Avary Chong as founder of code-R, a NGO promoting Purposeful Living.
Feeling guilt for switching allegiance
I hold myself to a high moral standard. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always believed that being a professional meant doing your work, doing it well, and that great work done with a good attitude would earn you career advancement over time. Credibility, trust and respect should be at the cornerstone of all professional relationships; nothing more, nothing less.
I’ve been at my company now for a long time, and have seen a lot of staff come and go over the years. However, the leadership was effective and remained relatively stable, and the company had a good reputation. But this all started to change in the last few years as the previous generation of board members gave way to younger ones.
As that happened, the new board tried to implement some changes, which would have been a disservice to the staff. Rightfully so, the long-standing CEO resisted those changes in order to protect the employees. Unfortunately, the board used this as motivation to replace him with a puppet CEO who would do as he was told.
The new CEO then instigated a witch-hunt to root out his predecessor’s most loyal supporters, and to pressure the remaining staff to disavow and discredit our old CEO. The staff who weren’t purged were offered bonuses and forced to sign new contracts for their compliance, and anyone who refused to sign the updated policy was let go.
I have a family to support and reluctantly signed the contract for our continued financial stability. But that decision eats away at me as it went against everything I believed in. The former CEO is a good man who was doing the right thing by his people, even though many of us allowed our silence to be bought. How can I live with myself?
I don’t think your old boss would fault you for looking out for your family’s best interests, though he might appreciate you reaching out.
Culture changes in a workplace are inevitable with new leadership, but with such a drastic change as has undergone your company, it will now have become completely unfamiliar to you. But the same principles of healthily navigating office politics remain. In order to survive in the new environment, you will have to learn the values and motivations of the decision-makers, especially the new leaders replacing the old guard. However, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your morals to do so, at least any more than you feel you’ve done already.
You just have to learn to seek answers within yourself for strength and happiness. Find ways for you to do the right thing when you can. This could involve protecting surviving staff and helping them transition, to exerting a positive influence on those around you by maintaining a high level of professional and social integrity. Hold firm to your belief in the importance of credibility, trust and respect, and use your long service at the company to be more proactive as a mentor and role model.
Through remaining principled, you can be in a better position to uphold the legacy of the previous leadership a little longer. But, be prepared to potentially be required to compromise further on your convictions. I said you can learn to survive in this new climate, but learning to thrive might be a different story. At some point you may have to choose between your principles and your job. Just make sure that when that happens, you are able to make a choice that brings you happiness, and that it is truly your choice.