This weeks Online Human Resources post is entitled 7 Stupid Office Rules and attempts to name 7 of the silliest rules an office can instate, and offers solutions.  

What dumb rules have you seen at your office, and how can you avoid them?

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For some reaason I don't see the list here?

7 of the Most Arbitrary, Mundane, Useless, and Down-Right Stupid Office Rules

by EMILY on AUGUST 14, 2012

Stupid rules are kind of a hot-topic at the moment in the HR world.  Why is it that so many managers think these rules are a good idea? The fact is, many of these “stupid rules” are put in place by poorly informed management, who are attempting to solve a problem regarding one badly behaving employee, by instituting policy that effects everyone. Instead of creating and attempting to implement these rules, which simply frustrate and potentially disengage employees, deal with individual problems as they come, in a professional and legal manner. Regular feedback, both positive, and critical, is the best way to avoid these kinds of drab rules. If you praise employees for what they do well, while telling them how to improve, they’re more likely to listen. Also, a little trust goes a long way. I’ve attempted to name the most common stupid rules I could think of. If your company has any of these rules in place, maybe it’s time to rethink them.

1. No lunch break.

With the economy and job-market still on the mend, many offices have instituted a no lunch, or greatly reduced lunch break, policy. Hourly employees are entitled to food breaks, but unfortunately, salaried employees aren’t given the same rights. As a result many employees are forced to work while they eat, or worse, not eat at all. Studies show increased productivity levels after a good lunch break, so even if it’s unwritten, this rule is a very stupid one. Let them eat lunch!

2. Only X bathroom breaks a day.

Okay. It’s true. There are some advantageous jerks out there who may use “going to the bathroom” as an excuse to go text their buddy about golfing later. These special types of people however, are luckily few and far between. Punishing the rest of your staff isn’t the answer. There are so many health issues that require frequent bathroom trips, limiting the number, or requiring verification of a sometimes embarrassing issue, is just cruel. Deal with offenders directly and litigiously, or better yet, don’t hire people who aren’t trustworthy!

3. No music.

So Chad in accounting just downloaded the new Nickelback album on Itunes, and he has been playing it all week on repeat, very loud. As an HR pro and policy maker do you A) Send out a mass email informing all employees they are no longer allowed to listen to music at work. B) Talk to Chad privately about turning his music down, or off possibly. C) Send out a mass email reminding everyone to “keep their music at a respectful level” and to “make sure it contains only work-appropriate content.” The answer is C, or sometimes B.  Singling him out could potentially raise legal issues if others with more unanimous music taste listen at the same volume, but could be done appropriately in the right circumstances. Prohibiting music at work altogether is just dumb. Some people work better with music. Period.

4. The customer is always right.

Cutsomers aren’t always right. In fact, sometimes customers abuse staff, lie to get what they want, make huge messes, and even steal. Of course the tolerance for rude and unethical customers varies greatly from industry to industry, but what’s important is to always give your employee some wiggle room with a customer. If  employees can’t handle a customer, don’t make it the policy to reward complaining indiscriminately. Give your employees some power over customers, they’ll appreciate it and use it wisely. The success of your company likely means more to them than it does your customer.

5. No personal conversations during work hours.

Cathy is a talker. She always has been when approached, but lately she’s been lingering at people’s desks and engaging them in long personal conversations when they should both be working. Instead of making a ridiculous, sterile “no personal conversations” rule, have a really nice “chat” with Cathy, reminding her to keep her to try to keep the personal conversations to a minimum. As long as you stay friendly and vague, and she really is talking more than anyone else, and distracting other employees, there shouldn’t be a legal issue.

6. No cell phones at work.

Obviously nobody wants to see their employees texting away at their desk when they’re getting paid to work. That said, sometimes you employ people who have pressing family or health issues that require them to check their cell-phone periodically. If you catch someone texting a friend during work hours red-handed, deal with it. Otherwise, trust that employees are going to be decent enough not to waste everyone’s time texting when they should be working.

7. No personal internet use.

The term “rules are meant to be broken” really applies here. Aside from a massive firewall (and even then there’s smart phones) there’s really no way this is going to happen. Yes, chatting on Facebook all day, is unproductive and unprofessional. This doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t be able to check their personal email or social media accounts on a break. Limit it? Yes. Track it? By all means, yes. Outright ban on it? No, you’re just asking for dissent and dissatisfaction.

Bottom line: Trust your employees, and deal with problems directly.

Thanks for posting, Megan!

Megan Bell said:

7 of the Most Arbitrary, Mundane, Useless, and Down-Right Stupid Office Rules

by EMILY on AUGUST 14, 2012

Stupid rules are kind of a hot-topic at the moment in the HR world.  Why is it that so many managers think these rules are a good idea? The fact is, many of these “stupid rules” are put in place by poorly informed management, who are attempting to solve a problem regarding one badly behaving employee, by instituting policy that effects everyone. Instead of creating and attempting to implement these rules, which simply frustrate and potentially disengage employees, deal with individual problems as they come, in a professional and legal manner. Regular feedback, both positive, and critical, is the best way to avoid these kinds of drab rules. If you praise employees for what they do well, while telling them how to improve, they’re more likely to listen. Also, a little trust goes a long way. I’ve attempted to name the most common stupid rules I could think of. If your company has any of these rules in place, maybe it’s time to rethink them.

1. No lunch break.

With the economy and job-market still on the mend, many offices have instituted a no lunch, or greatly reduced lunch break, policy. Hourly employees are entitled to food breaks, but unfortunately, salaried employees aren’t given the same rights. As a result many employees are forced to work while they eat, or worse, not eat at all. Studies show increased productivity levels after a good lunch break, so even if it’s unwritten, this rule is a very stupid one. Let them eat lunch!

2. Only X bathroom breaks a day.

Okay. It’s true. There are some advantageous jerks out there who may use “going to the bathroom” as an excuse to go text their buddy about golfing later. These special types of people however, are luckily few and far between. Punishing the rest of your staff isn’t the answer. There are so many health issues that require frequent bathroom trips, limiting the number, or requiring verification of a sometimes embarrassing issue, is just cruel. Deal with offenders directly and litigiously, or better yet, don’t hire people who aren’t trustworthy!

3. No music.

So Chad in accounting just downloaded the new Nickelback album on Itunes, and he has been playing it all week on repeat, very loud. As an HR pro and policy maker do you A) Send out a mass email informing all employees they are no longer allowed to listen to music at work. B) Talk to Chad privately about turning his music down, or off possibly. C) Send out a mass email reminding everyone to “keep their music at a respectful level” and to “make sure it contains only work-appropriate content.” The answer is C, or sometimes B.  Singling him out could potentially raise legal issues if others with more unanimous music taste listen at the same volume, but could be done appropriately in the right circumstances. Prohibiting music at work altogether is just dumb. Some people work better with music. Period.

4. The customer is always right.

Cutsomers aren’t always right. In fact, sometimes customers abuse staff, lie to get what they want, make huge messes, and even steal. Of course the tolerance for rude and unethical customers varies greatly from industry to industry, but what’s important is to always give your employee some wiggle room with a customer. If  employees can’t handle a customer, don’t make it the policy to reward complaining indiscriminately. Give your employees some power over customers, they’ll appreciate it and use it wisely. The success of your company likely means more to them than it does your customer.

5. No personal conversations during work hours.

Cathy is a talker. She always has been when approached, but lately she’s been lingering at people’s desks and engaging them in long personal conversations when they should both be working. Instead of making a ridiculous, sterile “no personal conversations” rule, have a really nice “chat” with Cathy, reminding her to keep her to try to keep the personal conversations to a minimum. As long as you stay friendly and vague, and she really is talking more than anyone else, and distracting other employees, there shouldn’t be a legal issue.

6. No cell phones at work.

Obviously nobody wants to see their employees texting away at their desk when they’re getting paid to work. That said, sometimes you employ people who have pressing family or health issues that require them to check their cell-phone periodically. If you catch someone texting a friend during work hours red-handed, deal with it. Otherwise, trust that employees are going to be decent enough not to waste everyone’s time texting when they should be working.

7. No personal internet use.

The term “rules are meant to be broken” really applies here. Aside from a massive firewall (and even then there’s smart phones) there’s really no way this is going to happen. Yes, chatting on Facebook all day, is unproductive and unprofessional. This doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t be able to check their personal email or social media accounts on a break. Limit it? Yes. Track it? By all means, yes. Outright ban on it? No, you’re just asking for dissent and dissatisfaction.

Bottom line: Trust your employees, and deal with problems directly.

What a shock. Employees have taken extended lunches, breaks, visited all the time, wasted time on Facebook, checking personal email, texting and talking on cell phones, driven everybody else nuts with irritating music and have been rude or lax with customers. Management finally got a gut full of it and had a knee jerk reaction and decided they were paying people to work.

Welcome to the real world and you might have to wear real clothes too instead of looking like you got dressed out of the goodwill bag on your way to a backyard beer bust.

Perhaps if people acted like functioning adults who need a job to support their families to begin with management would not have to put in rules that used to only be needed in jr. High and grade school. Rules and laws are normally enacted to correct abuse. Grow up, go to WORK and quit thinking you should be able to do what you want when you want to and nobody would have to make rules for children.

The company I work for now is amazing--no heavy-handed rules like those listed in the article. However, I have worked in an office where open-toed shoes were never allowed. It wasn't for any safety reasons. Flip flops were just too "unprofessional." Now this is definitely true in an office where people are wearing suits and skirts, but at this particular company, jeans and t-shirts were the typical attire. I should add, most of the employees are women in the company. Maybe it's just me that finds the rule silly, but when your employees are already dressing comfortably, it is over 100 degrees, and their feet are under desks all day...why not?

Joelle, the flip flops might be fine where you work if there are never any external visitors or customers coming in. But I remember when a company I worked for came up with the idea that they would remove the pantyhose requirement and also allow open-toed shoes -  it was a nightmare. We did have customers all day, and business attire was required. So of course some of my employees (female) started coming in with sandals and such on their feet. I do not care how nice and dressy a sandal is, it is a sandal. Beyond the fact that it is not appropriate attire, the freaking "smacking" noise against their feet drove me nuts! Then there is the issue of those who do not have nice looking feet and/or disgusting toenails. So I brought in a catalog to show them what "open-toed" shoes meant. I sent people home to switch shoes. And finally HR switched the policy back. So instead of being satisfied the changes that were made to try and make employees happy (Ahh, "improve morale"), people just ran it to a whole other direction and that's why most of the "stupid" rules get made.

@Amber you just reminded me of the last time I actually wore pantyhose... it was years ago. :) I worked for an agency that had an office in PHX and my boss instituted a "Phoenix" dress code - we no longer had to wear pantyhose because it was too dang hot! :)

 

We have casual Fridays here and some people take it way too far... yuck

Amber you are so right. I call flip flops and slides with open toes barrio slappers. Some people spend a lot of time keeping their feet, piggies and nails in presentable shape, most don't or they just plain ole have ugly dogs. I loathe blue, green and black nail polish and I particularly hate to see a fat, ugly foot with a giant big toe with green polish on it. Ugh, makes me shudder to think about a room full of women with their deformed feet slapping around in barrio slappers. I have also never seen it fail that the slappers come off with bare nasty feet sticking out from under desks.

I met with a prospective client several weeks ago. When the hiring manager walked out from behind his desk he had on shorts and sandals. This cat wears at least a size 12 shoe and he had hairy toes. He buzzed a manager to join us. That dude had on shorts and sandals with black socks. I could not get out of there fast enough. I declined. There is not enough money on the planet. Someday I will forget those toes and the black socks but it will take a while.

I have never understood casual Friday. We work on Friday just like Monday, I ask people if they have "slob day".

In my opinion this whole country has turned into mess partially because people don't care how they look. One more dinner at a medium priced restaurant where I have to look at some slob in t-shirt with writing on it, dirty jeans and his bean adorned by a greasy baseball cap and I will probably get thrown out for verbal assault.

As I see companies trying to clean up their employees, putting dress codes back in place, requiring hair to be a natural human color, not hiring people who got obsessed with looking like a tatted native of some remote African tribe. I take solace that I have held on to my belief that people who look like they care about themselves make better employees and achieve more for themselves. Perhaps I will live long enough to see us come through the age of the slob. I did live through the age of Aquarius. Hippies were in fact not flower children. God I loved pin stripes. Still do. Hope springs.
Bottom line kids, stupid rules have to be made because people are stupid about appropriate workplace behavior and dress. Must have been reared by wolves who gave them a trophy for showing up no matter how they looked or acted when they got there.

One reason LinkedIn is so successful is everybody tells everybody their profile picture should look "professional". No s%#t.

The point of the post wasn't that people don't act stupid or inappropriate at work, that is implied, the point is there are better ways of changing behavior than enforcing arbitrary policies. Dealing with the offenders directly is the best course of action. Putting stupid rules in place simply disengages otherwise good employees, which as well all know, is bad for the bottom line. Dress codes are another story all together, they are necessary in many environments.

I am sure most people would agree dealing with the offenders directly and not having everyone else pay the price is ideal, but is it really practical in a time where many people are so litigous and wrapped up in entitlement? In attenpts to deal directly with employees one at a time, there would be an awful of time spent by supervisors and amagers that would use up resources in ways that take from said managers being able to focus on building and growing a productive work environment. People seem to want the rules in play when it gets them what they want, but not if it's one they see as negative.

And yes, drfess codes may be another story, but there is a pretty universal need for lots of the "stupid" rules as generally they are created due to employee's actions.

Let's take music. Bertha sits in the cube next to Mildred. Bertha listens to Christian music all day. Mildred is an atheist. Bertha doesn't play it loud but because the cubes are fairly open Mildred hears it all day and it irritates her that as an atheist she hears about Jesus all day. Ok, you move Mildred to another cube and Clyde next to Bertha. Clyde plays rap all day not too loud but Bertha thinks rap is an instrument of the devil so she turns hers up just one decibel. In the meantime Mildred complains her new cube is right under the ac vent, she now believes she was moved to an uncomfortable location because she is an atheist so she was targeted.
Bertha is called in and told she has to turn her music down. She does but now Bertha complains that she is being forced to hear music that has offensive words so she is targeted because she is a Christian.

Clyde is like the Honeybadger, he don't give a s%#t. He kind of thinks it's funny that Bertha is throwing a fit so he plays some really raunchy rap with the N word. Bertha is major league offended so she tells Keisha. Keisha makes it a point to walk into Clyde's cube to check it out. Sure enough the N word ,ho and biatch are keeping ole Cylde working at a fever pitch. Keisha is on her way to HR to complain that Clyde is playing racially offense music that she heard when she went to pick up a report. She demands that something be done.

Ok some people work better with music. Mildred is mad, Bertha is mad, Keisha is furious and Clyde is about to be counseled that racially offensive rap is inappropriate so he will know that Keisha complained. Now the Honeybadger is hot. How's that workin for you so far?

Let's do this. Anybody who wants to listen to music while they work use earphones. Great idea until none of them can hear their phone buzz, supervisor goes loooking for somebody because they aren't answering and finds five zombies plugged in working away who can't be reached by phone.
Supervisor heads to HR and says, " enough of this, we don't pay people to zone out to music all day. Everybody is irritated, earphones , they don't answer their phones. No more music in my group. Done. Now they all blame each other and the supervisor for a stupid rule.

But it doesn't stop there. Everybody in the legal dept happens to like classical so legal and Beethoven are humming along nicely until Bertha, Mildred, Keisha and the Honeybadger find out ( which takes at most two days) that legal doesn't have a no music rule ,off they go to HR.
Legal is told since purchasing has a no music rule they have to send Ludwig to the showers.

Head of legal is not happy when told that the head of purchasing insisted on the rule because of problems in his dept. so it goes to the executive committee where it takes about five minutes for someone to say. This is ridiculous we have a business to run. We are not paying people listen to music, if they can't work without music they aren't the type of employees we need. No music at work we have wasted enough time with this. It is difficult enough for people to work together without making music at work an issue.

And if you think this is a ridiculous story. That is exactly what happened at a medical services corp. in Dallas with 400 employees. Sometimes what appears to be a stupid rule is the only rule that can be made because all people are different so rules have to apply to everyone to keep differences from becoming a problem for everyone on some level.

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