He thinks it’s pretty obvious why any engineers who may have been involved have not come forward to date. For one thing, anyone who does stand up will most likely be swept aside … Confronted with questionable orders or restrictions, they find themselves in the untenable situation of having to do something unethical — which includes going along with it and remaining silent — or face career damage. New Year, New Projects, Same Old Ethics? Susan Hassler, IEEE Spectrum, Jan 2016.
The hardest part about becoming a civilian in corporate life after having been in the military for over 20 years was dealing with outright lies. The first time someone looked me in the eye and lied was a shock. The individual didn’t even try to hide the fact that he was lying. He was so sure he had the confidence of others, people in power, that he could easily get away with it.
I didn’t stick around long at that small company but the bigger one I joined after that wasn’t a lot better. What was worse was that it was often time my bosses that thought that simple lies were just fine, especially to save face when things went wrong.
My solution was always the same. I tried to do the best job I could and if things went wrong, I just admitted it and moved forward. It was amazing how many times that startled others. The humorous part, however, was that many of the things that slowed down my career weren’t the mistakes I made and admitted. Rather it was the mistakes others assigned to me when they were trying to cover their own mistakes. I finally concluded that with all the mudslinging I was going to get hit periodically regardless if I made mistakes or not, so I should just roll with it as it happened and press on. I often felt like a person running around with an array of knifes and arrows sticking out of my back. It was also humorous, with this baggage on me, to then deliver a project on time with good quality. This was in organizations that pretty much never delivered projects on time with good quality. Did this make those mudslingers happy? No, it just quieted them down temporarily until they could find the next thing to throw.
My conclusion was that one can have a pretty good career even in these circumstances. I’ve sometimes wondered what it could have been like if I played the game (e.g., slung the mud or made up the lie or went along with the crowd). Would I have seen more promotions? Made more money? Become rich and famous? In every instance I can’t imagine doing other than what I did. I recall vividly just about every successful project but for my promotions and raises I have to dig deep to recall when they happened and under what circumstances. Accomplishing something was always a lot more rewarding than being given that title or the corner office with a view of the park.
How are you doing at balancing ethics while surviving and getting the job done?