Everyday Ethics

I was recently reminded of an incident from my early days in New York. Back then, I was surviving on a daily ration of ramen and $1 egg drop soup. I considered it my NYC diet, even though I never lost weight and my sodium levels shot through the roof. Nevertheless, I had the job of my dreams straight out of college as an editorial assistant at a national magazine; that was more than enough to quell my hunger pangs.

The editor-in-chief of this magazine happened to have a pet charity. It was a worthy cause, most definitely, and all you had to do to donate was give up one day’s lunch allotment (in New York, I’d say anywhere from $6-15). When I first saw the signage the editor had up around the office, promoting the charity and directing your donations to her assistant, I simultaneously applauded her efforts and knew I wouldn’t donate. At a point in my life where every cent of an exceedingly tiny salary went towards rent, student loans, transportation and sometimes food, I simply did not feel morally bound to donate my lunch money. $6 can go far when you’re living on egg drop soup!

I assumed my decision not to donate would pass under the radar – why
would the top of the totem pole care about a $6 donation from the
bottom of the totem pole? Then I received an email from the editor’s
assistant. The email was a reminder that we, the receivers of this
email, had not yet donated and that Friday was the deadline. There were
only five people on this email. Apparently the editor-in-chief of this
magazine was not too busy to keep track of donations from the lower rungs.

Obviously, eager young employee that I was, I immediately ran over to
her assistant with my $6 and asked to immediately be taken off this
blacklist. Was I being charitable? Heck no. Was I resentful at being
pushed into a corner by my boss? Heck yes. Did I think this was highly unethical? Oh boy, yes.

Then there’s the story from a good friend of mine which reminded me of my long-forgotten resentment. She had received a
work-related email, on a work email account, with an email signature attached at the
bottom. The signature was a full-on tout for the sender’s personal cause of choice, with a link and a request to donate.  My friend was
irritated and a little offended. I think rightly so.

Personally, even though it might appear fairly innocuous, I find most
workplace charity-pushing to be inappropriate and often unethical –
though well-meant.

Joining a team of co-workers to volunteer or participate in an event is one thing; asking for money, something else entirely.

I truly don’t think I’m being uncharitable by saying this. How about you? Do you find
charity-pushing in the workplace inappropriate, unethical, or simply an
efficient way to raise money for a good cause?

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