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Charity in the Workplace
Several people at my workplace frequently sell raffle tickets, sponsor walks, or solicit donations for medical research charities which I don't wish to support because of their involvement in vivisection. Not being a very assertive person, I haven't found a nimble way to dodge their tactics. If I decline without offering a reason, I'm resented and called a cheapskate. If I say I don't support the charity, the person invariably wants to know why.
Although my colleagues are aware that I'm vegan, I try to keep my activism separate from my job, so I prefer not to go into details. Once or twice I've tried to explain my point of view, only to arouse hostility and be rebutted with the standard comeback: "So you'd sacrifice babies for the sake of a few mice?" A few times I've been coerced into buying tickets against my better judgment, and then I was angry with myself afterward. Is there a better way to handle this?
While it is customary in many work environments, soliciting financial contributions for random charities is unfair. No matter how the appeal is broached, it inevitably puts individuals in an awkward and compromised position. There is no graceful way for coworkers to sidestep these requests without appearing miserly or uncaring. If colleagues choose to decline making a contribution, regardless of the reason, their intentions may be scrutinized or discredited or both. Regrettably, this could lead to negative ramifications that extend beyond a seemingly innocent solicitation. No one wants to be fodder for office gossip or ridicule, or come off as stingy. But when we refuse to donate to what are presented as benevolent causes, this is exactly how we frequently are perceived.
Once our ideals are confronted, the typical initial response is to become defensive and suspicious of the person backing us into a corner. When this occurs in the workplace, it can become oppressive and thorny. Most people don't feel it's wise to openly express personal and political views on the job, especially if these perspectives are out of the mainstream or clash with generally accepted attitudes and beliefs.
People who solicit charitable contributions consider their efforts to be benevolent, and they don't appreciate being told this may not be the case. Generally, appeals for charitable donations are volunteer efforts. For that reason, the motivation for people to do this sort of work is based on personal satisfaction rather than personal gain. Furthermore, they may have undisclosed reasons for supporting particular organizations or types of research, such as the loss or incapacitation of a child, parent, partner, or friend, or their own brush with illness. Consequently, when we question the worthiness of their cause, they may feel we doubt their wisdom, integrity, and sincerity. At the same time, we unknowingly may be reopening old wounds, and our words may come across as heartless.
People who solicit funds for charities view their endeavor as humanitarian. If we want to avoid needless confrontation and embarrassment when we turn down their appeal, we must acknowledge their motivations and demonstrate respect and appreciation. At the same time, we should not permit them to pressure us into subsidizing charities or research we ethically cannot endorse.
One of the most diplomatic ways to handle these challenges is to offer a brief but non-confrontational refusal, and then make available written materials about vivisection if an explanation is requested. This will remove you from the line of fire and will give your coworkers an opportunity to absorb the information at their own pace and convenience. It also transforms the situation from a personal dispute to a presentation of ideas by other people and organizations. This will shield you from being put on the spot and feeling obligated to have all the answers. Printed materials usually seem more credible and convincing than what may be perceived as personal opinion or conjecture. This will increase the likelihood that the information will be given reasonable consideration. Additionally, making available a list of charitable organizations that do not utilize animal-based research will provide sound alternatives for them to explore. A list of such organizations can be found on the Humane Charities Seal of Approval site.
You need not feel intimidated by coworkers into financially supporting their charitable projects. Attempt to distance yourself emotionally, offer convincing but factual written matter, and do not raise the subject again unless you detect genuine interest from your colleagues that they desire to learn more.
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