Why good people sometimes do bad things: 52 reflections on ethics at work
This is the so-called ‘waterbed effect’: where you press (where attention is focused), the
water (the problem) goes down, only to push up elsewhere.
It is therefore important to examine the effect of rules on oneself and others, to watch out for
restrictive and pedantic rules, and those which now seem pointless. In a comedy sketch, John
Cleese plays a character wishing to enter a casino. The doorman refuses because he is not
wearing a tie. Rules are rules. Shortly afterwards he returns, and again the doorman refuses
him entrance, this time because the tie is too short. Rules are rules. Shortly afterwards Cleese
again appears at the entrance, now with a long tie, and no other clothing. And because there
are no further rules, the doorman now lets him in. As far as I know, the lawyers from the
example at the beginning of the chapter did not have to resort to this to open the eyes of the
management; the commotion in the media put a stop to the peepshow.
13. Rules create offenders and forbidden fruits taste the best: reactance theory