The Danger of Rules

Imagine coming face to face with a rule that could hurt someone. Maybe even leave someone dead. One that makes you ask “Should I break the rules?” Sometimes the rules are dangerous.

If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere.
— Marilyn Monroe

Lifeguard Shack

Image via Creative Commons

Tomas Lopez faced such a rule earlier this week as a lifeguard in Hallandale, FL.

You’re probably asking what happened. If you want to read the full article, you can view it here.

The Rule Breaker

Tomas was in his lifeguard stand when several beachgoers run to the stand. They’re telling him there’s a man drowning and he needs help.

The problem was this man was in an area outside of the lifeguard zone. The rules state that lifeguards are not to venture away from their zones.

A choice had to be made: To stay in his stand or to risk his job (and life) to rescue the drowning man.

Tomas chose to attempt a rescue of the man.

He left his stand, went to the area, and assisted in the rescue.

When he returned to his zone, he knew he would face consequences. He knew he was going to lose his job. And that he did.

The Problem With Rules

Rules can be great. They let you know what is expected of you. What the guidelines are. They’re meant to correct a supposed lack of integrity.

Yet when it really counts, the rules must be broken. You have to go against the authority and take action. Regardless of the consequences.

Had Tomas not taken action, a man could have died. There’s a problem with that outcome…

What To Do When Rules Are Broken

The next time you’re confronted with a team member who has broken a rule stop and consider why.

Was it for selfish gain? Out of spite? To help someone?

Most people are good people and won’t break a rule just to break it. They do it because there may be a better way. Someone may need help. Or the rule is no longer needed.

Don’t react hastily. Get the facts and consider the results of the action. You may find that the rule had unintended consequences.

Integrity has no need of rules.
— Albert Camus

Question: Think of a time when a rule caused more harm than good. Why do you think this was? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • This is a very important aspect when disciplining someone.

    At times rules can/should be broken. If it’s not done for self gain or benefit and does good then the person should not get into trouble. It’s amazing that the lifeguard got fired even after saving a life.

    Great post Joe!

    • Right Dan! If it’s done in the right attitude, for the right reasons breaking the rules can be acceptable. Have you ever found yourself in that position before?

      • I can’t think about a specific situation right now but know I have. If one comes to mind, I’ll share it.

  • There were a number of times at various jobs when I had to break the rules and I think I can honestly say that more for the right reasons (I didn’t say all). Great post and a great story to illustrate.

    • Sometimes the rules need to be broken, huh Kimanzi?

  • I live a few hours away from this town. It is sad to know that he was fired for something like this. He did the right thing for sure!

    • Right, he did what he knew he had to do. Thankfully he made that choice and helped the man out.

  • Great post Joe

    • Thanks Ngina. Have you ever found the need to break the rules?

      • Yes I have.

        But I’ve not always kept a good attitude when ‘breaking’ them 🙂

        i think it’s important to recognize that rules are there for a reason in the first place and respect that. Just because i have to go against them once in a while doesn’t lower or negate their importance.

        Well, i have discovered that though i may be right in breaking a rule, my attitude can just sabotage my good efforts, esp when there are bosses and colleagues involved. Humility and understanding goes a long long way 🙂

        • Great point Ngina. Humility must go along with the rule breaking so that it doesn’t come across as selfish.

  • Great post Joe. You’re right, rules are important boundaries for our society. However, in this case the rule was not helpful, it was just the opposite. It’s encouraging to see someone actually think and make an unselfish decision to save someone’s life. I’m typically not a rule breaker but I’ve been known to bend the rules when the situation lends itself.

    • It was refreshing seeing the young man make the decision to save the man while knowing the act may, and did, cost him his job. What would you do in a situation like that?

      • I’d like to think I’d make the same decision as the young man. Hard to say until I’m in that situation. I don’t think I’d be able to live with myself if I didn’t try to save the person’s life.