Users of social networking site Reddit have been revealing some of the daftest workplace rules they’ve been asked to follow. Here are some of our favourites:
- “We cannot drink coffee after 2pm. They insist that drinking it in the afternoon is wasteful”
- “I had a job once where you could only sharpen pencils with the mechanical pencil sharpener during certain times. It was a weird rule.”
- “When I worked at a call centre, there was no standing or getting up. We had to sit, so 5.5 hours of sitting down between last break and getting off work.”
- “Can’t grow any facial hair other than a moustache”.
- “I was asked to take off my pink shirt on anti-bullying day because it wasn’t appropriate for a manager.”
Someone in authority in all these workplaces must have thought the rule was a good enough idea to enforce it - but why?
In some cases, perhaps the underlying intention of the rule was to improve productivity. In others, like no pink shirts on anti-bullying day, to demonstrate a specific type of workplace.It just shows how, if we rely on rules and policies to manage our workforce, we’ll never improve work and working lives. If rules were the answer, anti-discrimination law would have put an end to sexism in the workplace decades ago. Which we know it hasn’t.
You can’t change behaviour by writing more rules.Instead, what matters is focussing on how things get done and how people behave in the absence of any other guidance: on the working culture. It’s as much about how things get done as what gets done. We have to start with purpose, values and the principles that call out what behaviour we expect and the basis for people to make the right decisions.
When we have everyday conversations with line managers, when we interview, when we train and develop, when we review salaries, when we appraise, when we manage performance, when we design jobs and reporting lines, at all these touch points we need to be conscious of the behaviours we’re seeking to develop and reinforce them at every opportunity.Another touch point to communicate your values as an employer is your Employee Handbook. Not one full of back-covering rules and complex impersonal legalese. As a focal point to openly communicate what is important to the workplace and why, and how things should get done. To make sure everyone is clear what you expect and reward regarding customer service, working hours, absence, behaviour, communicating - and why.