By timestaff
November 12, 2008

by JEANNE FLEMING, PH.D. and LEONARD SCHWARZ

Question: I’m a salesman with a small company whose CEO is on the board of the local United Way. Everyone here is expected to participate in the firm’s annual fundraising drive for the agency. I disapprove of some things about the United Way and don’t want to contribute. But my co-workers all say I’ll be hurting my career if I don’t. What should I do?

Answer: Listen to your co-workers. Of course you should also pay heed to your conscience. But if your conscience prohibits you from making a contribution, you need to look for a new job, not commit professional hari-kari at this one.

Not that we endorse the strong-arming you’re getting – far from it. While it’s one thing to require employees to be team players, it’s quite another to punish one who fails to contribute to the boss’s favorite charity. That’s wrong no matter how worthy the organization you’re forced to support.

As unethically as your CEO is behaving, though, the abuse of power for the benefit of a charity you dislike is not the sort of conduct you have a moral obligation to challenge. Moreover, there’s no virtue in getting yourself labeled a troublemaker. Indeed, you owe it to yourself and your family to see that you don’t.

There are plenty of firms where charitable donations aren’t mandatory. If you don’t want to contribute to the United Way, try to find a job at one. But in the meantime, toss in twenty bucks and consider it an investment in your future.

Questions? Email Money Magazine’s ethicists – authors of “Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?” (Free Press) – at FlemingandSchwarz@right-thing.net.

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