Wednesday, January 23, 2013


MORAL PLIABILITY - The Key to Yesmanship


Conventional Wisdom talks of many ingredients in the recipe for success like professional excellence, proficiency at work, integrity, sincerity, hard work, talent etc etc. 

All this is fine, but as I hark back to my own experience, and look around today and reflect (and as I hear so many stories on how diligent and sincere people are hounded and harassed for honestly doing their job) I have come to the conclusion that the key ingredient in the recipe of success is MORAL PLIABILITY

Yes, all those other traditional attributes may certainly contribute, but unless you are Morally Pliable you will never succeed in your career, and indeed in your life.

In today’s world, it does not pay dividends to be honest, straightforward and outspoken.

Concepts like moral values and ethical conduct are outmoded and have no relevance in today's times.

If you practice ethical conduct and take a moral stand, and stand by your principles, you will be called difficult and dogmatic, and most likely, you will be written off in your career, fall by the wayside and be passed over for promotion and may spend your professional life in wilderness.

So, remember, if you are one of those old-fashioned orthodox “man of principle” types with “unshakable integrity” you are destined for failure. 

The key to success is to be able to swim with times and bend with the wind, and to be able to to metamorphose yourself and change colours like a Chameleon. 

Yes, you must practice “Situational Ethics” and become an “Ethical Chameleon”. 

In short, you should be Morally Pliable

Look around you and see for yourself the one common quality most “successful” individuals have - MORAL PLIABILITY.

You may observe that Moral Pliability is the sine qua non for career advancement and success in all types of organizations - government and non-government, business and academic, but especially in the former.


Look around you, in your workplace and outside, and you will realize that the most “successful” persons are those who are morally pliable.

In the early days of my career, when I was young and full of idealism, I used to wonder why so many professionally competent, talented, efficient and diligent persons do not get the success they deserve in their careers.

Now it is quite clear to me – they lacked that key ingredient which is the sine qua non to reach the top of the ladder: MORAL PLIABILITY.

Yes, if you are morally pliable you will develop the ability to unquestioningly obey orders from your superiors without suffering qualms of conscience. 

Your bosses will feel comfortable with you and you will go a long way in your career – yes, proficiency may take you to a certain level but to rise beyond that you need that decisive ingredient in the recipe for success – moral pliability.

If you are honest, straightforward and upright you may even be labeled as an “idealist”, impractical, conceited, dogmatic, or even worse, if you stand by your principles you may be branded as a difficult person, as someone who cannot get along with others, and your career may be written off and you may be cast away by the wayside.

If you flow with the tide, bend your principles as the wind blows, you will be appreciated as a “practical” person, tactful manager, a great team player – after all, everyone loves an adaptable person with a flexible personality

This is true in most organizations – at work and also in personal relationships in a family.


Of course there is a danger in being too flexible. 

Once you practice moral pliability for a long time and make it a habit to compromise your principles as the situation demands, you may reach a stage where you have no principles left to compromise.

Yes, the sustained practice of moral pliability is bound to affect your capability for creative and original thinking. 

To quote Norman Dixon:

A lifetime of having to curb the expression of original thought culminates so often in there being nothing left to express

I have seen this happen to so many morally pliable persons who turn into “yes sir yes sir three bags full sir” type obsequious sycophants.

So, Dear Reader, look around your workplace, observe your colleagues, especially the eager-beaver go-getter “successful” types. 

Reflect for a while and ask yourself:

Is better to be morally rigid and ethically steadfast?

Or is it better to be morally “malleable” and “ductile” and practice “situational ethics”?   

When I see the number of morally pliable people achieve great “success” I wonder whether this African saying is relevant here:

The wind does not break a tree that bends” 

Or maybe the Ancient Chinese Wisdom:

“The tree that does not bend with the wind will be broken by the wind”.

Or should you stand by your principles as John Quincy Adams says:

Always stand on principle, even if you stand alone”.

Or is it wiser to follow the advice of Thomas Jefferson:

“In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock”.

Think about it and you decide for yourself what is right for you.

As an afterthought, let me add that there is a flip side to moral pliability too. 

As we discussed earlier, the first danger you may face if you become morally pliable is that you may lose the capacity for original thought.

There is a bigger danger as well.

Sometimes these morally pliable persons who reach the topmost positions in the hierarchy may bring disrepute to themselves and tarnish the reputation of their organizations owing to this very quality of moral pliability that catalyzed their ascent to the top. 

Quite a paradox, isn’t it?

Dear Reader, I have given you the mantra, the key to success. 

I have told you the pros and the cons. 

Now, the choice is yours. 

Do you want to be a Morally Pliable Ethical Chameleon and succeed and be a winner? 

Or do you want to stand steadfast by your values and be a “man of principle” and fail in life and be a loser?

You have to decide: TO BE or NOT TO BE MORALLY PLIABLE ... !!!

Remember, your juniors and your children are observing you, so don't blame them if they too become morally pliable and turn into Ethical Chameleons like you!

Yes, you will become a role model for your juniors and children, especially of you “succeed”.

Dear Reader: Please comment and let us know your views.

Enjoy your work and have a great day. Wish you all the success in your career. May you become a Morally Pliable Yes-man and reach the pinnacle of success.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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