What if your boss wants you to work on border wall contracts, and you don’t want to?

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Plus, what if you’re employed in a green field in the federal government?

Reader 1: I work for a government contractor. My boss’s boss (a big fan of the current administration) has ordered me to pursue federal contracts to help build the border wall. If the call ever went out to create a federal Muslim registry, he would want to pursue those contracts as well. I am against both on principle and cannot imagine trying to win those projects.

I have another option: I’m pursuing a license in a different industry, have enough cash saved to go without income for two years, and have no spouse or children. Should I consider a career change?

Karla: I would never endorse collecting a paycheck for doing something you consider harmful to human rights. But one of the projects you mention is in early design stages and faces legal and fiscal obstacles, and there’s no sign the other is being seriously considered.

So, for now, determine the tipping point in the contract bidding process where you’ll have to choose between violating your personal principles and willfully failing to perform your job: Is it doing research? Writing the proposal?

If you aren’t there yet, keep working off-hours on your license while researching health care and other issues. That way, when you do reach the threshhold, you’ll be ready to exit on your own terms.

what-if-your-boss-wants-you-to-work-on-border-wall-contracts-and-you-dont-want-to photo 1 (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

You didn’t ask this, but any potential conscientious objectors should know: Unless you’re being ordered to do something that violates your religious rights or involves performing illegal activities, refusing to follow your boss’s directives is grounds for termination.

Thanks to Declan Leonard of Berenzweig Leonard and lawyer Lyle Hedgecock.

Reader 2: Many colleagues and I who work for the federal government in the environmental and conservation fields love what we do and don’t want to change careers. But with this administration’s position on all things green, it seems prudent to be thinking about a Plan B.

How do we translate the professional and technical skills we’ve built in protecting the planet to something marketable in the private sector?

Karla: Speaking of translating, how’s your French? (See makeourplanetgreatagain.fr/about.)

Actually, relocating overseas or reinterpreting your skills might not even be necessary. While green initiatives are undergoing a brownout at the federal level, a number of private American enterprises and individual states are stepping up to save the planet (wearestillin.com). And they will need your subject-matter expertise, connections and institutional knowledge to make things happen.

So, in addition to scouring job listings (conservationjobboard.com, ecojobs.com, idealist.org), you should be warming up your networks of government, contracting and nonprofit contacts to remind them that you, too, are a renewable resource.

Ask Karla Miller about your work dramas and traumas by emailing wpmagazine@washpost.com. Read more @Work Advicecolumns.

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PRO TIP: When transitioning from the public sector, ask a private-sector civilian to help identify confusing jargon in your cover letter or résumé, so you can replace it with a generic, plain-language equivalent. Don’t assume everyone is familiar with esoteric acronyms and other governmentese.

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