"Morality is  a test of our conformity not our integrity.” - Jane Rule
The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.
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The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aynrand147953.htmlThe purpose of morality c
The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aynrand147953.html
The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aynrand147953.html
The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aynrand147953.html
The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aynrand147953.html

Office politics changes according to the situational reality, as perceived by the players. So in this section, we will consider a modus operandi called ethical agility, which when strategically applied, will help you to out-maneuver mischievous antagonists and avoid harmful confrontations.

The business world is populated with smart, ambitious, self-interested and essentially decent people. In the work place, individuals whose behavior is conducted with authenticity and reliability are appreciated by the majority of their colleagues and managers. However, there are those who consider straightforward people to be either easy targets for manipulation or even threats; threats to the comfort zones they have created for themselves that are built on a foundation of smoke and mirrors. There are actors out there who have been practicing trickery for so long that it has become second nature to them. The rhetoric and antics of deception are so solidly cached, that it appears natural and genuine to the uninitiated. To protect yourself from these characters, proficiency in exercising ethical agility is indispensable. Ethical agility encompasses awareness of human nature, appreciation for the shortcomings and indiscretions we are all guilty of, coupled with a healthy dose of pragmatism.

An historical example of applied ethical agility can be found in the campaign to abolish slavery in the United States. Toward the close of the American Civil War, the goal of President Abraham Lincoln was to pass a constitutional amendment to make slavery illegal. The political challenges were formidable and the task of mustering the necessary support in the House of Representatives appeared to be insurmountable. The cooperation of Thaddeus Stevens, an influential Republican Representative from Pennsylvania and outspoken abolitionist was essential to the effort. Stevens was known as a man of principle. He believed that all humanity was entitled to equal rights. And he was never shy about expounding this view. Although Stevens himself, was a sure vote in favor of the amendment, his outspokenness on full and equal rights for all, was anathema to the American ethos of 1865. Opponents of the amendment tried to goad Stevens into making statements in front of the national press corps that would sway public sentiment against its adoption. Through targeted questions, they were trying to get Stevens to talk about his conviction that everyone, including common people of both genders should have the same rights as rich white men. If Stevens fell for this trick and shared his views at this very public debate, his notions would be associated with the amendment and it would have been doomed to failure. But Stevens demonstrated ethically agility by skillfully evading the questions and leaving out his usual discourse on equality for all. On January 31, 1865 the 13th amendment to the US constitution was passed, opening the door to abolish legal human slavery in the United States.

Thaddeus Stevens never compromised his core values. He simply refused to let them be misused by his opponents. The simple lesson to be learned about ethical agility from Stevens’ performance at the slavery debate is to know when to keep your mouth shut! And in politically charged work environments, that’s practically all the time. Straightforward people tend to believe that they should speak up and expose what they perceive to be wrong, misleading or unfair! They want to set the record straight! They want tell it like it is! Let's think about this!

After honest self-examination, is it possible that we could come to the conclusion that this desire to enlighten the world is really only a desire to shine the light on ourselves; to show everybody how good we are or how smart we are? Experience teaches us that this kind of behavior is not only hypocritical but a glaring amateur mistake! Do you remember what Teddy Roosevelt said? "If you could kick the person most responsible for your trouble in the pants, you wouldn't be able to sit."


In this project, a principle will be defined as a commandment, an inflexible rule, a rigid code of conduct that cannot be violated or ignored under any circumstances. In his book Principled Centered Leadership, Steven Covey uses a metaphor where he compares principles to compasses. "They (compasses & principals) are always pointing the way. And if you know how to read them, you won’t get lost, confused, or fooled by conflicting voices and values.” But If you think about it, all compasses really do is indicate the direction you are facing. Without additional information like maps or charts, compasses aren’t able to guide you around obstacles that may be between you and your destination. Like compasses in the physical world, principles alone lack the ability to guide you through the political landscape, which has its own hazards, roadblocks and dead ends. People who insist on doing things "as a matter of principle" lack ethical agility, which exposes them to the intrigues of less scrupulous colleagues. Let’s take the example of Thaddeus Stevens again. He could have stood on principle, showed his true colors, let the world know that he believed in equal rights for all. He may have gone down in history as a courageous and righteous man of principle, and thereby having destroyed any chance of ending slavery in the United States 1865.


For the sake of clarity, we will consider values to be behavioral standards that do not necessarily have a strict moral connotation, but are universally recognized as being desirable in humans.

If principles can be compared to compasses, values can be likened to a sail on a boat. The position of the sail is basically determined by the course the skipper chooses and the direction the wind is coming from. You may have noticed boats where the sail is close to the middle of the hull or at a 90 or 45 angle to one side or the other. Or maybe you have observed the crew scurry from starboard to port as the boom swept across the boat, which suddenly changed direction. Just as the sail on a boat has to be adjusted to accommodate a course change or a shift in wind direction, our demeanor and decisions have to be adapted to the ever-changing circumstances we face in competitive workplaces. If you want to be the skipper of your own professionally destiny, it is your responsibility to adjust your tactics like a sail to fit the prevailing circumstances. In order to stay on course, there are two values that will help you weather political storms: authenticity and reliability.


Authenticity is an indispensable characteristic for anyone who wants to be effective. The world may be a stage, and if you want your act to be truly rewarding and tangibly constructive, you have to be authentic. Let’s say an honest cop or a firefighter is studying hard to pass the lieutenant’s exam. A politically savvy colleague tells her that if she joins the mayor’s reelection campaign and spends her time hitting the pavement for the mayor instead of hitting the books, she will get the promotion. The promotion would mean more money and this would certainly come in handy for a single parent. For an authentic person, the choice would be easy. If she did not earn the promotion, if she was not qualified to assume the responsibility of making decisions that could risk lives, she would decline the offer. If she were to accept the promotion as a political favor, she would be indebted to a corrupt system. She would not be a legitimate lieutenant. She would lose her legitimacy, in her own eyes, and probably in the eyes of the men and women she was charged to lead. An authentic individual would keep studying until they earned the promotion. Authentic players rely on their personal integrity rather than external influences. They may not enjoy a meteoric rise to the top of the ladder, but there is no reason why they could not enjoy a rewarding and fulfilling carrier.

Authentic people are not naive or gullible. They are aware of the antics of their more ethically creative colleagues. They observe how their tactics and schemes succeed, at least temporarily. They are not resentful or envious. They do not feel victimized or professionally immobilized. They do not judge those who don’t share their values. They do not try to impose their personal or professional standards on anyone else. They are just legitimate, authentic, not impostors or pretenders. They are recognized as qualified professionals whom one can depend on. They are the efficient ones who get things done. They are the reliable players.


When we call someone reliable, we usually mean that they are consistent, dependable and trustworthy. When reliable people say they will do something, they deliver. If circumstances prevent fulfillment of the commitment, they communicate it as soon as they realize it. With reliable people there is no need for explicit promises or gestures other than perhaps a simple handshake or wink to seal a deal. I am sure that most readers have found themselves on both sides of the reliability coin. If you are a basically reliable person, you have probably felt the sting of being disappointed as well as the guilt of having disappointed others. This comes with the territory of being human. In the work place, we run into all sorts of individuals. Some are more opaque than others, when it comes to reliability. It is important to know who you can rely on and who not. Occasionally, you will run into opportunistic colleagues who tend to say or do whatever they believe will put them in the best possible light at any given time. Their assertions are sometimes accompanied by jesters like exaggerated handshakes that begin over the head and are executed with panache and fanfare, but are forgotten the moment they are made. When reminded about the incident later, you may actually get a response like “Oh that was a throw-away-statement.” or “Well that changed.” without any further attempt at justification or explanation. Protect yourself from these characters! Avoid situations where you have to depend on them! If it's absolutely necessary to work with unreliable colleagues, make sure that everyone clearly understands who's responsible for what! Try to get it in writing! Cover your ass!


Mother Theresa said "If you're honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway!" I say, be authentic, be reliable, beware!

You will probably never run into anyone who considers herself to be unethical. We are all very creative and convincing when it comes to justifying our behavior, especially to ourselves. As we have discussed earlier, everyone sees the world through their own eyes. Everyone has their own benchmarks and boundaries for ethical conduct as well! So, the only ethics you are responsible for are your own. Your personal standards, modulated by your ethical agility, guide your behavior. If you behave in an authentic and reliable manner and astutely employ ethical agility, you’ll be OK.

Here are a few points to take with you:

  1. Be authentic
  2. Be reliable!
  3. Beware!

 Suggested Reading:

  1. The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand
  2. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
  3. Principled Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey
  4. Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.



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  "through the smoke, a practical education" Bill O'Connell 2013