Even if your Voice Shakes

post by Hivewired · 2020-03-06T18:04:07.279Z · score: 49 (20 votes) · LW · GW · 17 comments

This is a link post for https://hivewired.wordpress.com/2020/03/06/even-if-your-voice-shakes/

I try not to talk too much about my personal life but some of my existing patrons suggested that I make this post. I’ve ended up in a sort of rough situation recently and could use some help. 

17 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by mingyuan · 2020-03-06T22:01:45.213Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wow, thank you for doing that. I admire you standing up for what you believed in. Donated.

comment by DanielFilan · 2020-03-06T19:00:39.680Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Donated.

comment by Isnasene · 2020-03-16T03:29:48.107Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Donated.

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2020-03-06T19:24:48.580Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Donated. 

comment by David Pang (david-pang) · 2020-03-06T20:32:36.023Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you have a PayPal or something other than Patreon? I’ll make a one time donation but have an (perhaps unreasonable) abhorrence to Patreon’s recurring model.

comment by Hivewired · 2020-03-06T21:04:16.335Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah I'll PM it to you, I didn't want to list it on the blog because it has my legal name attached to it.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-03-07T06:23:21.396Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You made a decision you didn't have the authority to make, and exactly what you'd expect happened as a result.

What have you learned here? What do you still need to learn here?

comment by Hivewired · 2020-03-07T19:35:50.836Z · score: 19 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did I actually do the right thing here? I honestly couldn’t tell you. There’s certainly an argument that could be made that I didn’t fully think through the consequences of my actions or what effect they would have on me. There’s also an argument that could be made that my defiance was rather pointless since the olive bar is still open, and if I was going to do something that crazy, I should have saved it for when I knew it would make a difference.

The problem is that barring near-omniscience you can’t really know when that will be, all you can do is play your hand and let the cards fall where they may. Would I have still tried to do this knowing everything I do now? Probably not. Not because of the consequences to myself, but because it didn’t end up working. The olive bar remains open so my act of defiance didn’t accomplish what I set out to do. If it had resulted in the olive bar being closed, I think I would have done it despite the consequences. Maybe there was something else I could have done to force the issue more, maybe I should have tried to outright sabotage the cooling mechanisms, maybe I should have called the local news, maybe I should have tried to convince my coworkers to go along with it to make it harder for them to get rid of the problem person, I really don’t know and hindsight is 2020. It’s always easier to tell after it’s too late to matter.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-03-08T17:07:17.690Z · score: 12 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
Did I actually do the right thing here? I honestly couldn’t tell you.

You did the right thing by your principles, that isn't up for debate. The real question here isn't that, it's how you'd do things differently if you could do it over. This won't be the last time you face this kind of dilemma in life, so the question isn't academic.

There’s certainly an argument that could be made that I didn’t fully think through the consequences of my actions or what effect they would have on me.

You just sound young. Everyone makes these sort of mistakes as a product of lack of experience.

Everyone gets to make decisions that are costly. What ultimately matters is whether or not you regret a decision. You're going to cop negative outcomes from choices whether you like it or not, expected or not.

On a purely pragmatic front, you need an emergency fund. Principles or not, you can always lose a job or experience a financial setback. The more of a buffer you have the bigger the disaster you can tolerate.

There’s also an argument that could be made that my defiance was rather pointless since the olive bar is still open, and if I was going to do something that crazy, I should have saved it for when I knew it would make a difference.

When I read your account of this my first thought was "you need to rethink your strategy in terms of goal rather than principle". You don't have to stop being principled, you just need to be *smarter* about how you fulfil your principles.

If the point is to reduce potential risk that is not the same goal as close the olive bar come hell or high water. When you consider the risk of eating food from these sort of communal dishes I'd imagine it's already high. You haven't panicked over e.coli or any of the other common filth that must be swimming around there, so my first question would be is this as much of a risk as it intuitively seems?

The problem is that barring near-omniscience you can’t really know when that will be, all you can do is play your hand and let the cards fall where they may.

Again, this is a matter of experience. Your situation was entirely predictable to someone that has seen it countless times. You'll see others performing variations of exactly what you have here, and getting the same result, thousands of times in your life. Insubordination resulting in dismissal is common.

To understand the situation better all you have to do is switch your viewpoint from yourself to that of your manager. From the manager's perspective you were just one of a hundred problems that day, a problem that you dealt with, that then came back to bite you on the ass because the easily replaceable worker wasn't doing what you told them to and had gone completely off the reservation.

I've had that problem with people I've worked with. I don't live in a country with easy dismissal, so most of the time it involved me scolding people and ordering them to stop dicking around and do what they were paid to do. If I were your manager I'd have said "We haven't received specific instructions yet, either from corporate or the health department, so for now nothing changes. If and when we do receive that instruction I will want you to be ready to implement it. Can I rely on you for that?". What I wouldn't be saying to you is what I was thinking, which is that it isn't going to be the olive bar that gets shut down, it's going to be the entire store, hopefully before people decide riots and looting is a good idea. And it's America, so of course guns, because as if things aren't hard enough already.

Not because of the consequences to myself, but because it didn’t end up working. ... If it had resulted in the olive bar being closed, I think I would have done it despite the consequences.

Now that you know how important the ends are to you, you'll consider the means more carefully in future. That is a valuable lesson to have learned.

maybe I should have tried to outright sabotage the cooling mechanisms, maybe I should have called the local news, maybe I should have tried to convince my coworkers to go along with it to make it harder for them to get rid of the problem person

1. That is a crime. Don't ever commit a crime in a vocational context. The company will pursue you over it to the bitter end. And you'll get a criminal record into the bargain.

2. Becoming a whistle-blower is about a thousand times worse than committing a crime is from the perspective of personal consequences. Snitches aren't popular with anyone, but when you snitch against people with money and power you are opening yourself up to entirely new levels of punishment.

3. Few would stick their neck out for you, especially if they've seen this kind of thing before. The employer always has the power in these situations barring clear infractions. Employers have no problem putting a head on the pike as an object lesson to the rest of the employees (I've done this myself. Not to the degree of firing people, but the principle is sound). Peer enforcement is more effective than hands on micromanagement.

To sum up, my take on this situation is that you need to learn when to discharge your own ethical responsibility. You going to your manager with your concerns should have been the end of your ethical burden here. You made him aware of the problem, he's the authority, so it's on his shoulders at that point. That is how a hierarchy is supposed to work, authority and responsibility are bound together. If you don't have the authority to choose to close the olive bar then you are also not responsible for anything that arises from failure to close it. Likewise, your choice to act outside your authority here has had consequences for your manager too. Ethical considerations are but one subjective concern. Your manager has had to clean up the mess of your actions and has to deal with all the crap attached with firing you into the bargain. Corporate doesn't give a fuck about the olive bar but I can guarantee they're pissed at the union involvement.

What happened has happened, and the only thing that matters at this point is to learn whatever can be learnt and move on. One of the most difficult lessons about ethics is that you have to accept that sometimes you can do nothing meaningful about an issue. There will certainly be occasions when it is worth it to dig in your heels, even when that's pragmatically counterproductive. There will be situations in your life when the only thing you can do is withdraw your consent whilst events proceed regardless. This wasn't one of those situations because you needed the job more than you needed to make an ethical stand.

None of this is the end of the world and it happens to everyone.

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-03-07T11:09:34.406Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That they are a person who's willing to sacrifice for upholding their moral judgements? Supporting people for not taking harmful actions in a real world Milgrim experiment also seems to be good community behavior.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-03-08T18:16:39.768Z · score: 4 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a situation where you can (probably) have your cake and eat it to, it just depends on how you approach things. If you do it like they did then you get sacked and your ability to affect change in that situation ends then and there. So there's a discussion to be had in regards to ethics and pragmatism.

People here are happy to rally behind this person for something that is ethically identical to what Kim Davis did when she refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Somehow I get the feeling that her action inline with her personal convictions but in contravention to official policy and direct instruction wouldn't be so enthusiastically supported by those here, would it? So there's the idea of insubordination in support of personal conviction to be discussed here.

OP's actions had consequences for more than just them. That matters. OP acted without authority, and whenever authority is executed without corresponding responsibility it causes problems. OP got sacked, but their manager had to clean up the mess they made (see my other comment for that line of thought). Ethics are never one sided, and there's more to this than just the situation from OP's perspective.

I'm not here to tell anyone what ethics to hold, or when or how to execute them. Clearly OP is surprised how this played out, I'm not because I've seen it before, and if we can have a conversation about that then maybe they won't get sacked the next time this sort of thing inevitably comes up in their life.

It's trivial to sacrifice for your principles, OP did, and is regretting it as we speak. What's hard is living to your principles without screwing up your's or anyone else's life. Ethics always come with costs. That doesn't mean you give up on ethics, it just means you need to understand the nature of the transaction you are making with the world so you don't end up with regrets and minimise the damage.

OP's situation is done and dusted but there's ample scope for a post mortem and for a more abstract conversation about the nature of the ethics in the situation. I'm not aiming to dump shit on OP for their choices, I'm aiming to expand the conversation beyond what it is at present. OP got sacked for insubordination (which I agree with) and that conversation is more complicated than whether you agree with OP's intent or not (which I also agree with, if not the translation of that intent into action).

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-03-08T22:42:49.413Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
People here are happy to rally behind this person for something that is ethically identical to what Kim Davis did when she refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

There's a consensus that not infecting people with diseases that might kill them is ethically bad and there's no similar ethical consensus for the issue of same-sex marriage licenses.

Here the issue is trading of ethical values for the profit of a particular company. That qualitatively different then trading of different ethical values against each other.

It's hard for my to understand how you think that's identical.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-03-10T11:25:26.552Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The belief held doesn't matter, what matters is the authority to act on behalf of an entity. That's why these two situations are identical: both employees acting contrary to instruction for personal reasons in the assumption that they knew better than everyone else. This isn't about the conviction, it's about the act it caused.

Here's how I see things: The olive bar serves olives to the public. Olives generally come served in olive oil, and vinegar, both acids, both utterly hostile to all kinds of bugs. If the olive bar can stay open in a world with e.coli health regulations (ie. people literally having shit on their hands) and not be making people sick, then it can get by with covid-19 too. The company already has multiple members of staff devoted to both food and public safety, internal and external legal counsel, and CEO's and management that are on a first name basis with people in authority and have already had a dozen conversations specifically about covid-19 with various private and government parties. You do not end up running a big company by being a schmuck that cannot deal with complicated business risks. There's always at least one or two business killing grade problems at this level, covid-19 is just the latest one. If things go wrong here, it won't be OP in the firing line, it will be dozens of people way above OP's pay grade. This is not OP's responsibility, and them going off script just makes it that much harder for the people who are responsible here.

People are making a lot of assumptions here based solely on OP's viewpoint. I can tell you that from five minutes of considering this situation and from vocational experience and simple old age that there's more than one side to this. OP's heart is absolutely in the right place, their actions weren't. Likewise, there's at lot more that goes into the company's/managements motivations than simply the profit motive at all cost. That would be a naive interpretation.

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-03-10T14:56:23.593Z · score: 2 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the common ideas of ethics is that the kind of personal reasons matter a great deal.

By your standards stealing something from a stranger (whom you are told not to interact with) because you are greedy is ethically identical to giving them a gift because you feel generous as both are personal reasons.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-03-19T03:14:54.184Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would concur that personal motivation does matter, but that it doesn't protect one from consequences of action. Go ahead and do what you consider right, and then have the courage of your convictions.

We can debate personal ethics 'til the cows come home. One only need look to the Roma to see an entire culture that treats crime as laudable or to Islam to find murder of the out-group touted as the highest holy virtue to see examples of how variant ethics can be. My argument is that within our culture, particularly the work culture, is that breaking ranks is potentially an ethical misstep, and most certainly a pragmatic mistake.

Stealing and giving are exactly the same inasmuch as chocolate and mint are both flavours. Class and instance aren't equivalent. That all right thinking people find mint to be disgusting is irrelevant to the fact that they are both clearly flavours.

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-03-19T07:53:36.794Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The fact that there are communities with strange ethics, in no way implies that our rationalist community shouldn't have it's resoned ethical norms. We also aren't the work peers of the OP.

comment by Stuart Anderson (stuart-anderson) · 2020-03-20T10:07:16.271Z · score: -6 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As I never made that suggestion I fail to see how it applies.

Furthermore, I would argue that this community is not as homogeneous as you assume. That is a feature, not a bug, at least when it comes to the possibility of evolving your thinking.

OP worked basic retail. This was a starter job and everyone who has worked for more than five minutes has had one. Universal experiences exist. That's why narratives and archetypes work so well. Neither I nor you needed to be the one passing them the olives to understand exactly what happened here and why it turned out the way it did.