What’s the point of doing the right thing?

This is a bit of a stream of consciousness post, because it’s something that monumentally frustrates me. This has been eating at me for a while. For those who follow me on Twitter, you may have seen some posts regarding this. May have seen me get a bit angry about a few things in relation to this topic. It’s something that truly gets under my skin, irritates the hell out of me and I just can’t let go of it. Hopefully this post will go someway towards relieving that.

First off, let me say that I understand that performance management and all that jazz takes time and effort – time and effort most managers don’t have. I also understand that it’s a HR and logistical nightmare, because there has to be a buttload of paperwork that goes along with it. But when people are getting away, consistently, with doing the wrong thing – what exactly is the incentive to do the right thing?

I’m the kind of person who tries to do the right thing, despite popular belief. I’m the kind of person who follows the rules (for the most part), who tends to stick to the processes and policies that are laid out for me. I come in when I’m told to, ask permission or approval for things that I feel I should, stick to what I’m supposed to be doing and try not to step outside of those lines unless it’s something I deem necessary…which really doesn’t happen all that often. And if I do step outside of those lines, I better be damn sure I have a good excuse. And if that excuse won’t fly – I’m willing to accept the consequences.

However, I’m noticing that more and more often, those people who don’t follow the rules, who don’t follow procedure, who don’t ask for approval or permission, who just do their own thing oblivious (selfishly) to everyone else around them – they get away with it. They get to do what they want, when they want. They get away with lying, blatantly, brazenly. They get away with doing sweet fuck-all…and no one bats and eyelid.

If they get away with all of this, what is the point of doing the right thing?

Those of us who do the right thing get the satisfaction of knowing we’ve done what we’re supposed to do. Yay… *waves tiny flag*

But those who do the wrong thing reap their own benefits – they get to say they were at work, when they weren’t; they get to do what they want, when they want…without asking for approval, they just do it, be damned the rest of their colleagues; they get away with doing next to nothing and, in fact, get angry or upset when either asked to do work or questioned about what they’re working on.

And they get away with it.

Because no one wants to rock the boat. No one wants to open that can of worms. No one wants the HR shitstorm. No one wants the extra work of having to baby-sit a colleague. No one wants to have to deal with a drama queen having a tantrum. No one wants to deal with the anger of someone who believes it’s “their right”. No one wants to be on the opposing side of someone who honestly thinks that what they’re getting away with is acceptable.

So again, I ask the question. And this isn’t an idle question, I truly want to know what you all think, so please – respond in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.

What is the point of doing the right thing, when those who do the wrong thing consistently get away with it?

9 thoughts on “What’s the point of doing the right thing?

  1. Andrew Tobin (@tobin)

    Honestly, and I’m pretty naive because I’ve fallen into the same trap and actually been chewed out for refusing to do something I was ordered to when I was also ordered to only accept certain people had the powers to ask for that thing… well, anyway, I’ve seen the same thing over and over… and I’ve succumbed to laziness, and even to hostile, or arrogant IT behaviours before… and I can say you just earn a shit reputation that’s incredibly difficult to live down.

    Portraying positivity, even if you do sweet-f-all and what you do do you f-up something shocking, seems to get people to love you and promote you.

    But in the end, I think if you can be positive and do the work, and show that you’re the right person, I’ve got to hope they start to value you. And I really hope that karma eventually catches up on its backlog and kicks the other people who you see behaving like that in the ass.

    Strangely enough, The Kingsman – a jokey, trashy movie I really enjoyed last year had a great quote from Hemmingway – “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

    I think if you forget about the other people who annoy and get to you – and concentrate on yourself, what you want to achieve, becoming better, increasing your skills, working because you’re being paid and you have integrity and you honestly want to do a good job – then it would hopefully come back to you. Concentrating on others will only undermine your own self-confidence, your own happiness, and totally screw with your mood daily… don’t let them have that power over you.

    I know, I ramble, but I hope that makes some sense.

  2. Gambo

    Your integrity is the most important thing here Jess. Do what YOU think is right and disregard those other morons. Karma has a way of catching up with people – have seen this MANY times in my working life.

  3. Garwynn (@XDAGarwynn)


    For starters, much respect to you for putting up with it. My wife went through this until she left her position in November – 7 years of that same topic. And I’ll give you the same advice I gave her:

    We have to realize what’s within our scope of control at a job. We control how we do a job. Unless you’re management, that’s it. You don’t have control as to how others perform – that’s your management’s job. And if they reward bad behavior, you have to accept that it may not be in your control.

    So what do you do? Fight (advocate for change), Accept, or Flight (Change what you can – your employment status at the company). After 7 years of fighting people dancing rightontheline of sexual harassment but not crossing it, or faking that they don’t understand her English because they know her boss will side with them, what do you do?

    Sometimes you have to leave. Not because you want to quit, not because you can’t do the job – but because you believe in yourself enough to know that you can do better elsewhere. And that you’re not going to stand for that BS. I know, it’s a lot harder to do in practice than just say; she waited until I could cover most of her income in savings with my salary. But if you don’t stand for your own morals and integrity, then what do you stand for?

    Cheers and best of luck.

  4. skyalin

    Complex issue. :/ There’s certainly some level of personal values/morals that determine how much ‘wrong’ someone believes is okay for themselves. I know I have considered people “slackers” in the past, to find out later that they were honestly doing their best and there were other factors impacting their ability to do their job. Not saying it’s right to do nothing, just that it’s not so black and white as we may think.

    I’m regularly told that I have an exceptional work ethic, which I attribute to being raised by parents running their own business and working a hundred hours a week, and working for them from a young age. My new(ish) job has far, far lower expectations of me than any place I have ever worked before; to the point where I keep getting asked to stop doing things even though I feel like I am not earning my money if I am not achieving at least some small thing every day. I go home feeling like a failure every day as a result. However, I had my mid-year performance review last week, and it was glowing, couldn’t have been better. This makes me extremely uneasy and consider moving on, while a colleague who has been here for almost a decade is gone for the majority of the day, no one knows where to, and still has a job in spite of this and repeatedly causing massive outages by doing unapproved work. I find it pretty baffling, honestly.

  5. David O'Brien

    Hi Jess,

    good article. Good on you for writing it!

    I agree with you, partly because I’m German (half at least) and like to follow rules and procedures, but also because I truly believe that “doing the right thing” is “the right thing”.
    I am that kind of guy who approaches you and asks “why did you do that?” and if the answer is along the lines of “because I can”, “because I’m lazy” or “because I’m an arrogant idiot” I escalate.
    If that also doesn’t help, so far that always helped (but that was just in my cases), I would change my employer.

    It’s not easy, but I just turned 30, and I would need to ask myself, do I really want to be stuck in this environment for the next 40 years?!

    Best of luck! (if you’re looking for a job, shout out on Twitter!) 😉

  6. Stacey

    There’s a lot of this going around, I could’ve written this myself!!
    As someone said to me once (may have been my mother) ‘life may be a race, but its your race, so run it your way, and try not to look sideways’.

  7. P. Jane Wightman (@ladyjane57)

    I’ve come to the conclusion that people who display this type of (antisocial) behaviour have never been told “no”… either by a parent, teacher or boss.
    It’s possibly the reason the syndrome is so widespread – all those kids whose parents wanted to ‘be their friend’ not their jailor/disciplinarian or teach them how to share, take turns and not turn out to be the selfish, self opinionated, egocentric shits they turn into as adults.
    Always being told you can’t be made to do anything or say anything you don’t want to has dire consequences, in my opinion.
    Possibly why I find so many of the feral kids today totally repugnant. If they are obnoxious as children just imagine how more obnoxious they will be as fully fledged adults – and I use that term very loosely. Adults in my opinion care about those around them. Work as a team (not as a prima donna who always has to have their own way). Show compassion and a work ethic.
    Sadly, unless their behaviour is highlighted, particularly if it impacts on you, they continue their delusional belief that they can (and will) do anything their little heart desires.
    Congratulations to those who stand up to these ‘bullies’ – for they are bullies, though not in the traditional sense of the word.
    Don’t take crap from anyone Jess and if you have convictions that someone is doing the wrong thing – to the detriment of others – I applaud you for standing up to them and making those who should be in charge and taking necessary action, bloody well do something about it.

  8. John Collins

    It’s a personal decision. Maybe that get away with it until they’ve been promoted to CEO of a company, live a long, wealth-filled life and die happy on their bed. Maybe there isn’t a single thing you can do to change that.

    I choose to do the right thing because I have to live with myself. I also choose to do the right thing because *I* matter. I’m an example for all the other people, like yourself, who need an example of the doing the right thing. If *everyone* quit doing the right thing….

    Ok that was the most arrogant-sounding paragraph I think I’ve ever written. Uhm. I suck. kek. Do the right thing because you’ll feel better about being you. I’ve been cyber-stal…..er…following your social medianess for some time and I love your honesty and your integrity. It adds credibility to your writing and your opinions. Don’t lose that.

  9. 🐶 Matt McLeod 🐶 (@somefatbloke)

    Why do the right thing? So you can look at yourself in the mirror, basically.

    The people most likely to get ahead are a combination of (a) lucky and (b) at least a bit sociopathic.

    I once worked in a place that had this problem. Managers were routinely overseas visiting other offices, and a few people took this to mean they could pretend to have been at work while instead going to the beach/playing golf/whatever.

    When it was discovered they did do something about it. But not the sensible thing of reprimanding the people concerned. Oh no. Instead they went for a morning “roll call”, with the office receptionist going around with a clipboard ticking off names.

    Because treating people like adults who have to face the consequences of their actions is apparently “too hard”.


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