Learning to Cheat and Steal

Most kids play board games in three stages:

(1) Little kids ignore rules, or learn them but cheat anyway. They think their own cheating is okay, but not anyone else’s.


At this stage, parents let them win. As they should.

(2) By age six or seven, parents let kids start to lose a few games. Ouch! Cheating stops. Kids learn that games played by the rules can be fun!

Not Thinking “How Can I Cheat?”. Thinking “I’ve Got Him Beat!” (Poor Grammar, But Great Winning Attitude, Sugah!)


(3) When kids reach nine, or ten, say–cheating often starts again. Only this time, it’s creative.

Not Always That Creative.


Older kids understand there are subtle unwritten game rules. These are trickier to learn and master. Rules that tell which games do allow certain types of cheating, and which tricks you can get away with without getting “in trouble”–or perhaps just frowned upon by parents or peers.

Cheating at games is so accepted in our culture that it can be the most fun part of a game. Ned Cuthbert thought so in 1865 when he stole second base for (arguably) the first time.

And who hasn’t made backdoor Monopoly deals with a favored sibling (sister/brother) to borrow a hotel (or four!) for Park Place in order to drive another sibling out of the game with extortionate (too-high) rent?


As I child, I had some trouble with these ideas, having Asperger’s. We Aspies have trouble understanding which rules apply in which situations. When was it okay to cheat? Why could some kids get away with cheating, and others not?

How Do Some People Know That God Loves Them More Than the Rest of Us?


When I became a big grown-up and joined the corporate world, I discovered that most grown-ups learn corporate games in similar steps:

(1) They immediately cheat in little ways after learning the basic rules at their company: Taking home office supplies, lying on timesheets, playing games during work time, padding expense accounts.

(2) Some cheaters get caught and get their wrists slapped. They follow the rules for a while after that, and really put their nosies to backside posies.

Top-Notch Censorship Expert Currently Available For Hire. Bonus: Mouth Comes Pre-Puckered and Ready for Dorsal Docking.

(3) But after enough time at a company, the cheating often starts again. And it gets more creative.

It’s Not Lying, It’s Imaginative Truthiness.


Poor Aspie me had trouble again. I was shocked by level l “borrowing” of pencils from the stockroom. “That’s stealing!” Imagine me later when the generally-accepted lifting of supplies at one company where I worked extended to staff walking out the door with laptops and printers, and coming in on weekends to dig up the landscaping for their home gardens. The company simply kept replacing the hoovered plants.

To An Aspie, Corporate Game Rules Are Equally Ever-Changing.


The way the level 3 “creative winning” stuff was broadly admired across all the companies at which I worked was appalling to me. It still is. Even the prey beasts of nasty corporate gameplayers begrudgingly admired their predators. I don’t get it. I don’t understand you neurotypicals (non-Aspies)–and I never will.

One incident that occurred in my very first year as a programmer has stuck with me. I wish it hadn’t.

A very talented programmer, Mandy, had reached out to me and taken me under her wing to mentor, entirely of her own accord. I admired her tremendously. When she noticed someone floundering, she immediately assisted, no matter her own workload demands.

“And This Is How You Switch Back From Netflix When The Head Exec Walks By…”


Julie was struggling on the late afternoon of a three-day project due the next day. Mandy asked, “Can you use some help?”

“Oh, my gosh, yes!”

Julie described what was needed. (She basically needed to develop a cross-referenced index of data base variables found across multiple files.) Mandy gave Julie some suggestions on approach, and shortcuts to get it done.

“Great! Thank you SO much!” enthused a now-happy Julie.

The next morning, a frazzled-looking Julie showed up late for work.

Mandy: “Is everything all right, Julie?”
Julie: “No. I worked all night, and I just couldn’t do it.”
Mandy: “Well show me what you have.”
Julie: “I..I don’t have anything.”

Mandy: “……!”

(Mandy was trying to control her face. So was I, over in my eavesdropping corner.)

Wowzers! Julie’s Project Wasn’t Make-Work. There Were Real Customers Waiting For Real Stuff. (Sidebar: I am totally going to copy that Lego guy ring idea! How cute are they?)


Then, Mandy reached into her attaché case…and pulled out a hand-written preliminary draft version of Julie’s project.

Mandy: “I hope you won’t be upset with me, Julie, but you looked so worried yesterday, and since the project is due at lunch today, I went ahead and worked up a very rough outline to give you an idea of what I was talking about. You still have a few hours before you have to turn in your results. Maybe you can take this as a starting point and get your project done by fleshing this out and typing up your notes.”

Julie: “Mandy!” (throwing her arms around her)


• Julie turned straight around from Mandy’s arms,

• Typed up a new coversheet with HER name on the cover page,

• Hand-delivered “her” report a full three hours ahead of schedule.

Oh No She DIDN’T.


But that’s not the good part. The good part is that, obviously, Mandy found out almost immediately. Even the Vice-President who received the report from Julie’s hands knew it wasn’t Julie’s work, or handwriting. But he still praised Julie, PUBLICLY, for her great work on the project. AND GAVE HER A PROMOTION.

Oh No He DIDN’T!


And the entire staff–with the exception of Mandy and I–thought that what Julie had done took the “admirable” kind of chutzpah. Julie, and everyone else, expected that she and Mandy would still get along just as they had previously.

I Don’t Understand. I’ll Never Understand. I Don’t Want To Understand.

Addendums on Sexism

(1) Although the culprit in my tale is female, it is possible that the corporate climate I describe is more a male than female norm.

“Yes, Virginia, There IS (One) Demonstrated Biologic Gender Difference That Affects Judgement.”

“Research suggests that substantial benefits can be reaped from a more gender-balanced global workforce.”

“Paul J. Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont University, has found…Men under stress tend to secrete high levels of testosterone and become aggressive. Women under stress secrete oxytocin… Due to these hormonal differences, Zak says, women tend to be more effective than men when managing a team of people who have to work cooperatively. Oxytocin increases empathy, patience, and trust…”

“Economists are breaking important ground, too. In 2011, the French academic Marie-Pierre Dargnies’s mixed-gender competition study found that financial teams comprised of men only were less likely to perform well than mixed teams.”

So, it would appear that, contrary to the old (male) “wisdom” that women aren’t suited to be in charge of anything, pilot a plane, etc. due to their raging hormones, it is instead men who are ill-suited to be in charge of anything due to their own literally-raging hormone.

However, perhaps more females and increased teamwork won’t alter the cheating, thieving climate I see as amoral:

Cheating Teamwork

Oxytocin Doing Its Excellent Work

(2) The only form of corporate cheating which was broadly despised at my companies? Women who had slept their way into a position—or who were assumed to have done so. This was considered an unfair advantage by both male and female employees. Yet the male who golfed and was drinking buds with the prez? S’cool. Another who was in line to marry his daughter? Copacetic.

Addendum on Comedy Writing

One of the funniest comedic pieces I’ve ever read is about a chess game played by penpals where both parties are cheating. (TOTAL SPOILER ALERTS HERE.) With no way for either to check the board of the other, and the games and claims growing more divergent, the worst cheater of the two finally suggests they throw in the towel and switch to Scrabble (!). He then announces that he has “just by happenstance” drawn the perfect tiles to play the highest-scoring possible eight-letter word in the game.

(I’d refer you to the piece—I know the title and author—but there is a personal reason I will not. This is why I also issued the spoiler without regret.)

Addendum on What Prompted Me to Write This Post

Last night, I momentarily neglected to credit Michelle at the green study with her great generosity in steering people toward my blog. One theft I despise is credit theft, and a close second is the sin of omission in this regard. My fault last night reminded me of what Julie had done to Mandy.

Today I learned that Maggie at The Zombies Ate My Brains has ALSO steered people to my blog!

Thank you so very much, Michelle and Maggie. Appreciative bows to you both! That the talented writers of two popular blogs have been so kind is deeply appreciated.

That this blog is STILL so lightly read after TWO boost-ups? Credit for THAT is entirely mine : )


Leave a comment


  1. M-R

     /  2014/04/01

    But you needn’t grovel; after all, if Maggie had steered us here and we didn’t like it, we’d just sail away ! 🙂 And I can tell you for a fact that Maggie is not one to put hands on hips and humph if not given credit for something: her standard reaction is to laugh – at anything, really … Hmm … I’d better have a talk with her about that … 😉


    • Grovel? Hadn’t intended to abase myself to gain or keep fans…or perhaps I did. Have you read my About page?


      • M-R

         /  2014/04/01

        Sorry: I have a habit of using words that are completely over the top. It’s an Aussie thing – something to do with irony. 🙂


  2. Very interesting article! Makes one think….


  3. Didn’t see that one coming! Wow, thanks, Babe!
    As to your post: I’m still trying to get over a misstep I made some years ago when I was playing an age-appropriate game with a friend’s 6-year-old. I was winning. I saw that the kid was getting upset. I said to myself, no, don’t throw the game, it’s time he learned how to lose. But I cannot help think that it was more about ME not wanting to lose. The shame! Kid lost, his mom was pissed off at me, and I am scarred for life. Hyperbole much? And yeah, M-R might be right. I laugh a bunch, mostly at myself.


    • Abrade that scar, Ms. Maggie, and let the healing begin. You may not have misstepped. He may well have been ready, but mom was not. Regardless, one loss did not a neurosis make, and if mom was a friend, she wouldn’t-shouldn’t have fussed for long–unless she was way too overprotective of her son–in which case, you did him a huge favor, didn’t you?

      Regarding the laughing, If we-all knew each other better, I’d say “We all laugh at you, too.” ; )


  4. PS – I love your posts. They are so rich in… EVERYTHING! I could be here all day responding to all of the sidelines and tangents.


    • You are both pleasing me and embarrassing me. Happily, I can handle the embarrassment (she said, as she strutted twice about the room, prancing and crowing like the Pan).

      Those sidelines and tangents are why my mind is a total muddle–often my attempts at conversations, too.

      During the few years I taught, those times a student took days and tangents to come to the point, I held one finger pointing upward and slowly circled my other hand’s finger in narrowing spirals down to it. It was our non-embarrassing private code that meant “Please work your way back (more directly and quickly) to the point.”

      Still find myself spiraling my mental finger for ME sometimes.


  5. I suppose we all lie, cheat and steal to some degree but if it’s to feel good about ourselves, I don’t think it’s working….


    • You are absolutely right, grandmalin. I suspect that the more we feel that we are useful and productive in a good way, the less we have urges–even subconscious ones–to misrepresent, take advantage, and so forth–indicators, perhaps, of a general sense of envy due to our own sense of unfulfillment..


  6. Oh I remember all of that sh*t! Wouldn’t go back to the corporate world for love nor money….


    • Am with you on that, poor as I am now. We have to endure enough soul-sucking from what is going on around us without having to open wide for more of it eight hours a day.



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