Should you "bend the rules" to advance your career?Should you "bend the rules" to advance your career?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 Bending the rules to advance a person’s career—What principles govern this decision to “bend” the rules? Is it ever okay to cheat or trick someone or misuse something to advance my own individual cause?

If a person is being honest, he would say break the rules because if the rule is bent it is the same as broken.  So, what are we talking about in this discussion: right versus wrong; responsible versus irresponsible; moral versus immoral.  In most cases, there is no such thing as just bending the rule. 

Here is the basic tenet: Bending the rules is a slippery slope.  Once a person starts bending the rule, then it becomes easier and easier to break the next one. The fact is that bending the rules even once can get a person into trouble.

 In the Bible’s New Testament, James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

Jiminy Cricket offered Pinocchio advice: “Always let your conscience be your guide.”  Conscience is not a reliable guide. We declare that no one knows better than we do what is good for our own personal lives.  For most people, moral choices are private matters. We are ethical worlds unto ourselves. Again this can be a slippery slope because a person does not live in a vacuum.  A person’s decisions most of the time do impact another person or group.

Bending  the rules to suit ourselves is objectionable in any situation.  What if my conscience says it is okay to take my office personnel files so that I can find out information that I might be able to use against my fellow co-workers? My conscience is not bothered by getting the “goods” on  other people.   

Every person at someone time will need to apply the principles of integrity, ethics, or morality to a situation in which he finds himself at a crossroads. Which way does the person go?  Most of the time, bending of the rules is a black and white issues: It is either right or wrong?  

Bending the rules applies the test of “Can a person be trusted?”  Will that person be able to make judgments with integrity?  Where does the rule bending stop?  All of the answers to the questions make it obvious that it is never okay to bend/break the rules to advance the career...where will it stop?


Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

pohnpei's comment makes me think of the Biblical New Testament parable about the accountant (or, steward, rather) who was praised by the teller--Jesus--for being crafty as a fox. My short paraphrase of the parable goes like this:

The steward was caught by his master in embezzling funds and was given about one week to tie up loose ends and leave forever. [He was given time because he was a household retainer and the unacceptable (and non-biblical) alternative was to turn him out into the street with nothing.]

The steward used the time to contact all the master's debtors and arrange to reduce the amounts they owed in exchange for employment, protection, food and shelter later. In other words, he's shave some off the the total amount they owed in return for their promises not to let him become destitute.

This story makes us scrupulous people raise an eyebrow or two in wonderment but the point Jesus makes with this parable is the same that pohnpei makes: the world is not a well ordered place in which everyone plays by the same rules of goodness, mercy, charitableness, and generosity, therefore we must take our well-fare in our own hands and insure our own safety and prosperity when circumstances require (it is significant that the parable is told of someone who's trouble was of his own making: if it applies to the unworthy, then it applies all the more to the worthy who deserve all the more to be safeguarded).

So, shocking though it may seem to some, I agree that we must be crafty as foxes (i.e., bend the rules) for those circumstances that will turn up in which we must act to ensure the future, safety and prosperity of ourselves and our families.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This depends on what you mean by "bending the rules."  If you actually mean "break the rules," then we should not.  If, however, you are referring to practices in which we violate the spirit of the rules but not their letter, it is a different story.  

You can argue that we have an ethical right to do whatever is legal to improve our life chances.  If we fail to take advantage of things like loopholes in the rules, it is likely that other people will take advantage and we will lose out.  This does not help anyone.  I would argue, then, that there is a clear distinction between actually breaking rules, which is always wrong, and taking advantage of loopholes, which is generally acceptable.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not think that "bending the rules" is ethical at all. I believe that a person earns what they earn by doing what is expected (and doing it well). If a person is willing to bend the rules to further their position, what happens when another person does? Essentially, everyone will begin to do so and complete chaos can result.


shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of course we shouldn't bend the rules to advance our own careers. Usually when we say we are bending the rules, we are really just trying to soften the fact that we are actually breaking the rules. Bending and breaking, in this case, are the same thing.

Think of the person who loses out because you "bent the rules"

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think bending the rules is going to come back to bite you sometime.  You may not know when, but it will.  Consider the recent scandals of people who lied on their resumes but are being fired decades later.  SOMEONE will find out, and you will not be trusted.

truthseekah | Student

It all comes down to integrity.  If you see integrity as holding a lot of value, then you will not "bend" or break the rules.  If you break the rules in the sense that you are cheating or do something immoral, then it will surely come back to negatively regardless of if someone discovers your manevolent deeds. 

You may experience huge financial or career gains as a result of your rule bending.  If that is your definition of success, then so be it.  Your integrity and happiness are closely linked and what is success if you can't enjoy it?

npoore84 | Student

I think that it is completely wrong to bend the rules to advance one's career. Bending rules leads to dishonesty. When you bend the rules, you cause yourslef to try and remember what you have said and done. I truly believe that you can keep the rules set by society and your employer and still be able to advance in one's career. Yes, there are people who use sexual and immoral actions to help advance their career and ge the job they want. But at the end of the day, do you want to be seen as one that has had to use immoral words and actions or be full on integrity that you honestly earned the advancement in your career? Personally, I would rather be seen as one who has used honesty and integrity to advance my career than immoral actions, lies, and deceit.