Reader Question: Justice on the Job

My friend Beth said:
Here's a justice-question for ya: What if the most probable job your husband can get is researching to build a robot that would take over human jobs in a car manufacturing plant? It would initially GIVE a job, but then take away. It would also, however, help keep the car manufacturers afloat in troubled economic times, ensuring the rest of the jobs not eliminated by the robot.
To give a little background, Beth's husband is a brilliant doctoral student of physics engineering. A Rocket Scientist, really. He practically has super powers. The choice he has to make is: Will he use them for Good or Evil?

Just kidding! We all have the power to do Good or Bad with all our choices, not just Rocket Scientists. An employment choice is a big one- because, when I choose a job, it's what I'm working toward and supporting day in and day out, not just one purchase here or there. I speak from personal experience when I say, if you have moral qualms with what you're doing at your job, it makes it very, very hard to do it well.

I had an internship working to write software that bill collectors use when they call and harass people about unpaid bills. As the summer wore on, although I'm opposed to debt, I learned about how people can be bankrupt by just a few bad decisions, or by a health issue totally out of their control. Most of our clients were health-related, and the people being affected by my work were ones who were probably doing the best they could, but couldn't make ends meet to pay for this huge unplanned bill (I'll probably address The Plight of the Uninsured later.That's another post) Anyway, after those few months, I decided I couldn't work toward the end goal of the product with good conscience, and I turned down the job offer that came later, even with nothing else lined up.

This was a very personal value call on my part- I have good friends that worked for this same company with no problem. It's a matter of perspective.

So, back to the question at hand- what should the Rocket Scientist do? As it was for me, it's a value judgement he'll have to make. Does he see the work as supporting the car companies by making their processes more efficient, helping the company stay afloat and keeping the cost of their product down for the average person? Or does he see it as scheming to get as many people off the payroll as possible, automating away jobs and ruining entire towns? The way the end goal of the project is stated in the workplace may have a lot to do with it. Yes, in my job, I work to make processes more efficient so that those who use the software can get more done more quickly- which is technically preventing the need for new hirings- but in my mind, I'm making the end-user's day better and happier, because they're doing their job without fighting with the computer, too. It's in my perspective.

Do you see value in what you do day-in and day-out? How do you balance the Needs of Your Business with Social Justice?

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