Yesterday I found out that my office is doing a job for a project that I think is against my personal morals. It is nothing illegal or shady, but related to animal freedoms/factory farming. I was surprised that the boss took the job because in the past they said no to a project for 'humanitarian reasons' and generally feel our idea of moral/immoral are fairly even.

I directly asked my boss why we are taking the job, and the boss responded with, it's not as bad as 'xyz'. So I said that just because something is better, doesn't make it ok. Boss proceeded to roll eyes at me.

I discussed it with another employee and they said that as long as it is legal and in theory/commonly acceptable then it is perfectly ok to take the job. I disagree. Just because it is legally 'ok' to do something, doesn't mean you should do it.

Obviously they aren't going to turn down the job because one employee takes aversion to it. I am finding it quite distressing as it is fresh in my mind and I am surprised at the difference in our morals.

At this point I think the best I can do is refuse to participate and/or decline to work on this project if it falls on my desk. Last night I did some research with a view to presenting some information to try to persuade my boss to turn down the job. I decided against this as it is obvious that we have already agreed to the job and may be breaching a contract if we turn it down now.

Am I risking my job by taking a stance like this? If I refuse to work on it and state moral conflict as the reason, am I damaging my reputation?

I have never faced a situation like this with an authority figure/employer so I do not know how to deal with it.




4 Answers 4


Am I risking my job by taking a stance like this?

You need to ask your boss about this. Anything else is just a guess, and your boss is the one that gets to decide if your decision to not work on some projects is acceptable or grounds for dismissal.

In some companies with many projects it might be fine. If you don't work on one there's plenty of other work to do.

In other companies everyone needs to be on board with important projects.

If I refuse to work on it and state moral conflict as the reason, am I damaging my reputation?

You are basically showing others that you might refuse to work on some projects that go against your beliefs. Certainly you can't be expected to review and approve every project, so from a company point of view, they can't be sure what stance you will take next.

Depending on what you want your reputation to be, this could help or hurt. Some would consider this "being true to your morals". Others might consider this "being odd".

You need to ask yourself why do you want to work for a company that would take on work like this? How far do your morals extend? (We all draw the lines differently).

  • 1
    The only thing I'd add is that how people react depends on the culture of the company and location and how objectionable the project or client would be considered by the average person in that culture. I think the reputation impact can also be worse than simply being seen as having a strange outlook.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 11:53
  • 3
    It also depends on how you express your moral stance. To minimise the consequences, try to express your view in a way that does not sound like a criticism of other people's morals. For example, "I am not comfortable working on projects involving X" is a neutral statement that would not offend most people, but "X is evil/wrong!" implies that anyone who would work on the project is immoral, which will likely cause resentment.
    – mhwombat
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 19:25
  • @mhwombat I think you are completely right. I don't want to make anyone else feel bad.
    – Viv
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 22:04
  • The company does have a history of turning down jobs for humanitarian reasons, so the OP may have felt he was in the right place.
    – user8365
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 22:17
  • I do recommend also keeping in mind that doing something because it is your job is exactly and entirely identical to 'just doing it for money.' People often view those two things differently, but they are the same.
    – otakucode
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 6:30

Some good answers here already, but an important aspect you need to keep in mind. When all the discussing is over, this is your problem, not the company's.

There is nothing wrong with asking for some accommodation and hopefully your company has enough work and management is willing to be flexible. But the company can not be expected to follow every employee's moral compass.

Just because it is legally 'ok' to do something, doesn't mean you should do it.

That's true and you can feel free to take that stance for yourself. But as an employee, you generally don't get to decide what work the company takes on. The employer is not required to continue employment for employees who refuse to do the assigned work because they don't like the task or the client (within contractual limitations, obviously).

  • 1
    Just because you decide not to do it, doesn't mean you get to keep your job. Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 20:04

First you probably need to fully work out what your position is, short term & long term. Also consider what is in and out of your control.

Would you quit if you are made to work on this project having politely and professionally asked not to be assigned?

If yes, then potentially you’re done. Just quit. If, as you state, you “refuse to participate” rather than try & negotiate, you might not even have the option.

If you accept the situation this time, can you continue to work for this company knowing they may take on a similar project?

If not, maybe you quit anyway, maybe you use the time you’re currently employed to find a new job while still getting paid.

If yes, ask whether your boss would give you the option to not participate if the situation arises again?

Can you live with his answer?

If the business continues to pursue ever worse projects (morally) what will you do?


Whether you should refuse to work on this contract is a question that only you can answer - it depends how strongly you feel about the issue and how directly your work would contradict your beliefs. For instance, constructing housing for farm workers might be acceptable, whereas designing an abattoir would not. Whether your employer would accept your request depends on a number of factors:

  1. How valuable are you to the company? Will they make allowances for you in order to avoid losing you?

  2. How much will the request affect the company? Is there other work you can switch to, or are you asking to sit doing nothing for the duration of this contract?

  3. How common is your moral objection in your culture? Is it based on a recognised religion, or a common ethical position? Does your objection seem logical? This is a grey area - in many countries there have been legal rulings that it is not acceptable for Christians (for example) to withhold their services because they do not want to endorse same-sex marriage. Arguably, a vegan refusing to build a livestock farm, or a pacifist refusing to design a website for an arms manufacturer could be comparable, and hence not acceptable. On the other hand, a vegan journalist refusing to write a review of a steakhouse might be accepted more easily, especially if restaurant reviews were not normally part of their job description.

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