Are You a Rule Breaker? | CDR-U

Do you often resist rules or procedures? Do you welcome opportunities to break the status quo and to create new stuff? Are you a change agent, or at times, a wrecking ball? Do you have stories you could share about times you rejected authority that might surprise others? Do you enjoy being a prankster?

If so, you are probably a Rule Breaker. This is an inherent risk factor that can lead to problems on the job if gone unchecked. Obviously, this trait can also contribute to needed changes, fresh outlooks, new business ventures, and creative bursts of innovation and discovery. The question is — how do you strike the balance?

Being a Rule Breaker doesn’t happen overnight. From childhood on up, our inherent risk factors develop. By the time we are adult age these are often our natural coping responses to adversity or conflict. The Rule Breaker trait is one of the dark sides of personality.

Interestingly, your character traits – your bright sides – may also contribute to your lack of rule abiding. A low score in “Avoids Trouble” (a subscale of Prudence) on the CDR Character Assessment could also be partly to blame for your tendency to push boundaries.

Defining the “Rule Breaker” Risk Scale

Below is a definition and list of sample behaviors of the Rule Breaker scale from the CDR Risk Assessment.

Rule Breaker: This scale depicts those who ignore rules, test the limits, do what feels good, jeopardize company resources, and who do not think through the consequences of their behavior or decisions. In leadership roles, Rule Breakers can lose credibility and betray trust by violating rules and may be prone to fostering a dysfunctional work environment because of their impulsive and potentially destructive behavior. Examples: Failure to comply or cutting corners with safety rules, spending more funds than expenditure authority may permit, and ignoring guidelines for appropriate Internet searches.

A Rule Breaker in Action

I can relate this risk factor to some of my past life experiences. When I was in second grade, being raised a good Catholic girl, I was required to go to confession every Saturday. It was downright scary to have to go into the confessional, a dark closet-like room in the Church. As a little girl, this totally creeped me out and my heart would race like mad each time I had to go. I remember one confession at the age of seven that still stands out for me.

I said, “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been one week since my last confession. Father, I lied once.” I was given five Hail Mary prayers to say as penance for that offense.

Here was the deal behind my confession that confirms my path in becoming a Rule Breaker. The lie I was confessing was that I had just lied to the priest. It had actually been two weeks since my last confession. I was so afraid of the priest that I lied to him. Then, trying to be a good girl, I confessed my lie!

Of course, growing up there were many other instances that I did not toe the line, exactly. For example, I remember sneaking out at nights to meet boys while camping with our family. In fact, I was so good at this caper that I could crawl feet behind my parents at night who were sitting enjoying the campfire. A few years ago, I enjoyed buying a car with a Hemi engine so I could quickly buzz by anyone I cared to on the open highway.

Creating Boundaries

Fortunately for me, my Rule Breaker tendencies are moderated by my need to succeed, to be perceived positively, and to be liked (High score in the following drivers: Power & Competition, Fame & Feedback, and Companionship & Affiliation). This, along with a reasonable score in Prudence allows me to be more conscientious, tempering my Rule Breaking tendencies.

Most Rule Breakers have some boundaries to help them not go too far. However, when coaching leaders who have high risks as Rule Breakers and who do not have strong internal moderators, one piece of advice I give them is “do not drink alcohol at company functions.” This is because they are impulsive and liquor zaps their limited internal regulatory sense. In one case, an Organization Development Leader in an energy company ignored my advice. With a few drinks in him, he made the unwise decision to go skinny-dipping at the company’s annual meeting offsite. Unfortunately for him, one of the newer board members saw him… much more of him than he expected! Within less than a month, that leader lost his job.

Configural Scoring

Remember, none of your assessment results should be looked at in a vacuum – including your Rule Breaker score! As mentioned above, certain tendencies can be tempered by scores in different scales. This method of looking at various scores together to create a more comprehensive picture is what we like to call Configural Scoring.

CDR-U Coach is programmed with this method at its core. Your avatar coach will help you understand not only your unique Rule Breaker score, but how your other scores could affect the way this tendency manifests in your own life.

Tips for Development

For those of you who score highly in the Rule Breaker scale, you may find the development tips below to be useful as you advance in your career.

  1. Test your impulsive ideas with a trusted colleague or levelheaded person before acting.
  2. Before acting, think about and write down potential consequences or possible negative impacts on you and others.
  3. Slow down. Breathe. Count to 10. Be more thoughtful. Take your time.
  4. Write down the last 3-5 times you broke rules that caused some level of pain or concern.
    • What triggered you to act? What set you off?
    • Who or what prompted you to push forward with your ill-conceived impulse behavior or reaction?
  5. Last, on all 3-5 times from your list above, write down a couple of ways you could have acted more thoughtfully or more appropriately for the situation. This list provides you with insights for the next time your triggers start going off.

Nancy Parsons

President, CDR-U