Ethics, Shmethics

Have you every burned out at a job? I mean “burned out” with flames, explosions, and smoke? The works. One of those life-changing, crashing-to-Earth, watershed moments that takes years to understand? I have. I’m not proud of burning out, and I don’t recommend it; but I will say it was…instructive.

I burned out after working very long hours under some very unpleasant circumstances for several years. I wonder if all martyrs are tiresome to be around? I must have been, because, when the break finally came, my best friend said to me “up to a point this was noble, but now it’s just stupid.” He was so very right. I’ve come back to this phrase several times over the years.

It’s come up again with regard to business ethics. For some years I’ve been been adhering to the spirit of a long expired do-not-compete agreement. The choice has been easy to make until recently. At about the same time another event transpired that showed the other party doesn’t feel bound by this non-existent agreement. (See the martyr rearing her irritating head, here?)

I think I’m so fearful of being unethical that sometimes I’m just…silly. I won’t say stupid, because I’d still rather err on the side of respecting another person’s patch, than doing something that hurts them. Besides, I believe ethics are what one has even if no one’s looking. They are the difficult choices.

I suspect I overthink a lot of choices by considering more than the written contract. How about you? Do you stick to the contract? Do you use do-not-compete agreements as part of your contracts? Do you teach your clients about them if they don’t know about them?

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