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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ends Justify the Means...Do They?

Man, this is tough. I was asked to write about this topic a few weeks ago and I'm just getting around to it. Partially, it's been because I had easier topics and partially, because I'm not sure what to say.

"The ends justify the means". It's a very famous quote. It's also an endless struggle for most of us. Does it matter how we do something that will benefit us, or perhaps many, as long as we get the results desired...the results we want?

I can write a big, long post about the ends justifying the means when it comes to national or international politics, relationships, power, etc. I could cover subjects like right to life, capital punishment, welfare or some other social crises. I'm not going to do that.

There are enough issues relating to to this idea in our everyday lives. What this post will touch on is a bit of the struggle this idea causes when it comes to relationships, leadership, business, and our personal lives.

BEFORE I START: There's a big difference between making tough business decisions and treating other people poorly to help ourselves. I just wanted that to be said.

Do the ends justify the means? YES, they do...sometimes. Then again NO, they don't...sometimes.

Look at these examples and think about when the end might justify the means. Then read the examples again and think about when the end might not justify the means:

Is it OK:
~ to lie in order to make people feel better about themselves?
~ to lie in order to make other people like you better?
~ to lay one person off in order to keep everyone else employed?
~ to cut everybody's pay in order to not lay anyone off?
~ to manipulate a boss to do what you think he or she should be doing because that's the way you think the boss should act?
~ to manipulate a team member into believing an idea was his or hers in order to help them feel more engaged about the idea?

Where do the examples end? They don't. They go on forever.

Here's a little advice:

  • 1. Remember the golden and/or platinum rules:
  • GOLD: treat others like YOU want to be treated
  • PLATINUM: treat others like THEY want to be treated (not how you think they should)
  • 2. Applying integrity to situations based on #1.

  • Other than that, we need to weigh the options/outcomes in any decision, do a cost-benefit analysis, and ensure that whatever decisions we make are not being made for personal reasons or personal gain.

    So, do the ends justify the means? I really don't have a clue. I could go either way, depending....