Integrity or Obedience

Recently some Facebook employees quit the company over Mark Zuckerberg’s handling of Donald Trump’s violent posts. Many employees would prefer that Facebook take a stronger stand while Zuckerberg defends his decision (rather feebly according to some employees and journalists). Many have been speaking out about this on social media, even flatly stating that Mark is wrong.

Meanwhile hundreds of other Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest Zuckerberg’s decision.

It’s Zuckerberg’s company though. He has the controlling vote on such issues, so he gets final say. Hence employees have few options:

  • Try to change Zuckerberg’s mind
  • Quit
  • Obey

Most still choose the third option. Some may be obedient because they agree and feel aligned with Zuckerberg’s values. Others may disagree and keep showing up to work; they choose to be obedient and do their jobs despite the values conflict. Facebook even has a term for this: disagree and commit. Of course that means obey.

The first option is a temporary choice. Eventually it becomes option 2 or 3.

Consider what this kind of situation does to the characters of those who face them. These are classic character sculpting choices.

Obviously working at Facebook provides many secondary gains for those who work there. Some people will appreciate the opportunities, the money, the perks, and the teamwork. They may find that this is worth some character damage. That’s their choice to make; their characters will have different consequences to deal with whatever they decide.

Pursuing secondary gains at the cost of character integrity often leads to regret though. Money and other benefits can’t fill the void that this type of damage creates.

For many people who show up to work, they must face a values conflict with their boss or employer. This misalignment stares at them each day and won’t go away. They can’t sweep it under the rug. The conflict repeatedly reasserts itself, challenging them to choose obedience or integrity. Will they act in alignment with their true values, or will they surrender to someone else’s values? Each time they choose obedience, their alignment with integrity grows dimmer, and their alignment with obedience grows stronger.

Integrity is often the harder choice to make, especially when secondary gains are lavish. In the long run, however, it’s the right choice if you care about integrity and the character you’re becoming.

It’s harder to play a disobedient character. It’s harder to play a character who stands up and speaks and acts in alignment with inner truth. It’s harder to play a character who will loudly object to a company mandate like “disagree and commit,” recognizing it for the call to obedience that it is.

How much respect do you have for someone who continues working for secondary gains, choosing obedience over integrity? Do you aspire to become such a person yourself? Does that seem like a good deal? Will you take that offer if life presents it to you?

Have you already accepted such an offer? Are you in a situation right now where you disagree and yet still obey? If so, how do you feel about that deal? Does it feel aligned to you? Did you make the right choice? What were your other options?

Pay attention to where your decisions take your character, not just what they do for your lifestyle or bank account. While it is more of a challenge, you can enjoy positive character sculpting effects while also enjoying a rewarding lifestyle. The key is to make AND choices and reject the OR choices that life brings you.

If you don’t like dealing with the problems and character damage of disagreeing and obeying, another option is to deal with the problems and character sculpting effects of really trying to live in alignment with your values, even when it costs you some secondary gains. Those secondary gains aren’t gone for good. You can rebuild and replace them. And it’s quite rewarding to find ways to do that in alignment with your values. In particular you’re likely to sculpt yourself into a far more creative – and much freer – character.

A good place to start is to acknowledge that deep down, you disagree with “disagree and commit.” That level of obedience is beneath you, isn’t it?