Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Ethics of Getting Fired

Written by: on November 9, 2013


Earlier in my career I faced an ethical decision. I had been selected as the Executive Director of a new Retirement Community to be built. At the time, we were in the sales mode and had collected 70 per cent presales of over 110 apartments. We were finalizing the designs so we could build.

I was overseeing the sales efforts and had personally worked with many of the residents in the sales process. We had promised a “state of the art” new skilled nursing facility with private rooms. Assisted living one bedroom apartments included kitchenettes, private showers and bathroom facilities. The artist renderings beautifully captured the spectacular views of commons buildings overlooking the Puget Sound as well as the above amenities.

Unbeknown to me at the time, the person who was in charge of design and construction began to redesign the project without consulting me. Apparently, the project was projected over budget and he was committed to build the project under budget. Thus, he had the skilled nursing facility design with double occupancy, an old clinical, traditional design. Assisted living design took out kitchenettes and showers and replaced showers with “dorm-gang” type showers in a shower room. The spectacular two story window view of the Sound in the entrance was replaced with a reception desk and walls. Also, every Independent Apartment that had been pre-sold, the square footage was reduced without any communication to future residents.

When I learned about the situation, I went to the project manager and shared we could develop a team to look at ways to keep our promises yet reduce costs. The suggestion went on deaf ears. I then wrote a letter to my supervisor who was also the project manager’s boss about my idea. Two weeks later I was downsized with the excuse that the project was over budget and could not afford my salary.

Was I terminated because I voiced my concern or was I terminated because of the downsizing situation? I will never know the real reason.

Nullens and Michener, in The Matrix of Christian Ethics has helped me to reflect about the situation (Nullens and Michener 2010). They write an excellent over view and history of ethics from a secular and Christian perspective. Nullens and Michener also elaborate on the four components of an ethical decision: consequences, principles, virtues or character and values.

In my decision, I weighed the consequences of writing the letter. My decision to voice my opinion reflected negatively upon the project manager with whom my boss had a close relationship. I realized this would cause tension but, I never thought the act could get me fired.

The principles were clear to me. We had promised many things that were being changed with no communication along the way to inform our clients about the changes. There was a clause in fine print that these plans could be subject to change but the proposed significant changes were not right.

Virtues and character played a large part in my actions. Doing what I say I will do is integrity. I believe it is important for me to “walk my talk.” I also expect this of the companies I work for. I had to say something and I spoke up that there was a better way to solve the problems we were faced with.

Values also played a significant role in my decision. I have always lived by the priority values of faith first, family second and work third. Doing the right thing is more important than my job.

What happened after I got fired? I found a much better job and a great company to work for. I was hired by my most favorite boss. The community was built with the reduced plans under budget. Less than five years later, the Department of Social Services forced them to put the showers back in each Assisted Living Apartment. There is no view of the Sound when you enter the lobby and they have struggled keeping the skilled nursing facility full.

The lesson I learned is that God took care of me when I did the right thing and I got fired.

NULLENS, Patrick, MICHENER, Ronald. The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context. Downer’s Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2010.

About the Author

Mark Steele

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