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Is Setting Up an Offshore IT Help Desk Ethical?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the food-on-the-table dept.

The Almighty Buck 826

theodp writes "Except for a few odd jobs,' wrote an advice seeker to The Ethicist (NYT, reg. may be required), 'I had been out of work for nine months when I was offered a job setting up an [IT] offshore help desk. Would it be ethical to accept the offer?' Randy Cohen, who pens The Ethicist column for the Times, not only advised the job seeker that it was indeed okay to help co-workers lose their jobs, but also seemed to suggest that it would be unethical for him not to offshore the jobs, saying: 'Some people feel we have a greater ethical duty to those closest to us — our neighbors — but in an era of global trade and travel, that is a recipe for tribalism and its attendant ills.' The job seeker, who noted his father's auto-industry job was outsourced, chose to ignore Cohen's ethics advice — as well as his own wife's — and declined the job out of principle. He continues to seek work. Comments?"

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Any time you need to ask the question... (5, Insightful)

MadMike32 (1361741) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112788)

...then the answer is no.

Re:Any time you need to ask the question... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112818)

Is it ethical to eat bacon?

Re:Any time you need to ask the question... (2, Insightful)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113030)

Since you feel the need to ask that question, your answer is no.

I, on the other hand, feel no need to ask such a question.

Isn't burning strawmen fun?

Re:Any time you need to ask the question... (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113040)

It can be [lightlife.com] .

Re:Any time you need to ask the question... (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113070)

That's...not bacon.

Re:Any time you need to ask the question... (3, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112828)

Indeed, that was actually part of the NYT's writer's response:

You may of course reject this offer simply because it makes you uneasy, guided by Pliny’s dictum quod dubitas ne feceris. When in doubt, don’t.

Re:Any time you need to ask the question... (5, Interesting)

CapOblivious2010 (1731402) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112866)

Any time you ask Randy Cohen, the answer is questionable.

He's a total sleaze who will use lofty-sounding logic to support his whatever position he happens to prefer today, even if it completely contradicts the position he took yesterday.

If you're talking about doing something illegal that he favors (say, hiring an illegal immigrant as a maid), he'll take the "higher calling" route, and tell you that you have a moral duty to ignore bad laws. Just like the nazis should have ignored their laws.

But if it happens to be something he's opposed to, he'll tell you that following the law is the foundation of ethics. You can try to change the law, of course, but if everyone were to simply ignore laws they don't like, the result would be total anarchy and the collapse of society - so of course any action leading in that direction would be completely unethical.

Re:Any time you need to ask the question... (1, Redundant)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112962)

A very good answer. Moving jobs outside of the U.S. may save employers money, and create jobs overseas. It eliminates jobs here, and (in the case of foreign help desks) makes it almost impossible to get help that's understandable. Our first responsibility is to our own people. And help that you can't understand isn't really help. I won't buy things from companies that outsource, if I can avoid it.

Re:Any time you need to ask the question... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113076)

In that case, it's all a matter of what you count as your "own people". The people in your home? Your street? Your neighbourhood? Your district? Your city? Your country? Your continent? Your world? Where do you draw the line, and why?

Re:Any time you need to ask the question... (2)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113084)

If you don't love yourself, you can't love others. If I don't make sure I am healthy, I may not be there to make sure those closet to me are healthy. Once we are all strong, then we can help our neighbors. (other countries)

Re:Any time you need to ask the question... (4, Insightful)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113114)

Ah, so *forcing* others (whether through legislation or submitting or enforcing peer pressure) to have fewer options and so to pay more of their own hard-earned money for higher priced on-shore services and products is ethical, but creating choice for others where they can use and decide on the quality vs. price of a service all on their own is unethical.

Hey! (5, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112790)

I saw that movie. You'll get to nail a really beautiful Indian girl. Ethics smethics.

Re:Hey! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112914)

I saw that movie. You'll get to nail a really beautiful Indian girl. Ethics smethics.

Lower alimony too!

Re:Hey! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112960)

Saw it and it was good! [imdb.com] It's on Netflix instant - at least when I saw it. You never know with Netflix. Sometimes, movies disappear off of the Instant and maybe reappear (Day the Earth Stood Still [classic]) or missing episodes on TV series (Miami Vice, Battlestar Galactica[now there]) - WTF Netflix?!?

Ethical? (1, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112796)

Of course it's not "ethical", but that's not the point. It's legal, and that's all that matters.

And this "Randy Cohen" individual is an ass, or a shill, and I hope he gets outsourced by his employer at the earliest opportunity.

Re:Ethical? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112896)

Of course it's not "ethical"

Then of course you can explain your reasoning? I fail to see what is unethical about it. "I don't agree" != "unethical".

Re:Ethical? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112928)

Of course it's not "ethical", but that's not the point. It's legal, and that's all that matters.

Uhm, yes that's exactly the point as that's what the dude was asking about.

Re:Ethical? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112930)

On what basis is it unethical?

The potential employer is starting a business. He is seeking help doing so. The business happens to be overseas.

Is any of those things - starting business, hiring people, or doing business abroad unethical? I don't think so.

What we're really talking about is not ethics. It's our feelings - we are unhappy about facing competition. We're particularly unhappy because the competition can work for much cheaper than we can, because we are used to a very high standard of living. This feeling is natural. However, that's not the same as our competition being unethical.

Instead of trying to claim it's a moral flaw in our competition - who after all are people with families too, trying to make a living just like us - we should be finding a competitive advantage. If we want to be paid more than them, we need to be better than they are.

The Ethicist is (mostly) right (0, Troll)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112944)

I think the position that all human beings have the same moral value and thus ought to receive the same moral consideration is a widespread position in modern ethics. If you accept that position, then setting up an offshore operation that provides for similar or superior standard of living to the same or greater amount of workers cannot be said to be unethical according to most modern ethical theories.

The only potentially ethically relevant detail I see is that people living in a foreign country may benefit over people living in the same country as you. The only way that is ethically relevant is if you subscribe to some form of, as Cohen puts it, tribalism. OR if those people who are losing their jobs are your friends or family or someone in whom you have some increased ethical interest. Many modern ethical theories allow for you to put more moral consideration towards friends, family, etc. So if that's the case, then he did the right thing in refusing. Otherwise, I don't think that where people reside is ethically relevant. However, it may be economically relevant. If you subscribe to a more protectionist economic viewpoint, then you may want to keep the jobs locally.

At the end of the day, I don't think that this is really much of an ethics problem. It's more of an economics problem. But I know a lot of people (like the parent) will disagree, because people are inherently (biologically?) tribal to some degree.

Re:The Ethicist is (mostly) right (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112980)

You can't discuss ethics on an empty stomach.

Hope that guy drops the job and lets someone else take it, who appreciates the income, when so few jobs are available.

Re:The Ethicist is (mostly) right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113068)

I think the position that all human beings have the same moral value and thus ought to receive the same moral

No, not you, you and your opinion are worthless.

At the end of the day, I don't think that this is really much of an ethics problem.....

Yeah, not if you and your family have good jobs... In the real world, and for real people, economic problems and ethical problems are tightly connected.

Re:The Ethicist is (mostly) right (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113094)

There's also the not insignificant problem of customers leaving your company if they phone up for help and can't understand a fucking word the person is trying to say. In the UK you fairly frequently see "uk call centre" mentioned up front as a selling point.

Re:Ethical? (2)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112972)

Of course it's not "ethical", but that's not the point. It's legal, and that's all that matters.

Are you saying that all one should consider, in general, is what's legal rather than ethical?

Or are just just saying that in this particular case?

Re:Ethical? (2)

Ronin Developer (67677) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112992)

Couldn't agree with you more. While it is legal to offshore the work, with a 9-10% unemployment rate in this country, it's not ethical or moral. Sadly, when you deal with stockholders and what is right for them, it's about the almighty dollar (or whatever your currency is) and their returns. Nobody ever said capitalism is necessarily or moral. But, once upon a time, people trusted the companies they worked for - companies very often took great care of their employees - now, we have to look out for ourselves.

Re:Ethical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113116)

Buy some company stock and short the shit out of it when there's mass layoffs. If 10,000 people have $10000 in stock and all sell on the same day, it will make a noticeable dent in the corporate wallet. Play their game and they will think twice before you make them lose. Meanwhile, you can profit off the resulting market overreactions. An email to the CEO after the fact may get the manager wanting "offshoring" fired himself.

Re:Ethical? (1)

ToasterMonkey (467067) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113002)

Of course it's not "ethical",

Excuse me, why?

Re:Ethical? (3, Insightful)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113062)

Perhaps because he feels that "his country" is superior to all others and so helping a different ones economy is helping something inferior.

This is also known as Nationalism or Tribalism. I would be interested in hearing a different possible reason.

Re:Ethical? (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113072)

grow past 20something and you will understand.

I know that sounds condescending but its really true - its experiencial. you 'get it' when you get old enough to get it.

when I was young, I had no understanding of 'local issues' and thought that buying global products would not matter.

then, I see the middle class disappear and we can't afford to buy the things we *design*, let alone build.

this matters. its news for nerds and it IS stuff that matters. outsourcing will but us in the ass and had already lowered quality of products and services worldwide.

price and dollar is NOT what really matters in life. as you get older, you'll realize that. then again, if you're the kind of person who wants to own a business, you'll probably have the kind of personality that will not care about long-term things and only want to see short-term profits (that's the trend these days). business people really do think differently and they are the ones who are penny wise and pound foolish. we are watching our futures disappear before our eyes.

Re:Ethical? (3, Interesting)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113100)

Indeed - the point Cohen seems to completely ignore is the morality of engaging in a race to the bottom [wikipedia.org] .

True - rampant outsourcing has, and will definitely help a lot of professionals get their start in India - and that IS a good thing - but the net effect is to minimize the value of human workers in any role of employment. Your function will be to further shape the role of "support" into a set of blind scripts, minimizing the actual help provided to a voice reading a small set of webpages to someone.

This wouldn't be such a bad thing if money weren't such a critical divider between people - rich and poor, death and survival. But it is - and your function would be, at least in subtle way, to inconvenience everyone so that a small rich group didn't have to spend as much money on professionals, diminishing the value of your own profession along with it. You'd be tearing down tools used to help people so that there is a cheaper replacement that does less.

The whole thing is a bit of a red herring before larger issues though. Not too long from now, creatively programmed automation will take even more of these roles - and jobs might not be something everyone can be expected to have in order just to make things work anymore. Due to economies of scale, the cheapest automated tools will still be cheaper than the cheapest people eventually.

What will happen to those without the means to sustain their wealth without access to jobs? What happens when companies simply don't need large masses of people, and most people don't have access to methods of gaining money? How much longer can we run our economy this way? How valuable is the role of a human, in a society ostensibly built for human freedom?

Ryan Fenton

Re:Ethical? (2)

loteck (533317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113102)

As chance would have it, Randy Cohen has been removed from the NYT magazine as of yesterday. A new writer will take over The Ethicist in March. Your wish, granted, to some degree or another.

Get paid! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112798)

Screw everyone else.. Get yours!

It is the american way.

Re:Get paid! (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112898)

Screw everyone else.. Get yours!

It is the american way.

Yes and no. We used to screw everyone else for a buck, but now we're screwing each other. I don't see that as an improvement, personally.

Not sure if it is ethical, but... (3, Insightful)

desertfool (21262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112802)

at least he has principles. I wish there were more people like him in IT.

No. (0)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112814)

The more ethical thing would be to find any wrongdoing to report. Then blow the whistle on it.

Funny Isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112816)

How none of the Senior Directors/Managers jobs get offshored to a cheaper country isn't it

practicality (3, Insightful)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112822)

If the ethics are bothering you, perhaps you should look at practicality instead; what you see may eliminate your ethical quandary. Offshore support desks may be less expensive per call received, but the total expense difference is a smaller gap, as people have to call back when they don't receive proper care, or have to be transferred to 2nd and 3rd level techs in the US. You also have to worry about losing customers who get angry at having to deal with foreign techs. Overseas tech support quality is a long-standing joke, and the joke is firmly based on reality. I recommend you do some more due-diligence before considering this move.

Re:practicality (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112924)

Yesterday while I was in the car, I heard an auto insurance commercial where the entire premise was on the customer service being outsourced to a gentleman in India named "Hank". Clearly, it's becoming a visibile issue, and if you're an intelligent person on the business side, you'll realize that the gains in goodwill you'll see by not offshoring support is much greater than the additional margin you may see by offshoring.

Re:practicality (1)

isopropanol (1936936) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113080)

I work at a sub-contractor doing on-site IT for many-many large IT companies. I deal with a LOT of different helpdesks, both north-american (I am on an Island off the west coast of Canada) and further afield. While it may seem like a good idea to use VOIP to send the first level crew offshore, it is not. The combination of site background noise, long distance phone, VOIP jitter, strong accents, speaker phone on one or both ends, and a boiler-room environment on the offshore side usually makes the calls to offshore helpdesk take WAY longer. Remember, you're not just paying for the helpdesk, you're also paying for your employee's time on this end (or your customer's - through lost future sales, or worse, a sub-contractor on hourly time & materials).

Due to local demographics, I am quite used to dealing with people with a wide variety of accents. Just yesterday though I had a service call to repair a retail server which took about an hour longer than it should have because I could not understand the handful of commands the helpdesk tech was telling me to type, and he did not know the north american phonetic alphabet - nor in many cases the correct english pronunciation of the names of letters (there is no letter "yay" nor "yee"), and the phone connection to India was so bad that I could barely hear him to start with.

Of course in tis particular case the helpdesk is not the only reason the company is spending money hand-over-fist for IT maintenance -- they are still running VAXen and alphas in their production environment, and they are well past the availability of repair parts.

Ethical or not, who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112824)

If you don't do the job and get the pay for it someone else will. Despite what politicians, local community employment groups, et al say companies are going to do whatever they will or need to make the most profit. You might as well go along for the ride. Like they said in the Pirates of the Caribbean said, "Take what you can, give nothing back."

Re:Ethical or not, who cares? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112904)

I've heard the same sort of arguments made about investing in evil companies in the stock market. Couldn't the same line of thinking apply to drug-dealing opportunities in your neighbourhood? What about blackmailing? At what point do people say "no one should be doing this, period."

Re:Ethical or not, who cares? (1)

ffreeloader (1105115) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113038)

What a pathetic response....

Hey, everyone is stealing so just go along for the ride? Who cares that you're taking the bread out of your neighbor's mouth? Well, I, for one, do care. It's a lack of ethics that got this country into the financial mess it's in. Unethical politicians created, and continue to create, bad laws because they have agendas rather than the best interests of their own constituents and country at heart. Unethical government bureaucrats take paychecks when they're not doing the jobs they were hired to do, and the unethical unions make it impossible to fire them.

We need more, a lot more, people with the heart, the sense of duty, the sense of honor, that the guy in the article displayed. He put doing-the-right-thing above self-interest. He understands the principles our country was built upon, and upon which it prospered for an extended period of time. And, until we as US citizens get back to practicing those principles in our daily lives our country will continue to flounder and sink in a morass of debt and continue to lack in the political will needed to put us back on the track of economic growth and the moral authority needed for our country to fill its place in the world. If we don't start acting more like this guy we will continue to parallel the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Our own immorality will kill us, just like the Roman's own immorality killed them.

Consider this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112826)

Consider this, if you don't take the job, someone else will. In the end it won't matter. If a company is set on setting up an off shore help desk, it will happen.

Depends on your take on "Nationalism" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112832)

Well, it depends on whether you consider a good thing that your own country is getting weaker and weaker.

I can tell you that I am extremely happy for my country to receive any outsourcing jobs from overseas (hey, if you're that stupid, we're happy to take your money and provide you with the best work we can -- we'll be learning and developing our own country at your expenses), but I'd rather we never outsourced anything to overseas.

Go right ahead. Set it up. To fail.... (0)

bADlOGIN (133391) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112834)

Take the money and run:) Give them the tools to cover all the basics that a business person would understand. Just enough to run at a sub-standard operational level that might work under the heroic efforts of local labor, but fail miserably given the infrastructure, cultural differences, and adversarial role of contract negotiations (e.g. contractor does what's in contractor's best interest because he's not a long-term employee). Also, do this slowly so as to extract as much money as possible. When this fails, be there to offer a "fix" with mix of on-shore help. When things improve dramatically, slowly shed the contract offshore labor or relegate it to menial crap work the local labor force doesn't want to deal with. We've been doing this rather successfully in the software world for a decade now:)

Re:Go right ahead. Set it up. To fail.... (1)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112910)

Wally? is that you?

Oh! I forgot to mention!! (1)

bADlOGIN (133391) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112916)

Do this as ABSOLUTELY CHEAPLY AS POSSIBLE with regard to off-shore labor cost!!! Any business person stupid enough to do this only sees costs, not quality. This will help fail fast and dramatically, since as the saying goes: "Good work aint' cheap, & cheap work ain't good". Anyone in the offshore economy who has good skills won't be working at the cheapest rates. Offshoring any type of knowledge work is only about saving cost at the risk of sacrificing quality and dedication to the work for both the individual and the company. The more business people get burned by this, the quicker at least some of them will learn that this practice is unsustainable and hazardous to future business plans, the local economy, and job prospects of the future.

Re:Go right ahead. Set it up. To fail.... (2)

hduff (570443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112990)

Take the money and run:) Give them the tools to cover all the basics that a business person would understand. Just enough to run at a sub-standard operational level that might work under the heroic efforts of local labor, but fail miserably given the infrastructure, cultural differences, and adversarial role of contract negotiations (e.g. contractor does what's in contractor's best interest because he's not a long-term employee). Also, do this slowly so as to extract as much money as possible. When this fails, be there to offer a "fix" with mix of on-shore help. When things improve dramatically, slowly shed the contract offshore labor or relegate it to menial crap work the local labor force doesn't want to deal with. We've been doing this rather successfully in the software world for a decade now:)

OK, that would be unethical.

You should do your best job once you accept the job. If you plan on behaving like an asshat because something about the job offends you or seems unfair, pass on the job.

Oddly enough, I like your signature on this topic: (1)

bADlOGIN (133391) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113078)

"I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people all day long and I assume they deserve it." : Dogbert

Seems like this would be the business man's Karma coming back to bite him in the ass..

In all honesty, I'm mostly being a joking smart-ass about this. The sentiment towards the company who wants to do this work however...

I don't think I could honestly take the work myself...

Re:Go right ahead. Set it up. To fail.... (1)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113074)

That sort of attitude would certainly fail the "ethical test"!

Amusing (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112836)

I find it amusing that people are in favor of giving poor people in foreign countries food and money, but are horrified at the prospect of giving them jobs.

It is absolutely ethical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112838)

Someone is offering you money to perform legal work for them. How is this unethical?

In fact, you could make the argument that it would be unethical to turn down the job because your family would suffer due to the lack of income.

Re:It is absolutely ethical (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112952)

ethics and legality are not the same. If you happen to be in a country where torture is legal and disappearing people is also legal, it is still unethical to take the job of torturing people whose relatives disagreed with the government. When slavery was legal in the US, I'd still say it would be unethical to take a job hunting down escaped slaves.

Of course I see nothing unethical with the actual job in question here.

People outside of America have to eat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112848)

These jobs are how the developing world will develop. And not participating will not stop it.

  Totally ethical.

Re:People outside of America have to eat (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112900)

These jobs are how the developing world will develop.

Hogwash. The US grew largely under the prospect of heavy tariffs. Further, many of those nations keep their currencies artificially low to encourage jobs at the expense of local consumerism, afraid it would spoil their populace.

It's absolutely ethical (1)

sunilhari (606555) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112856)

Someone is offering you money to perform legal work for them. How is this unethical?

In fact, you could make the argument that it would be unethical to turn down the job because your family would suffer due to the lack of income.

Re:It's absolutely ethical (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112994)

Legalism is a shabby excuse for an ethical theory, even by the generally tepid standards of deontological ethics.

"Legal" implies only that some legislative body, operating according to their established procedures, has either ratified or at least failed to ban a given action; and hasn't been overturned since. That is virtually unrelated to "ethical"(one could attempt to connect the two; but only by positing the axiom that "legal" and "ethical" are identical per se, or by arguing that the legislators legislate, on average, according to some ethical standard. The latter is somewhat satisfactory, and may even be true; but then you've just moved the problem of ethics one step back, to that of discerning what ethical system the legislators are using...)

Prove it... (3, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112860)

I see this tribalism is wrong argument popping up quite often but really what is this based on philosophically. I don't know them and they don't know me. I can only assume they are going to look out for their best interests, I therefore must do the same. This does not hold true for my friends and neighbors who I can expect to consider my interests, at least to a degree.

I don't turn on the even news and see a whole lot of evidence the rest of the world is filled with altruists, who only want what is best for everyone. The other issue with this argument for outsourcing is, I think its users should be required to prove its not a zero sum game. "Because they deserve to benefit from technology and have good jobs too", is only a sound argument if those jobs are not being taken from people here. Where countries like India are concerned they are competitors, it might be a mostly friendly competition right now.

I don't know what I would have done in this guys shoes, I suspect I would have been even more tribal and decided to do what is best for MY family, and taken the job. I applaud him for standing on principles though which I feel are sound.

Re:Prove it... (3, Insightful)

hduff (570443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113008)

I see this tribalism is wrong argument popping up quite often

Pretty much any time you have to resort to playing the -ism card in a debate, you're admitting your argument is weak.

If you have to ask whether it's ethical.... (1, Insightful)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112862)

...it probably isn't.

It is ethical (5, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112868)

If he's doing a better job than somebody else for the same or less pay, then it is ethical.

What is NOT ethical is what the current worldwide corporate managers do. They get paid more than anybody else in the company to produce absolutely nothing. What they call "leadership" is worth nothing, do they think it requires any talent to say "hey, you! make this thing work!"

I believe in Leadership as it was in the old days, the leaders were the people who had worked in the factory floor and had showed their talent there. They understood the processes, the technical details that made the company create the products people would buy.

Today, the MBAs know nothing about that, all they do is bullshit.

Re:It is ethical (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112954)

Actually, you have this backwards, and I suspect that you do not work in, or near, goomanagement.

Working on a factory floor is a TERRIBLE qualification for management. Good management does not DO work, it ENABLES work. This means tracking priorities, negotiating with external forces, predicting upcoming problems/changes, and solving non-business problems suffered by their employees (as in "my computer is slow, and it's slowing me down" or "by the end of the day, my feet are really sore from all the standing/walking I have to do", not "I need to do this analysis/code this application/build this widget, help me!"). This means they require good organizational skills, people skills, generic problem-solving, and understanding of the overall business.

Note that you cannot, of course, do this in a vacuum. If you don't have a cursory understanding of what your underlings do, you won't be able to identify upcoming events that will be problematic or determine how to best fix current issues. That said, I've seen far more managers struggle or outright fail because they lacked management skills than because they lacked the skills of their underlings.

(no, I'm not in management, but I appreciate good management)

Re:It is ethical (1)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113092)

What they call "leadership" is worth nothing.

wow. just wow.

Ethical? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112870)

Assuming you are currently collecting unemployment benefits, is it ethical to turn down a well paying job and remain dependent on the government?

Capitalism (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112874)

One of the beautiful aspects of capitalism is that it assumes everyone is inherently greedy and therefore the system is constructed so that even the greediest of society's members cannot abuse the system.

One of the horrible aspects of capitalism is that if someone is not greedy or negatively greedy (like the man in the example) and looks out for others, they're eaten like a sheep among wolves. Of course it is not society that is harmed but merely the perceptually insane individual.

In an age where lawmakers are trying to strike down healthcare for all of your fellow citizens [slashdot.org] and Social Security is just a cookie jar to be raped by fiscally careless politicians it's unfortunately pointless to pass up this job. You're just ensuring that you're the victim instead of someone else. Sadly, in a capitalistic society, that's not a sound plan to ensure your future and survival.

I respect the man for his decision but as someone who has watched my father go on and off unemployment, I implore him to adjust his attitude to just consider legality and not ethics. We live in a world today where all politicians and businesses lead by example in this department and playing the game optimally means that capitalism rewards them.

Re:Capitalism (0)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113024)

One of the horrible aspects of capitalism is that if someone is not greedy or negatively greedy (like the man in the example) and looks out for others, they're eaten like a sheep among wolves. Of course it is not society that is harmed but merely the perceptually insane individual.

Just after the dot-com bust, I was told to lie about a software product in order for the company to get the sale. I felt a lot of pressure being that programming jobs were difficult to find in my area and my family was not prepared to move. I had a big knot in my stomach dealing with that. How the GOP came to associate raw capitalism with Christ-like behavior behooves me. Could a conservative please explain this one?

Re:Capitalism (1)

lazy genes (741633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113026)

Its all fun and games until you run out of energy. Are we still in the early stages of evolution? What comes after the eat or be eaten stage?

Terms of Trade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112878)

The nationalist argument is a fallacy. Ask an economist for advice.

Re:Terms of Trade (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112998)

Asking an economist to side on a politically charged issue, is asking the wrong person. All you would get is their political beliefs.

I'm sure his family appreciates his principles... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112884)

...or maybe not. Not ethical my arse. All the industries that are too inefficient to compete wish there were more guys like him, I suppose...

Ethical? (2, Insightful)

Mage66 (732291) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112890)

Ethics isn't an issue here. Life isn't set in stone. Things evolve and change. People who helped install electric lamps and put gaslight lighters out of work weren't unethical. People who built cars and put buggy whip makers out of work weren't unethical. Progress happens. I find off-shore call centers to be substandard. I am always having problems with them. Companies will realize the false savings in them and bring back home-based centers. Customer support is a form of sales and advertising. Savings in off-shoring them is penny-wise and pound foolish. I wouldn't give it a second thought. I trust cream to rise to the top.

Re:Ethical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112976)

Also once the wage disparity decreases it will be much less profitable.

Re:Ethical? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113064)

A tiny minority of a businesses customers call in for support. In truth, most businesses would rather just be rid of those customers. Once the customers been on the phone with support for a hour or so (cumulative) they've already cost the company more than they probably ever made in profit on that customer. Eventually all support will be online and that will be that.

Re:Ethical? (4, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113120)

It's not about technological progress and buggy whips because sufficient new jobs are not replacing the ones that go overseas. That's why our wages and/or jobs have been slumping for a decade.

Other nations "adjust" their currency and laws to create jobs at the expense of consumerism. We do the opposite in the US. It's great that you can afford a China-made iPod with an unemployment check, isn't it?

It's a lobbyist lie that we can maximize BOTH consumerism and jobs, and Asian countries know this.

refusing this job could help in the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112902)

Regardless of what ethical "experts" think, I'm quite impressed that the job seeker stuck to what he felt was right and refused the job. When the right job interview does come along, the fact that he refused this job could actually be a plus -- a way to show the employer that he cares about more than making money.

ethical decisions are personal decisions (3, Insightful)

Frequency Domain (601421) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112920)

It doesn't matter that somebody else will take the job, at the end of the day we all have to answer to ourselves. I admire somebody who knows what it takes to be able to look at himself in the mirror the next day.

here one hears also more and more Hindi (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112922)

and Bangladeshi. Even with illegal Visa

Of course you should put your neighbors first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112926)

Your neighbors live in your community, right along with you. If you want to live in the best possible community (and who wouldn't?) then you should definitely put your neighbors ahead of people on the other side of the planet.

Nonsensical... (4, Interesting)

Kr3m3Puff (413047) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112932)

I think the gentleman made a bad decision. Either we adapt or fail.

On the other hand, I happen to be a senior IT manager in a company, where I know personally in my department we will be replacing about 30 jobs over the next 12 months that had been outsourced with direct employees of the company. We are learning that it doesn't give us the quality or the flexibility that we were really looking for. In addition, our customers services is going through a process of insourcing large parts of its contact centre, because at the end of the day, direct employees have a greater stake in the satisfaction of the customer and we manage our people better than our partners.

But eliminating yourself from the mix ensures that your views and thoughts will never be heard. If you really wanted to change things, you would jump in with both feet and see where it goes.

Re:Nonsensical... (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113018)


I think the gentleman made a bad decision. Either we adapt or fail.

Then adapt the legal framework to remove the incentive to defraud people with offshoring.

Re:Nonsensical... (1)

hduff (570443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113090)

I think the gentleman made a bad decision. Either we adapt or fail.

Personal ethics can be at a higher level than what is established in the larger community. It was wrong for him, so his decision is correct. Your Darwinian choice is a false dichotomy.

Your advice to "just jump in" is likewise poor and potentially destructive. You don't change the system, you change to the system, so you are recommending a increasingly larger compromise of his personal principals in order to validate your own sense of "pragmatic" choices.

You are the Devil.

Greed (1)

FyreMoon (528744) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112938)

Employers go offshore for one reason, the cost of hiring people and the subsequent saving in wages. Why go to the expense of hiring someone that costs $xx per hour when you could pay someone in a different country that much a month. It is the customer that ultimately loses out. Speaking to people in other countries that are simply reading a sheet of paper and not listening to the customer, often in an accent the customer can't understand makes both ends angry and in some cases the operative commits suicide. What is a life to the faceless employer? - one where the workers will never meet anyone who works for the company. The company doesn't even know how their customers feel because they have become insulated from the customer since every call is handled by the call center. Personally, I can't wait for the automated system that radically replaces call centers with a small box in the company, it means jobs will be lost but the customer will finally be happier. After all, which employer really cares about their staff and not about how much money they make?

Ethics - US Law (0)

freshfromthevat (135461) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112942)

The United States has made it illegal to create low paying jobs in the United States. How else do you create a low paying job but to take it to a country where the country allows the creation of jobs in that pay category? Or am I reading this wrong?

Ethical b:being in accordance with the rules or standards for right conduct or practice, especially the standards of a profession: It was not considered ethical for physicians to advertise.

American Psychological Association (APA):
ethical. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved February 05, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ethical [reference.com]
Chicago Manual Style (CMS):
ethical. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ethical [reference.com] (accessed: February 05, 2011).
Modern Language Association (MLA):
"ethical." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 05 Feb. 2011. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ethical>.
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):
Dictionary.com, "ethical," in Dictionary.com Unabridged. Source location: Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ethical [reference.com] . Available: http://dictionary.reference.com./ [dictionary.reference.com] Accessed: February 05, 2011.
BibTeX Bibliography Style (BibTeX)
@article {Dictionary.com2011,
        title = {Dictionary.com Unabridged},
        month = {Feb},
        day = {05},
        year = {2011},
        url = {http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ethical},
}

God bless him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35112950)

In a world that increasingly sees corporate profit as the highest moral good, here is an individual who values human beings more than money.

God bless him, if only we had more people with his sense of ethics, our country might not be on an express train to hell right now!

labor/political conditions in the country? (2)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112958)

To me, the answer depends quite a bit on the labor and political conditions in the country to which the work is being outsourced.

If this was a factory job being outsourced to a country that's politically repressive, then outsourcing could mean forcing US workers to compete with workers in a country where there are no child labor laws, workers put in 16 hours day and sleep in a shack on the factory grounds, or where trying to organize a labor union means that the police come, shoot you in the head, and throw you in a ditch.

However, this is an IT job, so most likely it's not going to be done by child labor or under sweatshop conditions. Is it being outsourced to Ireland or India, both of which are democracies with real labor laws? If so, then I'd agree with Cohen, with the caveat that a lot of India's problems are caused by Malthusian issues, and no matter how many jobs you send there, it won't do jack for the vast majority of the population.

In fact, a lot of the world's problems have lack of birth control as their underlying cause. Global warming is an overpopulation issue. Poverty in places like Mexico and Egypt is an overpopulation issue. Deforestation is an overpopulation issue. Air pollution in the US is an overpopulation issue. India's inability to provide education at the same level as China is an overpopulation issue.

Except there's a LOT less fraud in Ireland (1)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113048)

Unlike Ireland, India looks the other way when people misrepesent themselves for work. Never mind that you gloss over the whole issue of firms that defraud people(and the people that defend them).

Its the money (1)

masshuu (1260516) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112966)

I have a friend who uses an Indian company for his tech support.
Its $2000 a mo for someone to be answering tickets and fixing accounts 24/7 365
Or he could hire in the states, which would be like $3000-$4000 a mo for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, no holidays

Re:Its the money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113082)

You get what you pay for. Maybe it hasn't sunk in yet but it will eventually.

It's your obligation (1, Interesting)

Punto (100573) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112968)

If the people in another country are willing to do the same job for less money, that means they are using less resources than you to have basically the same life. Is it ethical to go out of your way to maintain your wasteful life?

Not a question of ethics? (4, Interesting)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112970)

Personally, I dont see how this could be a question of ethics. It is, however, a question of economic nationalism. We are quickly removing ourselves from economic competitiveness. Most of our industry and manufacturing jobs have already left the country, to the point where we are primarily a service economy. And now even services are beginning to be exported as well. We consume more and more, but except for our agricultural industry and military-industrial complex, we really do not produce anything. Competitive advantage says that states will inevitably focus on those industries they are best suited to (stones/minerals/oil in Africa, manufacturing in China and SE Asia). It seems what we do best is consume. The problem is, manufacturing brings in money, consuming loses it. Even if these companies are based in America, their profits are not being recirculated into the US economy. The dividends are going into the stock market, and we all know what a mess and drain that is, and what wages and infrastructure/construction they contribute to is invested not in the US, but in whatever state their suppliers are located in. While this drives the costs down and increases profits, it gets to the point where more and more people in the US are unable to afford to purchase these goods. It's a cycle. People are forced to buy cheaper and cheaper goods, so companies reduce US jobs that cost more to drive down costs to keep or improve their profit margins. This causes more people to be able to afford less, meaning an increased demand for cheaper goods. If we want to improve our economic situation, we have to bring industry back to this country, to become competitive again. There is a reason why it's called "making money". The best way to make money is to make something. Until then, more and more of our money is going to go oversees or in corporate coffers, and states like China and Saudi Arabia will have more and more control over us.

So, the question isn't is it ethical to help your fellow employees get laid off. The question is it ethical for a company to bleed a state dry all in the name of profit? We said no when it came to states bleeding dry colonies. How is it any different now, except now it's companies doing the bleeding?

Ethicist's argument is impeccable... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112978)

...but his premises are suspect. If one accepts that an American should have no more or less concern for the job-seeker in Mumbai than the one in Seattle, then it is certainly not wrong to help set up an offshore help desk.

However, the idea that the only reason one would have more concern for the American than the Indian is "tribalism" is suspect. Consider the end result of offshoring helpdesk jobs. We'd end up with no such jobs in America. Then where would this job-seeker be? Unemployed and with no prospect of future employment. He'd have helped fashion the rope used to hang himself. Is pursuing short-term gain at the cost of long term harm to oneself unethical? I suppose there's disagreement on that subject, but I think it's an argument worth considering, one more sophisticated than mere tribalism.

So all engineering is unethical? (5, Insightful)

trout007 (975317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35112996)

I worked for years as a mechanical engineer in the automation industry. All we did was put people out of work by automating routine tasks. That is how we become more productive. Engineering is all about using your mind to improve the way things are done. This inevitably means putting some people out of work. The beauty of a free market system is that labor can move to where it is needed the most. For example.

I helped build a machine that assembled carburetors for Briggs and Stratton. Before there was an assembly line that ran 2 shifts with 12 people each shift. The machine allowed 2 technicians to build the same number of carburetors with less scrap in one shift. So 24 people were out of a job. How can this be good? Because it frees up those peoples labor so other things can be done. When someone first starts making something it usually isn't beneficial to automate because of the capital costs. But if the product is successful and the demand it there it makes sense to automate. Then free up the labor to go to where it is needed more.

were you a member of the Tea Party (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113010)

or troller of Internet forums attacking immigrants and H1B visa holders for taking American jobs?

Pretty dicey to take that job then.

You didn't do the above?

No problem, take the job if that's your best offer.

It is ethical. (1)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113016)

It is ethical for someone to take an offered job - if they agree that the output of the potential employer is ehtical.

In Other words, I feel it woule ethical for me to take a job in another country for a company that made low power lightbulbs, but I would not feel it ethical for me to take a job with a company in my own town that made its money from gambling. (Examples picked randomly)

There are, of course, other matters to consider. Would it be ethical for me to move my kids education to another country? Would it be ethical for me to move so far from elderly relatives?
Ethics is only part of it anyway. Would I have to learn another language? Am I going to be safe from an ignorant tax authority that feels it owns me wherever on the planet I go? And lots more.

It may actually be unethical for me to chose to withhold my potential labour from a company just because it would be in another country. Some of the biggest problems in the world today are caused by people who say "my country right or wrong". That is unethical.

A good book to read... (1)

dalmor (231338) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113028)

Who moved my cheese? [wikipedia.org] is a great story to read regarding this. While I could go a lot into my personal preferences, basically moving the job is like moving your "cheese". The article has a really good synopsis of it.

Loyalty, Compassion, Equity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113032)

Which ethic is in question here? Nationalism is not an ethic. Perhaps loyalty is the ethic in question.

The Ethisist questions why somebody in Denver deserves my loyalty more than somebody in Delhi. I think that is a reasonable question. Without a job, the person in Denver will eat 22 decent meals this week, pay for a Netflix subscription, spend 20 hours surfing the web at home, and that home will be a 15 year old 2500 square foot job with a garage. The poor fellow in Denver will compromise by shovelling their own driveway instead of paying the service to do it. And they might go out to eat two less times this week, eating lunch at home instead.

For the same money, a company can employ two people from Delhi, rescuing two families from poverty conditions that few in Denver can appreciate.

It baffles me why so many Americans think that all Americans are entitled to a standard of living that nearly no other people on the planet enjoy. If the standard of living in the United States decreased by 25%, they would still live very comfortably. That 25% could raise the standard of living for everyone else in the world by 50%. And people in the U.S. would still live better than everyone else. I agree that is seems rather unethical not to share.

Why wouldn't it be ethical? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113036)

Turn the question around. Why wouldn't this job be ethical? It's not a case of "exporting the pollution". It doesn't enabling some harmful activity overseas. It doesn't meet the criteria of dumping or other "unfair" business practice since the operation is almost certainly fairly priced for the country it's getting sourced to.

And finally, it moves work that can't be done well for the price to a country where it can and is more desperately needed. The local labor can then be moved to some other need. That's how comparative advantage works.

Globalization works... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113050)

So globalization is ok when somebody exploits developing countries but it isn't ok when the same someone throws domestic workforce on the street?

Hm... Wait a minute... That doesn't sound right....

Come on, you really think The Big Money gives a sh**t about your nationality?

IT is a global market (1)

kdataman (1687444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113054)

I do consulting and my last training session was with remote students in both the UK and France. Do any of you think I am being unethical because I am taking work from some consultant over there? So I think he should go for it and if the service can provide a solid value then it will grow and he will help a bunch of hard working people find jobs that they need. Does it matter that they live somewhere else? Not to me. If they make enough money they may turn around and hire me.

As background, I grew up in Flint, MI (ie "Roger and Me") and had a brother who worked for GM. He hated that every car I bought was a Honda. I bought them because they were clearly a better value - and still do.

Part of me says no but if it were me (3, Interesting)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35113110)

I would do it because I have a family and taking care of my daughter is more important than anything else. Of course it would be different if I was single with no dependants but everything changes when you have kids.

It depends on your ethos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35113122)

If your creed involves "allegiance to tribe" then it's probably unethical.

If your creed is "The Free Market is best" then it's perfectly ethical.

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