Should I Work for an “Evil” Company?

A reader writes in with a question that is hard to answer. I thought it’d be best to put the question to you, our readers; hopefully you can help him find his way to a good decision.

Hello:

I am an academic plant geneticists, who has worked at [a renowned academic institution] for the last five years. I’ve pretty much decided I want to leave academia but remain in science. The obvious direction to then go into is biotech and I think I could be a good fit for it. There are many options for me in biotech and I’ve applied for many jobs. The company that has been the most responsive to me is Monsanto.

I’m sure Monsanto would be a great employer for the reasons I would like to work in biotech (stability, good pay/benefits and collaboration). However it is seen by most as perhaps the most “evil” company. I’m confident I would lose a lot of friends if I did work for them. Also, I doubt I would dare tell strangers that I worked for them.

I’m not decided on how I feel about the company myself. I think they have done some messed-up things in the past but so have most large corporations. I’m more pro-GMO than most but also have my reservations. I understand the need for a company to patent seeds. I doubt I would be doing evil work for them and would not do it if I knew I was.

I wonder if you would find it of interest to look into the ways people decide to work for companies that most people hate. I doubt all those people are dead inside. Maybe most people can easily make the decision to work for famously “evil” companies or not but I can’t see it as obviously black or white.


Mike Bushe

I am a pacifist who has worked for the Navy. A liberal who has worked for Wall Street banks. You seem pretty comfortable with the work. Screw what other people think of you. Go for it. Be a positive influence. Negotiate a huge salary to suck as much out of the evil doers as possible. If you are told to work on an evil project, work as earnestly as the Nazi prisoners did (hard) to make munitions that don't work. Make your project fail and you would be paid be evil doers to do good work! (Or stop evil)

L

Monsanto exploits income inequality and poverty in the U.S. and the developing world for its own gain. I would never work for them given their history of ripping off farmers and poisoning workers.

Chris

As a current employee of Monsanto, i can assure you that most employees are not dead inside. In fact, most of us are proud of what we actually do, and are trying to do a better job of telling our story. The "Evil" reputation doesn't hold true to what i see and encounter on a daily basis, and i'm in the fortunate position of being in a job that lets me interact with everyone from customer level sales to researchers to C-level execs, and they're all passionate about what they do. If you're actually interested, take a closer look at what actually goes on here instead of the things said by people who are quick to label anyone the "Most Evil" anything. I think you'll find that the real story is far more interesting and compelling than the haters would have you believe.

Mike

Who are you to say a company is "evil" based on your anecdotal comment that they "might" have done some bad things. You consider yourself a scientific person but are not making a fact-based decision. I find that odd. To me, Hitler was evil. This company might be engaging in a business activity that might at worse case be up for debate in terms of ethics and harm that might arise from said business activities but otherwise is offering the prospect of employment based on a defined set of parameters. If you can live with the proposition then you should pursue. On the other hand, if the opportunity cost (I.e. loss of friends, public shame) is higher than your marginal benefit (I.e. Higher pay, new work opportunity), you might be best served staying put in the safe bubble of the acanemic world. Life is not black and white outside the classroom.

Rob

Never have I been so tempted to go off on a philosophical rant about the nature of "evil". I've erased the beginnings of my screed in favor of a single point:

What is your ethical stance on wrestling with existential dilemmas while you should be focused on the job you're being paid to do? If you take a job at Monsanto, you will likely end up compromising yourself twice. Once by taking a job that you feel morally conflicted about and again by giving that job less than your best.

"Find yourself" on your own dime, not your employer's.

Ron

You might want to consider whether you can make a difference from the inside, if you are contemplating employment at an "evil" corporation. That is the only way we can change things for the better.

William

Looking at Monsantos track record and history of brow beating farmers, patenting 'seeds' and then claiming farmers were stealing their seeds...the truth about Round-Up...they are everything evil to mankind. They are NOT trying to improve things, they are trying to monopolize, and then poison mankind. Let your conscience be your guide.

Morganewelsh

First of all, I wouldn't like to be in your shoes.
That is quite a tricky situation you are in.
My first advice would be to do what your guts tell you. If you're ok working for Monsanto, then go ahead and get the money you surely deserve and the security of employment within a large company. The truth is, out of all the people who will judge you for working for an "evil" company, how many of them will give you a penny towards repaying your mortgage or saving to send your kids to university? There you go. It is you it has to do with. Your true friends will not turn their back on you for working for the "wrong" company.
Let's be honest here, I am firmly against Monsanto for many, many, reasons that are personal and irrelevant here. But if you think you can be happy working for them, then don't overthink it. Evil as they may be, I'm sure they won't make you sign your contract with your blood!

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Ken W

I think you may be stretching things a bit to classify Monsanto as evil. When you consider the evil bar set by companies like Tobacco whose product kills million of people each year, what Monanto is doing hardly meets the standard they have set for evil. And their employees don't seem to have any problem working for them.

John

Although Monsanto is getting to the point that it's becoming a monopoly, the company is not evil. GMOs are safe and good. Golden Rice is keeping African children from going blind. That's not a bad thing.

Even Bill Nye is revising a chapter in his book after spending time at the company. If that's not a stamp of approval I don't know what is.

I say go for it. You'll be doing the kind of science you want to do and do some good for the world.

Marty

It's disappointing to see how someone clearly well educated and trained to think as a scientist has fallen for a leftist agenda statement such as "most corporations have done messed-up things. Apply your own integrity to the situation and form your own opinion. You went to school to learn science, right? Or did you go to be brainwashed? Good luck. Keep an open mind. Corporations are ran by people who also live on our planet. Not everyone is evil.

Vance Crowe

Monsanto employee here. A little over a year ago I interviewed for a job with Monsanto, and I remember wondering what it would be like when I came to their offices. I remember imagining that I would be escorted to the 22nd floor of a giant high rise building, and that everyone would be wearing dark suits and matrix style sunglasses.

Despite visiting their "global headquarters," my image of who Monsanto is, was very wrong. I went to a small three story building filled with quiet, regular people. I was greeted by a woman with a sweater and a pony tail- who later turned out to be my boss. I loved my interview, it was humble people asking lots of challenging questions, and really open to talking about how they came to Monsanto (most of them were either raised on farms or grew up dreaming of being scientists). They are very aware (and hurt) of their reputation and are working to find ways to open up and talk to the public... but a lot of people don't realize that since Monsanto sells to farmers and very little to regular consumers they don't have a history or culture of talking to the general public- this is something we are learning to do now.

I think that you should look twice at what you "know" about Monsanto; I received a lot of immediate negative feedback from friends and family when I announced that I was shutting down my communications company to come work at Monsanto, but it was just a flip reaction. In candor; I have never been more proud of anywhere I have worked. More than my time in the Peace Corps, at the World Bank, or even working in public radio I feel like the work being done here makes a difference in so many people's lives.

Good luck with your interviews!

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Peter Livingstone

I think "evil" is a human attribute, so how can a legitimate corporation that functions under the laws of the US be evil? Are the leaders of Monsanto evil, or it's shareholders or rank and file employees? Monsanto is a company in the business of feeding people, and of course their employees and shareholders profit from this. I suggest you frame your question differently. If working for Monsanto will cause you to lose friends are they really the kind of friends you need? If you do research for them will your work be a net harm or net benefit to humanity? I think there's a lot of misinformation being spread about Monsanto and perhaps you need to investigate them a little more. If the company is really doing "evil" things perhaps they need a "good" person such as yourself (I am making the assumption you are not evil, but then don't we all have a little evil in us?). Good luck.

Gary Frewin

of course you should work for them! I would love that job! Monsanto are awesome. How many other companies spend their time and money trying to improve the world?

If you're friends fall out with you about it, they're too stupid to be your friends anyway. You'll make new, sane, friends AT Monsanto! :D

Anthony Rice

First you should do your research and actually find out if they are an evil company. You'll most likely not be surprised to find out that they are not and that they have this perceived bad reputation because people are miss informed. But how good or bad they are is ultimately up too you, if they are good then take the opportumity, if they are bad then don't and you will be doing the right thing.

sv

just imagine a situation when after being employed by them you are asked to do something which lingers on your mind all the time and makes you just unhappy - like working towards engineering a product( read GMO) which harms the larger human race in the short and long run ; the same food being consumed by your own kids, faminly, friends and YOU ! if you still are abel to survive that thought go ahead and ask for an interview else ... the choise is clear !