(Un-)ethical clients? Opinions wanted!

by kai on 28/03/2008

Something to think about for you guys. How do you deal with inquiries or clients that do not really stand highly regarded in your political or ethical views? It’s really hard for me to provide an example avoiding to step onto someones’s toes – but obviously there are a few things that each individual around might not like.

Let’s say if I was a supporter of NZ’s Labour party – would I take a Flex consulting job from the National Party? Hmm. Probably I would, having different political opinions in a democracy is fine and not really a problem for me. If a ministry of defense of whatever country approached me to build any type of application for them and that particular country would have been involved in a war that was considered breach of international law by the UN, I would probably opt out and not take the work. Same with working for the tobacco industry, not really keen on supporting those guys with services – or think about that crazy dictator up in North Korea.

So, for me it’s not about countries or individuals in general, it’s how close one would be to the root of a particular “evil” – if that makes any sense?

Now, I’m wondering: is that sensible or is that too much? From a financial business point of view, it would probably be wise to just ignore those ethical objections and make whatever money possible. Where’s the border here? Any idea and opinions really appreciated!

Update: Yes, I AM aware that this is a very controversial issue and I’m just after opinions. Don’t flame in the blog comments, ok! Thanks! πŸ™‚

Kai March 28, 2008 at 12:00 am

@Campbell, @Kay; Thx and yes – I agree with both of you. Was just interested in other opinions.

@Duncan: I can understand your boss there. It’s tricky tho – might be hard to find out indirect involvement of people who one wouldn’t want to work with. Again there – how far would one try to track back the chain of command.

@Chris S: All good examples – particularly the fraud ones. There’re obviously a lot of grey lines as well. Something would obviously be fraud if it’s well-know and illegal, but there might be things that are not obvious as fraud or that are not really fraud, but business models where you might see that it’s not delivering any value for the end-users etc.

@Chris V: Yepp, get your point here. I guess it depends on the type of work then, and that’s a very valid remark.

Thanks for all the comments, guys!

Chris Vigliotti (hibiscusroto) March 28, 2008 at 12:00 am

Nothing beats stirring the pot to draw traffic to one’s site.!

The example about the NZ political parties is an interesting one. If your work with the National Party led to their political gain at the expense of the Labor Party, would you really be able to call yourself a “supporter of the Labor Party”?

Christoph Schmitz March 28, 2008 at 12:00 am

It is not just a matter of how close you are to the “root of an evil”, it is also a matter of what you regard as evil (unethical, immoral) and what you are willing to tolerate and what not.

Having different political opinions is fine. However, I would never work for any nazi party, because I can not tolerate that attitude.

But, it is easy to decide if you look at these extreme examples. It is a question of where you draw the line… some examples that may cause more controversy:

You are offered a contract where you soon realize that you are asked to build a system whose main purpose is to rip ppl. off. It’s not your system after all… do you take the job? Or is it a matter of how big a fraud is? Is it more tolerable to cheat EUR 10,- out of someone once than to participate in a real estate fraud?

Is a ringtone subscription service looking like a one time payment already fraud?

Would you work for sys-con.com after how they acted during the last months? πŸ˜‰

What about a dating site for married ppl.? What about porn sites?

If you are a member of a religion (any religion for that matter), would you help build a web site that propagates atheism? What if it is the other way?

What if you run out of work? Would you reconsider some of the things you said you would not take?

Some things you may be able to look at with a “to each his own”. Some things you can not tolerate. Sometimes it is neither black or white, but, grey instead. πŸ˜‰


Campbell Anderson March 28, 2008 at 12:00 am

Id say go with what YOU as a person is comfortable with. And seeing that everybody’s different it seems people’s margin of whats acceptable will be different as well. At the end of the day if I’m happy doing what I do, and I enjoy it (with-in reason, some times to achieve the end goal requires some sucky parts) things work out for the best. So only take the jobs you feel comfortable with and happy to provide the service to.

Me personally, I am looking for flex work related to beer πŸ˜‰

Kay Smoljak March 28, 2008 at 12:00 am

I think it’s really important to follow your convictions if you have that luxury – that’s one of the reasons I left the corporate environment to work for myself, so I could pick and choose my clients. There’s so much work out there at the moment that most of us *do* have that luxury.

duncan March 28, 2008 at 12:00 am

A company I worked at previously were invited to tender for a website that would have been indirectly funded by Brian Souter. If you’ve not heard of him, he’s one of the richest business men in Scotland. He’s also notorious for his anti-homosexual stance. Our boss was gay, so turned the project down.

Can’t remember exactly what the project was, but I think it was the right decision.

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