Rules vs Norms
Human beings like to remain bounded by rules so as to have guidelines as to what not to do in specific situations. Rules are written guidelines that need to be adhered to by the people in a particular environment as otherwise there are provisions to deal with violations of these rules. If there are rules to guide actions and behaviors of individuals in an organization, a society has norms that are unwritten laws to be followed by the people. There are many similarities between rules and norms to confuse people. However, despite overlap, there are differences that will be highlighted in this article.
If you work in a factory and there is a rule asking employees not to smoke inside the factory, you know that smoking is banned inside the factory, and you will be punished for violating this provision. Similarly, there are written laws guiding the behavior of students in school so as to maintain discipline and order. There are the traffic rules that ensure smooth plying of vehicles as otherwise there will be utter chaos. Thus, it becomes clear that rules are directives coming from the authority that need adherence from the members of the organization. Rules are meant to ensure smooth working of an organization and also to prevent chaos and mishaps. There are provisions to deal with violations of these rules such as punishment that is metered out to the violators.
Norms are the unwritten laws in a society that govern the actions and behaviors of the members. People know the behavior that is expected of them and also the actions and behaviors they must avoid under all circumstances. For example, raising a hand to shake it with someone we meet is a social norm which is another way to greet an individual. We know that we must obey our elders and respect our parents. These are social norms that we learn to follow because of living in a society. There are no laws to punish a person violating social norms though he is certainly looked down upon by the society and ostracized for his actions. Illicit relationships are against social norms and as such people consider them a taboo.
What is the difference between Rules and Norms?
• Both rules and norms govern the actions and behaviors of people but violating rules is punishable while there is no punishment for not following a norm.
• Rules are often in the written form whereas norms are unwritten laws.
• Rules are made by authorities in an organization to ensure smooth running of the organization; for example, traffic rules.
• Rules let people know what to do and what not to do in a specific situation.
• Norms are behaviors expected of people when interacting with other members of the society.
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