Not sure about that job offer from the food industry startup whose products feature organic, non-GMO, free range and other, virtuously sourced ingredients? Tired of working for Newco whose innovative line of allergen free, non-animal tested, all-natural makeup promises to revolutionize the health and beauty market? Feeling a bit contrarian? You’re in luck. Working for the dark side has its rewards.
Organic, eco-friendly offerings were once niche products, items sold to a small group of consumers at premium prices. Now, while these items may still command premium prices, they are the norm. Where’s the fun in that? If you work for “them” you’re just following the crowd. Why not consider toiling for a company that promotes tobacco, alcohol, or gambling? Or, perhaps, for a firm that sources and refines fossil fuels?
“Why would someone work for such firms,” you ask?
For sin industry executives the answer is obvious. They’re in it for the pay. An eight-year-old study showed that alcohol, gambling and tobacco company executives were paid more than executives of comparably sized, “virtuous” firms. The study suggested that this pay premium was needed to offset the stigma of working for the dark side, a stigma that included lawsuits, bad publicity, and restricted later career choices (fewer board seats).
For others, the reason most cited is a belief in the free-market economy. If Carbon Belching Incorporated is legally licensed to operate, then one is justified working for it. As long as the firm hasn’t covered-up misdeeds or mislead the public, sin industry workers often cite this justification. Moreover, public hostility can act as a binding agent for employees of stigmatized companies. A study by Thomas Roulet of Cambridge University found that job satisfaction increased at firms that faced public criticism.
Finally, some dark side workers argue that working for a stigmatized firm offers a better chance to effect positive changes. Like working with petroleum-derived profits to develop clean energy alternative technologies. Or, making smoke-less tobacco products safer. An employee who fully understands the stigmatized product is best positioned to change it for the better.
There you have it, Luke. Come on over.
Did I mention the free coffee?
Peter has spent the past twenty-plus years as an acting/consulting CFO for a number of small businesses in a wide range of industries. Peter’s prior experience is that of a serial entrepreneur, managing various start-up and turnaround projects. He is a co-founder of Keurig.