Times when the end does NOT justify the means


You have probably heard the statement, “The end justifies the means.” This essentially means that, though the process may not have gone as you might expect or hope, the end result was a good one.  You can imagine that you are on a long road trip and run into road construction that requires a detour.  Finally, you make it to your destination and can say, “it wasn’t exactly the route we hoped to take, but we made it here… the end of the journey was worth it, so the detour we took didn’t matter.” In other words, the end justified the means to get there.

However, there are times when you must say, “The end does NOT justify the means.” What are those times?  To me, there are two significant times when the end simply does not or cannot justify the means.  Let’s take a look at both:

The end does NOT justify the means when…..

You have to cheat to achieve the end result 


Yes, there are times when you think that cutting a corner or taking a shortcut makes the end result worth it. I disagree. When you have not earned it, the end result, even when favorable, is tainted. Let’s look at a few specific examples of cheating to achieve a tainted end result:

  • Deception or lying – When an individual cheats to pass a test or uses deception to realize gain, the result is not earned and cannot be justified.
  • Doing something illegal – Failing to pay your legally-required fair share of taxes is a form of cheating that cannot be justified. Likewise, in the pharmaceutical industry, failing to follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP’s) means that the product is unacceptable even though it might fulfill product testing specifications. (GMP’s state that product is unacceptable even if it meets all final product specifications if you do not follow the specific “how to” requirements of the regulations, for example. See 21 CFR 210.1 (b) for more information on this.)
  • Failing to keep your commitments – When a contractor completes the job, but two months beyond the committed deadline, the end result is tainted. If you perform a task for another, but charge twice the agreed upon price, you have not fulfilled your end of the bargain and the end result is tainted.

You hurt someone else to achieve the end result 

A successful end result is also not achieved when you have hurt or injured another individual to realize that result. For example:


  • Not giving due credit to others – No “good” result is ever earned by an individual that did not actually do the work or that did not appropriately share credit for the work. Failing to give credit harms the other individual and is never justified.
  • Directly injuring another physically, emotionally, or by hampering their career – Any result attained by harming another individual physically, emotionally, or by any means that hampers their career is, in essence, ill-gotten gain. When you harm another individual, your “victory” is forfeited, at least in my book.
  • Abusing trust – Letting someone down to achieve your personal aspirations is not defined as success.

It is great to win! It is great to be successful!  It is great that you can overcome obstacles and still accomplish the ultimate goal!  But, let’s do it the right way.  Let’s earn it and let’s not walk over others to achieve it.

Thanks for all you do! Have one of those “top ten” days today!


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