Why Cutting Corners Can Hurt
Your Etiquette-ful Brand

Cutting Corners

The idiomatic phrase of cutting corners first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1869: “Passing around a corner/corners as closely as possible; pursuing an economical or easy, but hazardous course of action; acting in an unorthodox manner to save time; even to act illegally.”

Doing something in the easiest and quickest way can mean that a person ignores rules or leaves something out at the expense of higher standards.  Generally, cutting corners is frowned upon, as exampled in the Boy Scouts of America.  When a boy doesn’t abide with knife care and his leader can choose to cut a corner off his Totin’ Chip, in notation of a blade violation.  Any Scouter would abhor the thought of corner-cutting and even worse, to be regarded as a corner-cutter.

Historically, there are many professions and sports that abhor cutting corners.  For example, The South Canterbury Hunt’s Etiquette, Safety & Commonsense instructs riders that good riders and good hounds seldom cut corners.  “Follow the line that the hounds are taking; never cut corners unless well behind where the hounds are working.”  “Cutting corners” was a derogatory saying that was common among hunters long before the book was written.

On the Other Hand

Some would argue that doing your best (another way of saying “don’t cut corners”) isn’t always good advice.  Corner-cutting can serve an employee and employer when the employee learns to tell the difference between tasks that require full steam ahead, while others need a little less effort.

For many, cutting corners is a way of “cutting to the chase,” or being efficient.  In other words, getting something done that is hindered by what seems as unnecessary or bureaucratic.  When organizational administrative channels that have been set up for what appears to many to be unnecessary, there will always be someone who challenges that status quo.

The Risks of Cutting Corners

But who would want to be known as a corner-cutter?  Poor character implications associate. “He’ll take the short cut,” means that the person is willing to pull off the road of time-proven rules or processes in order to risk safety or reputation in getting something done quickly.

These questions can help you discover if you have a habit of corner-cutting:

  • Do you ever take longer lunch breaks than you should?
  • Do you sneak a little more than your fair share of food, time, or good words about yourself?
  • Do you complement yourself or describe what you do in terms that some might say are too flattering?
  • Do you worry about your reputation over ensuring a job done well?

Cutting corners hurts your etiquette-ful brand

  • Integrity will be questioned as well as your honesty.
  • The value of what you bring to the table will be questioned.
  • Your true performance level will be in doubt.
  • You won’t get a second chance to make a good impression.

Give yourself a work ethic review using the above questions and considerations.  Are you satisfied with your self-score? How do you think others view your ethic and performance?  In what other areas of your life would this apply?

There are times when efficiency trumps taking the long route to a result or goal.  But many times, doing something correctly requires that we follow set guidelines.  It is these situations where cutting corners will come with consequences.

“Competence is a core area of leadership, and if you’re cutting corners, you’re cutting into your credibility.”
Michael Sanger, Director of Assessment Solutions at Leadership Development Worldwide

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