Bending the rules

by Captain Walker

Categories: Humanities

This is an exploration of how people interact with rules and regulations. It is largely based on personal observations. Therefore it is subject to all the biases and weaknesses that go with personal observations of the world.

What kinds of rules are there?

  1. Law (Primary, secondary, delegated legislation, legal regulations).
  2. Quasi-legal regulations (i.e. codes of conduct and practice that do not have statutory force but have the backing of statute).
  3. Policy (i.e. written policy agreed and imposed by employers for example).
  4. Other – a diffused set of rules that are written.

I do not go into moral rules, because these are hardly ever written or directly enforceable.

What motivates me to write about this?

I find in my worldly interactions that people often know what the rules are or they can find them – yet they choose to bend the rules to suit their own needs. This causes differences of opinion between me and others on a fairly regular basis.

What do I mean by bending of the rules?

I mean holding a personal interpretation of the rules that ends up (from my perspective) at much distance from what the rules were meant to achieve. Bending sometimes goes so far that it actually breaks the rules.

How (or why) do people effect the bending of the rules?

None of the categories below have sharp boundaries.

  1. Appeal to the generality of conduct i.e. everybody else does it ‘so what’s the problem’.
  2. Herd effects – everybody gets away with it, so I just do as others do. 
  3. Tradition – i.e. ‘we now what the policy says but this is how we’ve always done it – and no one has ever raised a concern – and by implication ‘who are you to raise a concern now?’
  4. Personal justification – i.e. ‘It’s rubbish the way the system is set up. The rules are stupid. I don’t agree with it. It is morally wrong and totally ridiculous so I’ll do as I think best’.
  5. Minimisation – the rule or regulation is reduced in importance i.e. ‘Nothing much will come of it if you do it outside of the rules.
  6. Disparagement of authority – ‘These people at the top are clueless paper pushers; what could they know of things as they really are.’
  7. Lack of enforcement – if there is not enforcement of a rule, it is as good as no rule.
  8. Pressure to act – from others or cumulative pressure from systems can cause others to bend the rules.
  9. Failure of systems of justice – this is not necessarily about legal matters. Justice is a concept that permeates everyday life.
  10. Not knowing the rules – but thinking that some one else who mentioned them knew the rules (when they didn’t).

….to be continued….I’m thinking more about this.

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