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Riots Against Austerity Measures, Protests Against Tuition Hikes, And “No Zeros” High School Grading Policy: How Are They Linked And Why Do They Matter To Business?

I have resisted commenting on political issues—such as the riots in Greece against the austerity measures by the government and the more than three-month long student protests in Montreal against the small tuition hikes introduced by the Quebec government—because I really want to write about ethical dilemmas with which people grapple in business. However, business operates in a social and political context that affects its ability to succeed: the Greek rioters have caused direct property damage and lowered sales and productivity of Greek companies, and the protesting students in Montreal have had a similar impact in that city. And businesspeople can affect their social and political context by expressing their views publicly, pressuring the government, or taking their business to more hospitable places.

But in order to take a stand and action, we need a clear understanding what gives rise to the Greek riots, the tuition protests, and even the “no zeros” high school grading policy employed by the Edmonton Public School Board. (Here is a link to that story for those outside of Canada who may not have heard of the high school physics teacher who defied the policy and gave zeros to students for missed assignments, and got suspended for doing so: http://www.edmontonsun.com/2012/06/01/school-grading-policys-bafflegab). And yes, if high school teachers are forced to give the same marks to students who don’t do their assignments as to those who do, business will be negatively affected when these graduates enter the labor market.

But let’s see how these three events are linked, what has given rise to them, and why businesspeople should care. The common denominator between the austerity riots, the tuition protests, and the “no zeros” grading policy is a modern distortion of justice prevalent in the Western culture: egalitarianism. Instead of giving people what they deserve, or getting what you have earned, egalitarianism advocates making everyone more or less equal, regardless of character or conduct. So those who are less productive should get the same benefits as those who produce more, and the state plays the role of an equalizer of entitlements.

The Greeks are upset because they are used to their entitlements—which the government can no longer afford, as the Greek tax payers are not producing enough to keep up with the government’s “redistribution” scheme.

The students in Montreal are upset because they believe they are entitled to nominal tuition fees (which are not even approximating the real cost of their education) in the name of egalitarianism: as students, most have low incomes and therefore other tax payers who earn more should subsidize their education. (The protests in Montreal have expanded far beyond tuition hikes to general protests against income inequality).

The “no zeros” high school grading policy in Edmonton is also based on the doctrine of egalitarianism: all students should get good grades, regardless of performance, lest those who get lower grades get discouraged and their “self-esteem” wounded.

What makes egalitarianism so hazardous is its underlying rejection of values and embrace of altruism. If productive work and performance at school are regarded the same as unproductiveness and non-performance, then productive work and performance are not values at all. Without such values as production and knowledge (whether learned at school or elsewhere), we cannot survive.

Embracing altruism is equally hazardous. When the Greeks argue that their need for entitlements such as pensions and health care constitutes a claim on tax payers in the other European Union countries, they are embracing altruism. When the students in Montreal argue that their need for nominal tuition fees constitutes a claim on the Quebec tax payers, they are embracing altruism. When the Edmonton Public School Board argues that those students who have earned their grades should be sacrificed to those who haven’t, it is embracing altruism. If we are asked to adopt altruism and sacrifice our interests for the sake of others, we cannot survive.

Egalitarianism, the rejection of values necessary for human survival, and altruism are an interlinked triple threat to business. Businesspeople should care and do what they can to fight these threats: first, embrace the notion of justice based on what you deserve, and then, speak up publicly when opportunities arise, sponsor good private schools, run their businesses as meritocracies—and if possible (admittedly a big “if”), move somewhere else where the triple threat is lower.

Who should get bonuses?

This story was shared by an MBA student who was trying to assess a personal business experience.  A small technology start-up has started to see some financial success after two years of hard work. The three main shareholders, the CEO and two vice presidents, had made an agreement with the team of employees that everyone, including the top management team (the main owners), would work on reduced salaries until the company proved its technology-based product and found a buyer. Upon the sale of the company, everyone would get their deferred salaries and bonuses, and the main shareholders would of course get a return on their investment.

However, as sales and profits started to materialize sooner than expected but with no sign of a buyer for the company yet, the three top managers started to pay bonuses—but only to themselves. Was that in their self-interest?

Of course the main owners had the right to pay themselves bonuses and determine that others did not get them. But that does not mean that it was in their self-interest to do so. Even if the rest of the employees were unlikely to leave the company at that point because they had not received their promised payments yet, they felt that their trust had been betrayed.  The management team had breached their promise, and perhaps they could not be trusted to keep the original agreement at all. Morale went down, and many of the employees started contemplating other jobs. They felt they were being treated unjustly.

Besides abandoning the principle of justice, by not keeping their promises the top managers violated the principle of integrity—causing the greatest damage to their self-interest. By compromising their integrity, for the sake of a relatively small financial gain (the bonuses), they lost the trust of talented, hard-working employees. These employees would not want to work for the managers’ next venture and would likely share their negative experience with others, quickly multiplying the damaging effect on the reputation of the top managers—clearly not in their long-term self-interest.

JP Morgan loses $2 billion: Why the government should not intervene

When JP Morgan Chase & Co. announced a two billion dollar loss in its main investment office earlier this month, there were increased calls for the U.S. federal government to regulate trading by big banks and to ban speculative trading. Why should we reject such calls?

JP Morgan is a privately owned (publicly traded) company. People who choose to invest in it, or in any other private companies, do it voluntarily, based on their assessment of facts about the company, hoping to earn a return on their investment. However, such investment is never without a risk, as a return (in the form of increased share price and/or dividends) is not guaranteed. Any company you invest in may perform better or worse than expected, and you as an investor will decide whether to hold onto the stock. The investors—the market—have already penalized JP Morgan for its bad performance, as its share price has declined. If JP Morgan wants to recover and win investors’ confidence back, it has to quickly find a way to fix whatever the problem was that led to such a massive loss—or risk losing more investors to its competitors. The market provides a strong incentive for striving to do better and to avoid mistakes in the future.

If the government regulates banks and tells them how they can or cannot do business—whether it involves derivatives trading or anything else—for the sake of “protecting” investors or customers or both, it takes away the incentive that the competitive market provides to the banks for striving to perform better. In other words, by regulating banks the government stifles innovation for new, better, cheaper products—their means of higher profits and the source of investors’ returns. If investors think that government regulation of banks (or of any business) “protects” their investment, they should think twice. Regulation severely limits potential return on investment by stifling competition and innovation.

The role of the government is not to regulate banks or any other business but to protect individual rights against those who initiate physical force or fraud–and to let markets operate freely. We would all benefit.

A lesson from Yahoo's ex-CEO: Why "embellishing" your resume–or any faking–is not a good idea

Scott Thompson, CEO of Yahoo Inc. just since January, resigned this week when it was found out that his resume falsely stated that he holds a degree in computer science.  What motivates people to “embellish” their resume? Presumably it is the desire to impress potential employers in order to get a job (although including a fake degree in his CV was hardly necessary for Scott Thompson to be hired by Yahoo). Not everyone gets caught for lying in their resume like Mr. Thompson did, but it is still not a good idea. Why?

The answer is simple: faking is futile. We need many values to survive and flourish: a job, food, money (to buy other values), etc.—but none of them can be gained by faking reality. You might get hired based on a lie, but you cannot fake a skill or qualification forever; the truth will eventually come out, like in the case of Scott Thompson, and you will lose your job, and worse, your reputation. You can also pretend that the food you eat is nutritious when it is not, but that does not change the facts and the poor health outcomes. Or, you can fake when it comes to money and pretend that your bank account has sufficient funds to cover your spending when it does not. Faking does not change the actual facts and therefore it is futile in pursuing values.

If losing your job and your reputation were not enough, there is even more fundamental negative consequence of faking reality in order to gain something, whether lying in your resume or resorting to any other kind of falsehood. That negative consequence is the effect of faking on your own mind—on which you depend for survival. If you manage to get away with faking and fool others and yourself for a while, you are likely to conclude that it actually works. This is a hazardous conclusion that will encourage you to fake even more, ultimately creating too many contradictory lies to keep track of. Eventually you will slip, someone discovers a contradiction, and you will lose your job, a friendship, your reputation, or your business and even your freedom, like Bernie Madoff did.

Recognizing reality and adhering to facts is the only way we can achieve our values in the long term, whether a prosperous business or a successful career. That is the fundamental reason why we must reject any temptation to fake, whether in our minds or in interacting with others.

A lesson from Yahoo’s ex-CEO: Why “embellishing” your resume–or any faking–is not a good idea

Scott Thompson, CEO of Yahoo Inc. just since January, resigned this week when it was found out that his resume falsely stated that he holds a degree in computer science.  What motivates people to “embellish” their resume? Presumably it is the desire to impress potential employers in order to get a job (although including a fake degree in his CV was hardly necessary for Scott Thompson to be hired by Yahoo). Not everyone gets caught for lying in their resume like Mr. Thompson did, but it is still not a good idea. Why?

The answer is simple: faking is futile. We need many values to survive and flourish: a job, food, money (to buy other values), etc.—but none of them can be gained by faking reality. You might get hired based on a lie, but you cannot fake a skill or qualification forever; the truth will eventually come out, like in the case of Scott Thompson, and you will lose your job, and worse, your reputation. You can also pretend that the food you eat is nutritious when it is not, but that does not change the facts and the poor health outcomes. Or, you can fake when it comes to money and pretend that your bank account has sufficient funds to cover your spending when it does not. Faking does not change the actual facts and therefore it is futile in pursuing values.

If losing your job and your reputation were not enough, there is even more fundamental negative consequence of faking reality in order to gain something, whether lying in your resume or resorting to any other kind of falsehood. That negative consequence is the effect of faking on your own mind—on which you depend for survival. If you manage to get away with faking and fool others and yourself for a while, you are likely to conclude that it actually works. This is a hazardous conclusion that will encourage you to fake even more, ultimately creating too many contradictory lies to keep track of. Eventually you will slip, someone discovers a contradiction, and you will lose your job, a friendship, your reputation, or your business and even your freedom, like Bernie Madoff did.

Recognizing reality and adhering to facts is the only way we can achieve our values in the long term, whether a prosperous business or a successful career. That is the fundamental reason why we must reject any temptation to fake, whether in our minds or in interacting with others.

The Occupiers Claim: Working for A Living is Slavery

Occupy Chicago was advertising its May Day demonstration last week with a poster that said: “If you have to work to live, is it a choice? If you have no choice, are you free?” Sure, the Occupiers want someone else to work so they don’t have to—they want others to be their keepers. But therein lies the contradiction: the Occupiers claim that they can only be free if they have a choice not to work. But if they choose not to work (and want to live), that means enslaving someone else to do the work that is needed to create the material values (food, shelter, clothing, medicine, etc.) that the Occupiers need to survive.

Freedom that means enslaving someone else is not freedom. Freedom cannot involve forcing someone else to do what you do not want to do. Freedom means, literally, being left alone to pursue your interests (as long as that pursuit does not violate the individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness of others).

Since we cannot enslave others—we can only persuade and trade—most of us will have to work to live: to gain the material values that our survival and flourishing depends on. Since the need for material values is continual (even when we live a modest life), work claims the majority of most people’s time and energy. But work does not have to be drudgery, or a necessary evil.

I am going to argue that besides material values, work offers also important spiritual benefits. The most significant of those is the central purpose that work provides us. Having a central purpose enables us to put all the rest of our values (family, friends, recreation, hobbies, entertainment, etc.) into a hierarchy so that we can allocate time and resources to them accordingly. If we had no central purpose, we would not know how important anything was to us. We would not know how to allocate time, energy and resources to achieving random goals: having a vacation at a beach, learning to play golf, financing our children’s education, going shopping, etc.

Because your work provides the central purpose and claims most of your time and energy, it is important that work is something you enjoy doing. This does not mean that every job that you do is necessarily a dream job (“They pay me for doing this?”), but it is important that whatever job you do either helps you learn knowledge or skills, or helps finance education that moves you closer to truly meaningful work. Yes, there are mundane jobs, and they may be fine, if the people holding them are working at the best of their ability. But when you find that you have mastered the job and cannot find better ways of doing it, it is time to move on and find new, more challenging work. By doing whatever work the best you can, you also gain another important spiritual benefit: self-esteem.

So rather than viewing work as a disvalue that limits our freedom like the Occupiers do, we should embrace it as a source of purpose and self-esteem—important elements of a happy, flourishing life.

Does the Occupy movement have a valid moral claim?

With the recent publication of the Occupy Handbook  (http://www.amazon.com/The-Occupy-Handbook-Janet-Byrne/dp/0316220213/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=13357444), and the warm spring weather reviving the Occupy protesters from their winter hiatus, it is a good time to ask whether the Occupy [Wall Street] movement has a valid moral claim.

What is the Occupy movement’s claim? The basic moral claim is that there is too big of an income disparity between the rich (the “1%”) and the rest of us (the “99%”), and that is not just. The set things right, in the Occupiers’ view, the rich should give up more of their wealth, and the government should “redistribute” it to those who do not have it. This is the egalitarian argument: take away from the “haves” and give it to the “have-nots,” and we’ll end up with more equitable distribution of income and wealth.

This is not a valid moral claim. Why? Because for a claim about an action’s morality to be valid, it would have to be consistent with the requirements of human survival and flourishing. Unlike the other species, we survive and flourish primarily by thinking—and then acting on that thinking, for example by producing material values (food, shelter, medicine, etc.). The social requirement of our survival and flourishing is freedom: we must be free to think and act on our rational conclusions. That is the only way that producers are able (and motivated) to create products and services that enhance our survival and flourishing, including the smart phones and lap top computers that the Occupiers have used so effectively to communicate their message and to recruit more members.

Once you start restricting the creators’ and producers’ ability to keep the rewards of their work by taking their wealth and giving it to those who have not been creative and productive, you undermine everyone’s ability to survive and flourish. We are all much better off if the productive and the creative keep creating more wealth: there will better and cheaper products (look at the personal computer and the cell phone industries for examples), more effective medicines (just imagine what freer competition in the pharmaceutical industry could achieve), and more life-enhancing services. The rich do not “hoard” their wealth but invest it in further creation and production. And contrary to a common belief, it is not in the producers’ interest to keep jacking up their prices. If no-one can afford their products, they will lose their customers—and their business. Quite the contrary, it is in the producers’ interest to lower their prices, in order to gain market share from their competitors, and to keep generating wealth.

Those who claim that they should be handed part of the creators’ wealth in the name of equity are biting the hand that feeds them.

Why wealth creation (and private property and property rights) is good for the planet

Last week, I was writing about the first UN World Happiness Report and how it pits wealth creation and wealth against happiness. I promised to discuss why wealth creation is not only good for people’s happiness but also for the planet. Wealth creation without the right to private property would be much diminished, for the lack of incentive to produce, so my argument is that wealth creation, under the condition of private property ownership and protection of property rights, is good for the planet.

Look anywhere in the world where the least wealth is being created, in other words, where poverty is the highest (many places in Africa and developing nations elsewhere come to mind). These are the places that are also the most polluted, for lack of technology and infrastructure for sewage treatment, for emission controls, for cleaning up—and for the so-called “tragedy of the commons.” If there is little private property, all waste gets dumped onto the “commons” which no-one feels responsible to clean up. It is no wonder that some of worst cases of industrial pollution were found in the former Soviet Union where the state owned all property. A solution to the problem of pollution? Wealth creation, which makes possible new innovative technologies that can be used to control and clean up pollution. Add to that private ownership of all property, protected by property rights (enforced by the government), and problems of pollution will be further diminished and eliminated: every time you violate someone else’s property rights by polluting their soil, airspace, or ground water, you are prosecuted and pay compensation and fines.

What about “depletion” of natural resources that the environmental alarmists (and the UN World Happiness Report) claim is caused by production and wealth creation? First, natural resources are not being depleted; only a fraction of what is contained in the earth’s core has been used, and more discoveries of existing and new raw materials are being made continually—thanks to wealth creation and investment in new technologies for discovering and recovering natural resources for human use.

But if we grant the premise that earth’s resources are being depleted, human ingenuity, assisted by investment from those who create wealth, has always discovered new raw materials and new combinations of those materials (such as aluminum and stainless steel, and more recently, plastics and ceramics) to replace what was used before. We don’t use whale oil any more to light lamps but electricity generated by coal, oil, nuclear, or hydro power. And even if some resources are being in short supply—such as the rare earth minerals used to manufacture consumer electronics such as cell phones—companies develop technologies to recycle those materials. Japanese companies, for example, have developed highly advanced methods of recycling almost all rare earth minerals from used cell phones.

Any “depletion” of natural resources can be found, again, primarily in the poorest areas of the world where people live on subsistence farming, such as remote regions in South-America, or depend on hunting and gathering. Poverty prevents farming practices that allow fertilization, crop rotation, and “resting” of fields and leads instead to soil erosion and depletion of nutrients. Poverty also leads to over-harvesting (of crops and trees), which undermines sustained production. And hunters and gatherers do not produce; they merely consume.

The antidote to both pollution and “depletion” of natural resources is wealth creation, protected by private ownership and property rights, which make efficiency-enhancing—life-enhancing—technologies possible. Instead of undermining wealth creation by income “redistribution” schemes and by regulations hamstringing companies, governments should privatize all property, let companies be free to produce, create wealth, and innovate—and protect everyone’s right to private property.

Happiness vs. wealth creation?

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The UN World Happiness Report, conducted by the Earth Institute at the Columbia University, was released last week (click here to review) . Taking its cue from the tiny Himalayan country Bhutan that has been measuring “Gross National Happiness” instead of GNP for decades, in this new report the United Nations advocates using happiness as a measure of national well-being instead of wealth.

The premise behind the report is that there is an optimal level of wealth that enhances our happiness. (The government knows what the optimal wealth is and can therefore tax us to redistribute wealth from those who have “too much” to those who “don’t have enough”).  Beyond that optimal level, argues Jeffrey Sachs, one of the report’s authors, material wealth is bad for us: it leads to obesity, anxiety, addictions and other ailments, and makes us hoard material possessions that we don’t really need. (None of these claims were substantiated in the report.) In other words, too much wealth makes us unhappy, and therefore we should give up our “excess” wealth (through taxes) to those who do not have “enough” and focus on pursuing happiness instead.

What’s wrong with this argument? And why, in fact, is wealth at any level good for our happiness? In order to answer these questions, we need to be clear about the meaning of “wealth” and of “happiness.” Wealth is created by production (such as by picking coconuts or by manufacturing satellite phones) and can be exchanged by using money. The more wealth, or money, we create, the better able we are to buy things that enhance our lives: better nutrition; better medicine; better education; high quality tools, recreation, entertainment, travel; time spent engaging in enjoyable activities instead of chores. The list of life-enhancing good and services obtained with wealth is endless. If human life and flourishing is the standard of value, then there is no upper limit to wealth creation.

Happiness is the emotional state that results from the achievement of our values. We are happy when we do meaningful, enjoyable work, when our children are thriving, when our business is performing well, when we are in a satisfying romantic relationship. While it is true that wealth—money—cannot buy many of our values, it does help buy many material values that enhance our lives, and it helps us buy time to pursue values that are important to us. (Note that hoarding material possessions for the sake of hoarding them is not a value but a sign of psychological illness.)

The most important requirement of both wealth creation and the pursuit of happiness is freedom. We cannot pursue our values if the government—or the UN—tells us what values to pursue and curtails our freedom to do so by taking the wealth we create and redistributes it to those who have created less or none.

In next week’s post: Why wealth creation is good for the planet.

Self-interest vs. the "common good"

A common exhortation heard today is: Set self-interest aside and act for the “common good.” Businesspeople in particular are accused of selfishness and are told (by media commentators, NGOs, and ethicists, among others) to serve the “common good.” This exhortation comes from the moral code of altruism and should be rejected by businesspeople as destructive to business and to society.

Let me explain by answering two questions: What is selfishness, or self-interest? And: Why should business focus solely on the pursuit of self-interest and reject the calls for serving the “common good”?

Selfishness means concern with one’s self-interest—and it is an essential requirement of human survival and flourishing. If we were not concerned with our well-being and achievement of our values (e.g., food, shelter, clothing, health), we would not be able to survive.  Self-interest, however, cannot be achieved by trampling on other people. Trampling on others by violating their individual rights, for example through a fraud or a theft, is not in anyone’s self-interest, not matter how lucrative the loot. Why? Because trampling on others is an invitation for them to do the same, and for the government mete out punishment to us. Even Bernie Madoff was finally caught; he was able to escape punishment for so long primarily because he had many aiders and abettors.

If business firms focus on the pursuit of rational self-interest of their owners: profit maximization (which is only possible without violating the rights of others, unless, of course, the government is corrupt and is not doing its job of protecting individual rights), they will produce and trade goods and services at ever lower costs or of ever better quality. In so doing, they will create wealth which will be invested in new ventures, new innovations, better products and services. Not only will the owners of the firms benefit but so will their employers, suppliers, customers, and anyone with whom they trade. In other words, the good of each individual involved in trading will increase.

This is what the “common good” literally means: the sum of the good of individual members of society. However, that is not what the altruists invoking it mean. They always juxtapose the “common good” with self-interest. In other words, the “common good” entails everyone else’s good except yours. Altruism tells us that in order to serve the “common good,” we must give up our self-interest. If business were to give up its self-interest—profit maximization—for the “common good” (which means different things for different claimants), not only would the interests of the business be harmed but so would be the interests or everyone else when production and wealth creation are curtailed.

Self-interest vs. the “common good”

A common exhortation heard today is: Set self-interest aside and act for the “common good.” Businesspeople in particular are accused of selfishness and are told (by media commentators, NGOs, and ethicists, among others) to serve the “common good.” This exhortation comes from the moral code of altruism and should be rejected by businesspeople as destructive to business and to society.

Let me explain by answering two questions: What is selfishness, or self-interest? And: Why should business focus solely on the pursuit of self-interest and reject the calls for serving the “common good”?

Selfishness means concern with one’s self-interest—and it is an essential requirement of human survival and flourishing. If we were not concerned with our well-being and achievement of our values (e.g., food, shelter, clothing, health), we would not be able to survive.  Self-interest, however, cannot be achieved by trampling on other people. Trampling on others by violating their individual rights, for example through a fraud or a theft, is not in anyone’s self-interest, not matter how lucrative the loot. Why? Because trampling on others is an invitation for them to do the same, and for the government mete out punishment to us. Even Bernie Madoff was finally caught; he was able to escape punishment for so long primarily because he had many aiders and abettors.

If business firms focus on the pursuit of rational self-interest of their owners: profit maximization (which is only possible without violating the rights of others, unless, of course, the government is corrupt and is not doing its job of protecting individual rights), they will produce and trade goods and services at ever lower costs or of ever better quality. In so doing, they will create wealth which will be invested in new ventures, new innovations, better products and services. Not only will the owners of the firms benefit but so will their employers, suppliers, customers, and anyone with whom they trade. In other words, the good of each individual involved in trading will increase.

This is what the “common good” literally means: the sum of the good of individual members of society. However, that is not what the altruists invoking it mean. They always juxtapose the “common good” with self-interest. In other words, the “common good” entails everyone else’s good except yours. Altruism tells us that in order to serve the “common good,” we must give up our self-interest. If business were to give up its self-interest—profit maximization—for the “common good” (which means different things for different claimants), not only would the interests of the business be harmed but so would be the interests or everyone else when production and wealth creation are curtailed.

What is in your self-interest?

The following story was related to me by a student. An acquaintance of his was frustrated and unhappy with her job and felt that her company, which was short-staffed, was not giving her sufficient support and help. The acquaintance felt stressed but was able to cope with the demands of her work and was not physically ill. However, she happened to run into a physician friend of hers and complained about her job. The physician listened sympathetically, and told the woman that she is suffering from work-related stress for which he could prescribe six weeks of paid sick leave. The woman had intended to quit her job anyway, but to get six weeks off for what was going to be in essence a paid vacation (after which she did not intend to return) since she did not have any symptoms besides being frustrated, was an extra “bonus” which she decided to take. In her reasoning, she had been working hard and the company had not been very supportive, so this was a way of making the company compensate for her stressful work situation.

My student initially argued that it was in the woman’s self-interest to take the six weeks of paid leave. At a first glance you may agree with the student’s assessment. However, I will make the opposite argument: it was not in the woman’s self-interest to take the six weeks’ sick leave and then quit her job. Why?

The relevant principles here are rationality, independence, and justice. Rationality would advise the woman to consider the facts: she was frustrated with her work situation because the company was short-staffed. But she had not done anything to alleviate the situation: she had not raised the issue with her boss, not made suggestions for hiring more people or changing her work arrangements or the way work was divided. In other words, she had not been practicing the virtue of independence and thinking for herself and taking initiative to correct a situation that could potentially be harmful to herself, her co-workers and her employer.

Finally, the woman failed to apply the principle of justice—in this case, justice to herself. The principle of justice holds that you should evaluate people objectively (based on character and conduct) and grant them that which they deserve. In the case of yourself, you should be accountable for your actions and only take what you deserve.

Clearly, the woman did not deserve a six weeks of paid vacation when she had done nothing to alleviate her frustrating situation. By taking the leave and quitting, she developed a reputation as an employee who would not take initiative to resolve difficult situations but rather take advantage of her employer for short-term financial gain. References from her former employer or co-workers were not going to be forthcoming. Developing a bad reputation is not in the woman’s self-interest, but even more damaging  is her conclusion that she was justified taking the sick leave and quitting. Evading problems, not taking responsibility for your own actions, and taking the undeserved does not bode well for achieving your values—such as career success—in the long term.