27 September 2023

Ruled out: Rigid regulations that send people out the door

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Travis Bradberry* lists a series of stupid workplace practices that will inevitably have the best and most productive employees heading for the exit.

It’s tough to hold on to good employees, but it shouldn’t be.

Most of the mistakes that are made are easily avoided.

When you do make mistakes, your best employees are the first to go, because they have the most options.

If you can’t keep your best employees engaged, you can’t keep your best employees.

While this should be common sense, it isn’t common enough.

Organisations need to have rules, but they don’t have to be foolish and lazy attempts at creating order.

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.

Let’s explore some of the worst rules that organisations create when they fall into this trap.

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 routinely stay late and put in time on the weekend, you send the message 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.

After all, if you have employees who will fake a death to miss a day’s work, what does that say about your organisation?

Shutting down self-expression

Many organisations control what people can have at their desks.

Employers who dictate how many photographs people can display, whether or not they can use a water bottle, and how many items they’re allowed are going over the top.

It’s the: “If I could just hire robots I wouldn’t have this problem” approach.

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.

Otherwise, you’re making everyone wish they worked somewhere else because management is too inept to handle touchy subjects effectively.

Restricting internet use

There are certain sites that no one should be visiting at work, and I’m not talking about Facebook.

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

Many bosses draw it in the wrong place.

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.

The most obvious example?

Checking the Facebook profile of someone you just interviewed.

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.

First you incorrectly evaluate people’s performance.

Second you make everyone feel like a number.

Third you create insecurity and dissatisfaction when performing employees fear that they’ll be disadvantaged due to the forced system.

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.

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.

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.

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

Pathetic attempts at political correctness

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

It stifles self-expression, without improving how people treat each other.

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.

*Travis Bradberry is co-author of the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the co-founder of TalentSmart. He can be contacted at TalentSmart.com.

This article first appeared on the TalentSmart website.

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