Being Catholic in business


#1

Hi, I’m planning to start business school this fall and get my MBA. One thing that has been troubling me for a while now is how Catholics should behave in the business world. Up to date, I have not had to make any important decisions regarding ethics/morality in the workplace, but I will likely encounter them if I continue to go down this path to pursue my career goals. Are there any books/articles on this subject that you can recommend? With all the things that Wall Street/corporate America have been up to lately, I’m kind of worried about this. Granted that I’m most likely not headed to Wall Street (and won’t be responsible for the next financial crisis), but companies have their own shares of “mishaps,” i.e. BP, Enron, etc.

How do I work in accordance with Church teachings while still staying competitive in the workplace? I suppose there will be plenty of office politics going on - how do I approach this in a way that doesn’t compromise my own ethics without adversely affecting my own career progression?

I’m not looking for generic answers, like praying or “do what Jesus would do,” not that those things aren’t important. I’m looking for some concrete advice that I can use in the office on a daily basis from someone who has had to make these kinds of decisions.

Thank you!


#2

I have learnted the hard way that to be Catholic in business sometimes means bitting my tongue.

For example, I believe that clients our paying us good money for our product so while at the office we owe it to them to work and think of nothing else. Well… what kind of atmosphere disallows a five minute ‘How was your week end?’ We need to be flexible to the fact that people need to be happy at work and a bit of social talk for the first five minutes puts them at ease.

A more concrete example. A lot of woman bring their kids to the office when the sitter cancels at the last minute. These kids are noisy and disruptive. I was very vocal about how I wanted those kids to quiet down. Needless to say, I got into big trouble. So as a Catholic, I learned that if I want to make a change, I need to try in a more mature way. Or, I need to not judge. For all I know, when this woman puts her kids to bed, she then works from home. Perhaps her manager finds that is a fair trade.

Do I like it? NO, I still think kids in an office is pathetic. But I need to live in and let live.

Also, when dirty jokes are emailed around, I had to make it quite clear not to send them to me. People respect that but I am sure they think I am a drag to be around.

As for cheating a client. I don’t have any examples of that.

Hope that helped

CM


#3

Always give your employer a full days work, never lie, never gossip and trust in the Lord to take care of the politics. At first people will think you a little strange-a religious fanatic, after a while they will respect and admire you .


#4

Thank you for the responses. Here are some examples of the things that I'm looking for.

[LIST]
*]What do I do when I'm asked to represent/market a product to be better than what it actually is?
*]What do I do when I'm asked to make a decision that will undoubtedly hurt someone (while still being legal), but will be good for the company and its stockholders?
*]What do I do when I'm asked to make a decision that will hurt the environment?
*]What do I do when I'm forced to lie to someone for the good of the company?
[/LIST]

So yea, things of that nature.


#5

I am going to get blasted for this but frankly, I DO NOT CARE!

First of all, this should be in the Moral category. You already started to rationalize, by shutting down those that would answer in a certain way. How can you emphasize “catholic or christian” without prayer.

A while back a fellow parishioner mentioned that she works for a bank and that she knew they would intentionally charge accounts late fees that were not so. I said “You KNOW that?”, she never missed a beat “Oh, yes”. I then said ”You still work for them?”, “Absolutely” was her response. I then asked her what bank she worked for and made sure I would never do business with them, even with companies that used them as their accounts server. You do know that this is not the only department that something as such is going on either.

She is not doing the “stealing”, but she most definitely is a supporter. She takes the proceeds every time she cashes a payroll check. She feeds her children and pays her car payment with money stolen from those who trust that company.

We wonder why this country is in the mess it’s in, well just look at who is sitting next to you in the pew. This is not a sinner, this is someone whom has rationalized a known wrong doing, has gone to confession and receives the body and blood of our Lord knowing they will continue in this manner tomorrow. ALL BECAUSE THEY NEED A PAYCHECK!!!

I SAY GO RIGHT AHEAD EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT!!!

After all it was to be able to feed your children, so you can have a big house, so you can go out and have a good time, so you will be promoted, so you can be considered successful. YES, you are entitled to what everyone else has, aren’t you?

You know the answers to all those questions. It just boils down to one. What will you do when asked to betray your GOD. Will you do it knowingly, or pass the buck?

“What’s wrong is still wrong even when everyone else is doing it, what’s right is still right even when no one is doing it” FULTON J. SHEEN


#6
  • What do I do when I’m asked to represent/market a product to be better than what it actually is?

Represent the product to the best you can being in mind its limits.

* What do I do when I'm asked to make a decision that will undoubtedly hurt someone (while still being legal), but will be good for the company and its stockholders?

Legal is good, truth is better don’t you think.

* What do I do when I'm asked to make a decision that will hurt the environment?

I don’t know the answer to this one but all I will say is taking care of the environment is taking care for future generations.

* What do I do when I'm forced to lie to someone for the good of the company?

As a catholic you will have a fair idea whether you have committed a mortal sin or not, if you are not sure please go to confession and know the truth which will set you free.

Your friend in Christ
John


#7

Refuse politely, pointing out that if the product goes to market with imperfections, it will fail and consumers will never trust the company again. Insist that it is wiser to invest in making the product better than to pretend it isn’t. Go all the way to the CEO if you have to. And if you can’t convince them, you shouldn’t be working for them, anyway.

Well, that’s hard to say. You certainly should examine the company’s ethical standards before signing on. Business decisions sometimes hurt others. For example, if you go to work for a chain of pharmacies that are really great (good service, low prices) and the co. decides to put a new pharmacy in an area where all the other pharmacies are not so good (poor service, high prices), undoubtedly some of those bad pharmacies will go out of business – people will lose money and their jobs. They will be hurt. But they aren’t hurt by the success of YOUR company – they are hurt by the poor management of their own. On the other hand, if your business suddenly decides to make a profit through a legal means that is opposed to Catholic teaching – abortion or human cloning, for example – then you are obliged to resign.

The EPA usually will take care of that for you. Make yourself an expert on regulations, and if your company makes a move that will hurt the environment, you can bring the EPA regulations to the attention of your superiors all in the name of looking out for your company.

Again, this is something that should be in the corporate ethical standards. If the company doesn’t have a standard of honesty, don’t work for them. If they do and you are asked to lie, then tell them you are loyal to the company’s ethical standards for honesty and won’t do it, but you have thought of 1-2 alternatives that will handle the situation without lying.

Keep in mind that if you ever lose your job for standing up for what’s right, it’s not a bad thing. I used to work for a large insurance company and my boss asked me to lie on an application for a certain certification our company wanted (not mandatory to the business, but a good recruitment thing). I refused. He assigned another person to complete the application, and she happily lied. However, he underestimated the CEO, who was no dummy. When the application went to the CEO for his signature, he read every word (like I said, no dummy!). He hauled my boss into his office and demanded an explanation for the lie. My boss quite honestly said that I had been assigned to complete the application, conveniently leaving out the fact that I had refused to lie so he made somebody else do it.

I was put on probation for 30 days, and my boss made my life miserable. I kept very good records during that time and I also started to look for another job. At the end of the 30 days, he was required to sign a paper saying I was off probation, but he hid for three days so he didn’t have to. On the fourth day, he came into work 45 minutes late, but I was sitting in his office with the paperwork waiting for him.

“What are you doing here?”

“You need to sign my paperwork so I can turn it into HR”

“You’re still on probation.”

“Yes, sir, until you sign the paperwork.”

“But you violated the probation.”

“Excuse me?”

“You were late to work today.” (How could he have known that? He was late himself!)

“Sir, I think you must be mistaken. I signed in three minutes ahead of time.”

“No, you were late.”

“No, sir. We can go check with the security guard right now. I signed in three minutes early.”

“You are contradicting me.”

“I am offering a correction for whatever bad information your received, because I was not late.”

“You were late.”

“No, sir.”

“And you are contradicting me, which is a violation of your probation.”

“Perhaps we should arrange a meeting with HR to figure this out, because this situation is getting quite confusing.”

“Fine.”

When I walked into the HR meeting, I had a thick CYA folder of evidence of all the unethical things my boss had done or asked me to do, plus all the mistreatment I had suffered during my probation, plus a photocopy of the sign-in sheet that showed I was on time. As I was sitting in my chair, my boss fired me. I looked at the HR person, who seemed just as surprised as I was, and said, “I thought this was a mediation session.”

“No,” my boss said. “You are fired.”

Again to the HR person, I said, “But this meeting is supposed to help us work things out.”

“I’m sorry,” the HR person said, “but you’ve been fired and I am no longer at your service. I’ll get your dismissal papers.”

Obviously when he saw my file, my boss knew I had evidence against him and his only option was to fire me on the spot before I could spill it. Was it fair? No. And I didn’t have a job lined up. I was frightened and devastated. How could that happen when I was standing up for what was right?

But in the long run, I did get a much better job where I wasn’t asked to do unethical things and I have never for a moment regretted the fact that I wasn’t working for that jerk of a boss any more.


#8

Oh, I wish it were that simple. Most of the time, it’s not a matter of black-and-white, but shades of gray.

You’re tasked with selling the product. If the product doesn’t sell, the company and its stockholders lose money. You may be let go, and your family will starve.

For instance, you need to let people go, because of bad economic times. Do you keep them on, despite the fact that your company will go bankrupt if you do and everyone will lose their jobs?

The latest BP fiasco is a prime example. Even though the fishermen are furious at BP, they’re surprisingly still all for deep-sea drilling, because w/o the industry, they have no one to sell their products to.

For instance, you have to testify in front of a Senate committee, much like Hayward is having to do. If he spills the beans, then his company faces huge lawsuits, and his stockholders will suffer should the company file for bankruptcy, and someone who owns BP stock might lose his/her life savings. If BP goes under, it could drag other industries down with it, like fishing, ironically.

As you can see, it’s never, ever black-and-white. That is the reason why I’m asking these questions. As a future business leader, it’s very likely that I will be put in a position to make those types of decisions.


#9

So you represent the product without lying. If you’re let go you’re family will not starve. You’ll just get another job or if worse comes to worse end up on welfare.

It isn’t immoral to fire someone.

It isn’t a lie to say nothing.


#10

[quote="Sparki777, post:7, topic:202558"]
Refuse politely, pointing out that if the product goes to market with imperfections, it will fail and consumers will never trust the company again. Insist that it is wiser to invest in making the product better than to pretend it isn't.

[/quote]

Well, it's never THAT obvious. For instance, you market a lightbulb as something that lasts 1,000 hours, but engineering tells you that the average is 900 hours.

[quote="Sparki777, post:7, topic:202558"]
Go all the way to the CEO if you have to. And if you can't convince them, you shouldn't be working for them, anyway.

[/quote]

Eh, in a big company, you don't exactly have ready access to the CEO. Again, if you make a fuss, your career opportunities become limited.

[quote="Sparki777, post:7, topic:202558"]
Well, that's hard to say. You certainly should examine the company's ethical standards before signing on. Business decisions sometimes hurt others. For example, if you go to work for a chain of pharmacies that are really great (good service, low prices) and the co. decides to put a new pharmacy in an area where all the other pharmacies are not so good (poor service, high prices), undoubtedly some of those bad pharmacies will go out of business -- people will lose money and their jobs. They will be hurt. But they aren't hurt by the success of YOUR company -- they are hurt by the poor management of their own. On the other hand, if your business suddenly decides to make a profit through a legal means that is opposed to Catholic teaching -- abortion or human cloning, for example -- then you are obliged to resign.

[/quote]

Even Goldman Sachs has a company ethical statement, with a convenient clause that says they can ignore everything if needed. Are they ethical? Not in a million years.

[quote="Sparki777, post:7, topic:202558"]
The EPA usually will take care of that for you. Make yourself an expert on regulations, and if your company makes a move that will hurt the environment, you can bring the EPA regulations to the attention of your superiors all in the name of looking out for your company.

[/quote]

Not really possible without getting a JD in that area. If the EPA comes after you, it's already become a huge fiasco.

[quote="Sparki777, post:7, topic:202558"]
Again, this is something that should be in the corporate ethical standards. If the company doesn't have a standard of honesty, don't work for them. If they do and you are asked to lie, then tell them you are loyal to the company's ethical standards for honesty and won't do it, but you have thought of 1-2 alternatives that will handle the situation without lying.

[/quote]

Again, it's not always easy to tell. One strategy is to always have back-ups, in case things don't work out, but it's easier said than done.

I'm very, very sorry to hear what happened to you. And I respect you for having stood up for your beliefs. I'd like to think that I would have your strength in that same situation, but I don't know until I actually encounter something like that. In any case, I think you had a very good case for a wrongful termination suit, especially with all the records you kept.


#11

[quote="BadTurkey, post:10, topic:202558"]
I'm very, very sorry to hear what happened to you. And I respect you for having stood up for your beliefs. I'd like to think that I would have your strength in that same situation, but I don't know until I actually encounter something like that. In any case, I think you had a very good case for a wrongful termination suit, especially with all the records you kept.

[/quote]

Thanks for the sympathy. I live in a right to work state, so I had no chance of wrongful termination. They can fire you for not wearing khaki on casual Friday here. Literally. (I did speak with a lawyer).

Based on your rather cynical responses, I suggest you see a career counselor and find a career path that is far more suited for you than business. Especially since you don't think you have the moral fiber to do the right thing when faced with a dicey situation.


#12

As a Catholic with 25 years in corporate America, an MBA, and 15 years in management, my advice is to just be yourself.

I am very competent at doing my job, I have expertise and I work hard. I have built my reputation on hard work, ethical decision-making, and a track record of producing excellent results. Be fair with people, stay out of “office politics,” the break room, and happy hour.

I can count on one hand the true ethically challenging situations I have faced over my career. They really are not *that *common when you are fair minded, do your job, and use your values to inform your decisions.


#13

I beg your pardon? I’m here to seek advice, not to be told that I’m going into the wrong career after spending years of my life building it.

Thank you. That is a very fair and balanced view of things. This is what I have been trying to do. I’m just a little unsure as to what kind of decisions I will have to make in the future as I gain more responsibilities, and whether I will have the wherewithal to make the right ones, but I guess that’s part of what they’ll be teaching me in business school.


#14

I am unsure what kinds of decisions I will have to make next week. Don’t be so focused on what you might have to do. In business, things change fast. It’s your basic character that prepares you for how you will react.

No, not really. The MBA program does not focus on those types of things, really.

I learned more about how to be a good manager via watching other managers, good and bad, but especially my first manager who was an excellent manager.

I also took classes through the American Management Association on supervision and management. AMA is excellent.


#15

And you’ve consistently responded to all advice offered with a negative “That won’t work,” plus you have admitted that you don’t think you can stand up for what is right and true. You’ve made ridiculous statements such as, “Your family will starve.” I had a baby and a mortgage when I lost my job and ended up going only one day without pay before I found my next very good job. Now I’ve got a family of 3 kids and a husband in school for retraining after recovering from a brain injury (he was hit by an armored truck as he was walking across the street in the crosswalk with the light in his favor). I’ve been laid off since February due to the economic downturn, and my family isn’t starving. I’ve had severance, freelance work and other creative means of bringing in enough food and money to keep us all healthy, sheltered and clothed & in our right minds. Losing a job is difficult and frightening, but it’s also an opportunity to end up in a better position.

As for changing your career path now after investing so much time into it, no big deal. That’s actually quite common – estimates are that most people who are graduating from university these days will have 3-5 different careers in their life time. So if you think you are going to get one kind of job and stick with it until you retire, you had better give up that idea and attempt to become considerably more flexible. Besides, what you know about business can be parlayed into a lot of different types of work.

Jobs are won and lost everyday. You should win them or lose them for the right reasons. There is no such thing as a company that will be loyal to you, so you might as well be loyal to God and your faith.

By your negative responses, I wonder if you are not simply looking for excuses to be lazy about your ethics on the job. You don’t need to get them here. Satan will give you all you need if you prefer not to take the ethical stand at all costs.


#16

I really like what 1ke has to say here. I haven’t got much to add, except that work life can be weighed and measured in the same way as the rest of one’s life. If something is wrong, it is wrong. Something can be not nice without being wrong.

I was in a sales job early in my career, and was told to say anything to sell the product. They wanted me to answer “Absolutely!” whenever someone asked “Can it do this?”. I couldn’t do it, and was a ‘failure’ in that position. I saved a bunch of people from buying some expensive software that wouldn’t do what they wanted.

However, I have had a very successful career, and God has led me in all sorts of directions. After my first baby, my employer put on another girl to do my job while I was off work. When I asked to return they told me if I came back, the girl would be fired, or I could take another, lower position. It was my choice. I took the lower position, hated it and left a few months later to start working for myself, from home, around my children. I’ve never looked back (I make more money and work fewer hours). Don’t be afraid of being fired. Trust that if you follow God’s instructions, He’ll look after you.

I also think that there is a movement in the corporate world for companies to be highly ethical. I’ve been made to take courses in ethics at a few companies, especially the bigger ones.


#17

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