Maintaining Order or Demotivating the Workplace: The Affect of Too Many Rules

27th March 2018

With some companies instigating rules such as an allotted amount of time per day to use the bathroom, or insisting that staff must warn their superior if they’re going to be sick 5 days in advance, there’s no shortage of petty workplace rules to get riled up about.

Of course, some rules are essential for safety and efficiency but rules for rules’ sake can hamper employees from doing their best work. And leave them feeling like their superiors don't trust them. An employee stifled by what they may see as pointless rules is an unengaged employee – costing the company money in wasted time on the job. A proliferation of regulations is a sure fire way to send your most talented employees scrambling to update their CVs…

Job Hackers

Some frustrated employees even find 'hacks' to get a job done faster. Known as 'benevolent hackers' these people will work on a presentation using Google Documents, rather than in PowerPoint as company law dictates. Thanks to Google Docs’ collaborative function, all team members can work on the file at the same time, rather than constantly downloading the latest version in PowerPoint. Once the document is finished they'll surreptitiously transfer it over to PowerPoint!

An overbearing boss (even one who believes company mandates to be antiquated or nonsensical) can make working life a chore for all. Often outdated rules are because companies haven’t embraced new technologies or working methods. So how do workplaces strike a balance between necessary regulations and rules that are downright daft?

Culture of Transparency

Create a culture of transparency. Explain to staff why a certain policy is in place – instead of saying “It just is” will help clear up misunderstandings. And if it can’t be explained, it could be a great opportunity to revisit the reasons for that particular rule existing.

Keeping things simple is crucial – the more complex a regulation, the more unfathomable it will be to employees. Abolishing red tape while also establishing that authority should be respected is a great way to streamline a workplace.

Take a look at the steps needed to complete projects too – and talk to the people that actually work on them. Are all those steps and sign-offs really necessary or are they simply slowing down procedures and delaying the end result?

Many companies shy away from internal critism but fostering an environment where employees are encouraged to (constructively) debate the reason behind a rule is far more beneficial for all rather than a vitriolic rant on social media.

Take a look at your organisation’s rules: because, let’s face it, a resentful and frustrated employee is not a productive or cost effective employee.

Create a culture of transparency. Explain to staff why a certain policy is in place – instead of saying “It just is” will help clear up misunderstandings. And if it can’t be explained, it could be a great opportunity to revisit the reasons for that particular rule existing.