell your potential employer (assuming potential employer was the type to be sympathetic to this kind of thing) hey, I don't agree with Haliburton, Exxon, insert name of evil company and I didn't want to do their P.R. so now I'm looking for a better opportunity with your company. But given the current state of the economy, you might want to hold on to this until you find something new. But if you're not happy, don't stay. Life's too short.
posted by bananafish at 11:58 AM on April 21, 2010

For a little entertainment during your deliberation, watch Thank You For Smoking.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 1:20 PM on April 21, 2010

That's what the choice between good and evil always looks like: easy street, or pariah. Those are your choices. Choose.
posted by bricoleur at 2:34 PM on April 21, 2010

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