How Do You Choose Between What’s Right and Your Ability to Make Money?

Imagine this scenario: You have an opportunity to keep your current salary and work for an organization of somewhat doubtful integrity. Or, you have an opportunity to make orders of magnitude more money—but that organization has a reputation for human rights abuses. What do you choose?

More money creates more freedom in your life, for now, and for later. But you have an internal position that says human rights abuses are wrong. And your current employer has questionable ethics.

That’s the dilemma facing golf pros right now.

Do you choose what’s right—to work for an organization that does not abuse people, the PGA? Or do you optimize for your ability to make money and work for LIV?

Disclaimer: I could not be less interested in golf if I tried. Never played, not interested, do not watch on tv. However, I have noticed that the PGA has quite uneven pay in the professional ranks. And, the women’s pay is so far off the men’s pay that I don’t consider it the same game. That’s why I claim the PGA has doubtful integrity.

However, this is about the men’s tour, where players need to choose between the PGA and the new Saudi Arabia golf league, LIV. I think these are the salient details:

  • The LIV tour offers much higher purses. And they pay every player who enters. (This entices golfers from the PGA.)
  • The PGA only pays players who make the cut.

When do you choose “what’s right” over your ability to make money?

We make this decision every time we choose to do business with anyone—our employers, who we buy from, and who we partner with as we deliver goods and services.

Is this a simple matter of personal integrity? It might be, and it’s not simple.

Consider the Short, Medium, and Long-Term Consequences of Your Decision

I would never have to make this specific decision because I’m not a professional male golfer. However, I have made decisions similar to this one, because my employers created situations where they threatened to fire me if I did not go along. (As if my Big Mouth (TM) could ever “just” go along.)

Here are some questions I’ve asked when I’ve encountered these kinds of personal integrity dilemmas:

  • If I take the money now, how will I feel later? Later is all of these: immediately, in several months, and in years. What will I tell my grandchildren?
  • If I don’t take the money now, what do I need to do to protect my personal and professional well-being? That includes my professional reputation and my income.
  • If I take the money, can I influence the organization from the inside?

Notice I did not offer the option of “take the money and badmouth your employer.” If you try to do that, most organizations will fire you and not pay any salary from the day you said bad things.

Each of us has a different personal integrity line. I would not work for the Saudis, but I don’t have to worry about that. They would never ask me to do so.

Here are just some of the questionable behaviors my companies have requested of me to get paid:

  • Lie to customers about the state of the product
  • Ship empty boxes the last day of the month or quarter so the company could recognize revenue.
  • In an assessment report, shift the “blame” from one group to a different one.

I declined each of these and never felt any regret.

What Might You Regret?

If you don’t feel the same freedom I felt, you might make a different decision. I am a realist—sometimes, income makes the decision for you.

Money offers you the freedom to choose which work, at which time, for which employer.

What would I do in these golfers’ positions? If I thought I could influence the organization from the inside, I might take the money. However, that’s an organization, not a government.

There’s no one right answer to this question, just shades of gray. And those shades depend on your freedom to choose. If you have this question in your life right now, I wish you luck answering it.

The question this week is: How do you choose between what’s right and your ability to make money?

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