What Would You Do?

14 Sep 2015

Would you kiss butt to get a promotion? Enjoy a guest post by Terry W. Blevins:

When in high school, my son told me that his personal ethics prevented him from getting a job because he would be required to blindly follow someone else’s ethical rules and not his own in exchange for money. I laughed at the time. But if I analyze that statement, it causes me to think.

Would you compromise your personal standards in exchange for success? I’m not only talking about doing something dishonest, illegal or immoral, but also about those personal preferences that each one of us have regarding what we will do or won’t do in order to increase our chances of career success.

Have you ever heard anyone say “I don’t care if they fire me, I’m not going to kiss anyone’s butt?” Of course the definition of “kissing butt” (aka: “kissing up to”, “kissing ass” also known as “being obsequious”) will mean many different things to each of you. In my experience, “kissing butt” means lying or exaggerating about something to impress your boss in order to gain their favor. (I think this is the generally accepted definition.)

From thefreedictionary.com:

kiss someone’s ass– Sl. to fawn over someone; to flatter and curry favor with someone

ob·se·qui·ous (ŏb-sē′kwē-əs, əb-) adj. Full of or exhibiting servile compliance; fawning

I think most of us would agree that “kissing butt” is something that is demeaning, and not something we are likely to do.

But consider this scenario: Your boss asks what you thought of his presentation, and although you thought it was really bad, you know that you can’t be honest with him or her because they will be upset with you.

If you sugarcoat your response in order to avoid wrath, are you compromising your standards? If pressed for a detailed evaluation, and all you gave was positive feedback, would you be lying to?

Most would agree that lying to your boss in exchange for his favor means that you’re compromising your standards.

Would you allow your boss to yell at you? Would you allow him or her to curse at you? Would you allow them to yell at a family member? Where would you draw the line? If your boss yells at you or does something else that makes you feel demeaned on Monday, does that emotional pain go away when you cash your paycheck on Friday?

We all must decide what our personal boundaries are, and then decide if we will allow those boundaries to be violated in the interest of keeping a job or getting promoted.

Let’s take this one step further. If you saw your boss doing something immoral, would you say something? How about something illegal? The lines between immoral and illegal often blur in today’s global business scene. So where do we draw the line?

Obviously everything I’m discussing is different for each one, and we all have to make your own decisions regarding what we think is right and wrong. I’m raising the questions in this article in hopes that each of you will consider what you’re willing to do—and what you’re not willing to do—in order to achieve success. I’m not suggesting that you all go out and quit your jobs but I am encouraging you to stop and think about the long term effects of working in an environment that violates your boundaries or compromises your standards.

The bottom line for me is this: I try to avoid doing anything at work, or allow anyone to treat me in a way, that I believe violates my ethics in a manner that permanently changes me for the worse. As a boss, I also work very hard to avoid putting my people in a position like this.

Although my son’s moral indignation was a little extreme, I learned something. We should all be very careful about changing our morals in exchange for a paycheck, because most of those decisions will take us down a path we may not be able to return from.


Terry Blevins (MA Security Management) is an Los-Angeles-based American senior security professional who was raised in Central America and pursued his professional life in Arizona through a career in Law Enforcement. After serving as a Peace Officer and a Homeland Security official in the US, he spent time living and working in the Middle East and Southwest Asia as a counterterrorism and security expert. He most recently served as country security manager in Mexico and was promoted to Senior Director of Corporate Security with global responsibilities for a Canada-based gold mining company.  He brings this experience to his work as a senior consultant focused on the mining industry.




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