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)
· score: 12 (8 votes) · LW
) · GW
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.