26 September 2023

Rule No. 1: Workplaces have to have rules

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All offices have to have rules, says Travis Bradberry* who lists some unnecessary restrictions that drive good employees to distraction.

Organisations need to have rules — that’s a given — but they don’t have to be short-sighted and lazy attempts at creating order.

I understand the temptation: As my company has grown, so has our difficulty maintaining standards.

There have been many instances where someone crossed a line, and we were tempted to respond with a new rule that applied to everyone.

But that’s where most organisations blow it.

In just about every instance, upon closer inspection, we realised that establishing a new rule would be a passive and morale-killing way to address the problem.

The vast majority of the time, the problem needs to be handled one-on-one by the employee’s manager.

When organisations create ridiculous and demoralising rules to halt the outlandish behaviour of a few individuals, it’s a management problem.

There’s no sense in alienating your entire workforce because you don’t know how to manage performance.

Here are some of the worst rules.

Bell curves and forced rankings of performance:

Some individual talents follow a natural bell-shaped curve, but job performance does not.

When you force employees to fit into a pre-determined ranking system, you do three things

You incorrectly evaluate people’s performance.

You make everyone feel like a number.

You create insecurity and dissatisfaction when performing employees fear that they’ll be fired due to the forced system.

This is yet another example of a lazy policy that avoids evaluating each individual objectively, based on his or her merits.

Ridiculous requirements for attendance, leave, and time off:

People are salaried for the work they do, not the specific hours they sit at their desks.

When you ding salaried employees for showing up five minutes late even though they stay late and work on the weekend, you are telling them that policies take precedence over performance.

It reeks of distrust, and you should never put someone on salary that you don’t trust.

When organisations are unnecessarily strict in requiring documentation for bereavement and medical leave, it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of employees who deserve better.

Restricting internet use:

There are certain sites that no one should be visiting at work.

Once you block pornography and the other obvious stuff, it’s a difficult and arbitrary process deciding where to draw the line.

People should be able to kill time on the Internet during breaks.

When organisations unnecessarily restrict people’s internet activity, it does more than demoralise those that can’t check Facebook; it limits people’s ability to do their jobs.

Many organisations restrict internet activity so heavily that it makes it difficult for people to do online research.

Banning mobile phones:

If I ban mobile phones in the office, no one will waste time texting and talking to family and friends, right? Ya, right.

Organisations need to do the difficult work of hiring people who are trustworthy and who won’t take advantage of things.

They also need to train managers to deal effectively with employees who underperform and/or violate expectations.

This is also hard work, but it’s worth it.

The easy, knee-jerk alternative (banning phones) demoralises good employees who need to check their phones periodically due to pressing family or health issues or as an appropriate break from work.

Draconian email policies:

This is a newer one that’s already moving down a slippery slope.

Some organisations are getting so restrictive with email use that employees must select from a list of pre-approved topics before the email software will allow them to send a message.

Again, it’s about trust.

If you don’t trust your people to use email properly, why did you hire them in the first place?

In trying to rein in the bad guys, you make everyone miserable every time they send an email.

Guess what? The bad guys are the ones who will find ways to get around any system you put in place.

Stealing employees’ frequent-flyer miles:

If there’s one thing that road-weary traveling employees earn, it’s their frequent flier miles.

When employers don’t let people keep their miles for personal use, it’s a greedy move that fuels resentment with every flight.

Work travel is a major sacrifice of time, energy, and sanity.

Taking employees’ miles sends the message that you don’t appreciate their sacrifice and that you’ll hold on to every last dollar at their expense.

Pathetic attempts at political correctness:

Maintaining high standards for how people treat each other is a wonderful thing as we live in a world that’s rife with animosity and discrimination.

Still, employers have to know where to draw the line.

Going on a witch-hunt because someone says “bless you” to another employee that sneezed (real example) creates an environment of paranoia.

Shutting down self-expression:

Many organisations control what people can have at their desks.

They dictate how many photographs people can display, whether or not they can use a water bottle, and how many items they’re allowed to place on their desks.

Same goes for dress codes. They work well in private high schools, but they’re unnecessary at work.

Hire professionals and they’ll dress professionally.

When someone crosses the line, their manager needs to have the skill to address the issue directly.

If organisations can rethink their policies and remove or alter those that are unnecessary or demoralising, we’ll all have a more enjoyable and productive time at work.

*Travis Bradberry is the co-founder of TalentSmart, a provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification. He can be contacted at TalentSmart.com.

This article first appeared on the TalentSmart website

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