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Rules were made, not to be broken, but occasionally we do for a good cause

Columnist Kristen Asleson says if breaking a rule benefits others more than it benefits you, that might be the time to break some rules.

Women at Work - Kristen Asleson column sig
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Conveniently, there are multiple sites for people to advertise items they are selling, homes for rent or for sale, and “stuff” to give away. Of course, the one I keep “watch” over are the sites for the free stuff.

Last year, the latest business venture I wanted to start up fell through. So, for a while, I have been storing all the equipment needed for that venture. However, with the lack of space available in close proximity to me, I decided it was time to let some of my equipment go. A few items wound up on the free stuff pages, and surprisingly people were interested. One of the third or fourth people to comment was a local volunteer with our fire department, and he noted they could be utilized at the fire hall. That tugged at me. So much that I broke the rules on this page and donated a few items.

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Feeling rather sheepish, I admitted to another person what I had done, and the response was, “Geez, ya rulebreaker.” The feeling of guilt briefly went through me, and then it disappeared.

Hopefully others who were interested will be understanding that the equipment went to a worthy cause.

Needing to know how other women who are in the workforce felt about this, a comment was shared that hit the nail on the head as far as the scenario above. She stated, “I sometimes break the rules if it truly benefits the other person more than it benefits me, and the consequences of doing so outweigh the consequences of not.”

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Occasionally, it is okay to bend the rules, and sometimes break them altogether. However, it is important to know when it is NOT okay. First and foremost, if you broke a specific rule and were told not to do it again, that would be a good time to start respecting boundaries and authority. One can only ask for forgiveness once in this scenario (if you want to keep your job).

Secondly, if breaking the rule or policy will result in hurting someone else, this should not have to be thought about longer than one-tenth of a second. Just don’t.

There are certain professions or types of people that break rules, but the rules they break are not necessary policy within an existing business. Entrepreneurs break “rules.” Scientists break “rules” to learn more. But, again, not what this column addresses.

For those who punch a clock, have procedures manuals and standard operating procedures to follow, listen up. Here is when it is okay to break the rules (for the most part):

If you are working on a project that has loose guidelines, and you know what your boss wants as the outcome or final results. Then yes, be creative, add a little flair, bend what may have been done in the past. Change is good.

Or, when tasked with a project or meeting or event, and you see an opportunity arise that would benefit everyone involved, then most outside the lines a bit. After all, more than just you will benefit, and mostly, so will the company you work for. This won’t require too much explaining or asking for forgiveness.

Lastly, on the topic of asking, it is A-OK to ask permission to bend the rules or do something differently prior to starting. You just never know; you may be given the green-light before you even get started. Just be sure to share how goals will be reached and how it will benefit everyone as well. Having that prepared is even more persuasive toward your case.

Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to news@postbulletin.com .

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