Rules are for the ruled, not for rulers

A European manufacturer and I were at a medium-scale automotive parts manufacturer’s factory.

The Receptionist requested us to proceed to the Managing Director’s room. There was a board on the door stating:


Both of us removed our shoes and entered the room. I observed that the MD was wearing his shoes and wondered whether the European visitor had noticed this.

After we completed our discussion, the MD invited us to see the factory. We first visited the Quality Control Department. Again, there was a board on the door stating:


Both of us removed our shoes, but it appeared the MD had not read the board.

As soon as we entered the Production Department, the MD offered us cigarettes, which we declined, despite both being smokers at that time. The MD started smoking. I noticed the European visitor was concealing a smile as he saw the prominent NO SMOKING sign!

As we were driving back after our visit, the European gentleman stated that he was shocked to see the MD openly breaking rules in his own factory. How did the MD expect his employees to follow the rules that he himself broke? I replied that, unfortunately, this was a common occurrence in India. Bosses created rules for their juniors, but did not themselves follow the rules. Strangely, the juniors seemed to take this situation in their stride.

The European manufacturer and I had similar experiences in a few other factories. The European gentleman could not digest this. I explained to him that we had no choice but to put up with this if we wanted to do business with these customers.

We see this happening everywhere.

Bosses expect their juniors to follow rules, but do not themselves follow the same rules.

Parents expect their children to follow rules, but do not themselves follow the same rules.

You and I are these bosses.

You and I are these parents.

As bosses and as parents, we think it’s normal.

But, as citizens, we are outraged when we see politicians breaking the rules that we are expected to follow.

Rules are for the ruled, not for rulers.

When we are the ‘rulers’, we think it’s normal.

When we are the ‘ruled’, we are outraged.

Will we ever realize that rules are for all, the ruled and the rulers?

Or will we continue to believe that, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”?


7 thoughts on “Rules are for the ruled, not for rulers

  1. The days of Orwellien “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” have to end with you practicing what you preach.

    No longer the attitude of “Rules are meant to be broken”! Not even for the Big Boss!
    At Baroda on an audit, at a Muslim owned commercial establishment, I found that even without any sign board, all footwear were neatly stacked outside, including those of the Directors.

    We ought to begin by initiating changes ourselves – here in the Municipal Committee Room for networking with the citizens, if the meeting doesn’t start up within 10 minutes of the announced time I take on the task of taking the chair and commencing the meeting sending a message that the others, including the officials come on time. Now everyone comes 5 minutes earlier and never late. Citizens are not taken for granted. All are happy!

  2. Absolutely more equal than others!!!
    Rules are never followed by those who make them, because they make them for others and not for themselves.
    The premise of rule making comes from the need to control others.
    So not a surprise when the MD flouted all rules.
    Happens everywhere… sadly so.

  3. Absolutely right…’All animals are equal………’
    In the times of global business it looks too small to show your might and pretend to be unaware of the common business etiquette.
    I can understand your embarrassment very well…nonetheless, our new generation will definitely bring in the change
    As a parent I implement the rules first, which I want my children to follow.

  4. Perfectly true. We adapt a particular rule based on our interest and break them according to our convenience. This holds very true in parenting. For example, we tell the kids that is wrong and sinful to lie and then right in front of them we tell the fund-raisers or the likes that, “Bhaisaab ghar par nahi hain.” This definitely holds good in every aspect of life; relationships, work, society, everywhere.

  5. True–all the world over. Arbitrary exemptions from rules, especially when there’s power or money involved, is a problem everywhere, and also the root of problems everywhere. That sense of entitlement, of being above the rules, above the law… Is it an inherently human trait, like selfishness, like that Us vs Them mentality? Is it something we can change on a scale larger than our individual selves?

    Excellent post. Found your blog via the A-Z Theme Reveal and will be back often.

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