Most offices have rules. Some are reasonable while others are just plain stupid and have the potential to make a workplace unpleasant for employees. We take a look at some office rules that need to die in a fire.
Rules on a chalkboard image from Shutterstock
There are instances where Australian companies have enforced strange office rules. A Melbourne construction firm banned workers from bringing in canned tuna because of the odour. Mining conglomerate BHP Billiton made headlines a few years back for its draconian office rules such as no soup allowed in cubicles and stipulating that flowers can only be kept on the desk for a short period of time.
While these rules seem trivial and bizarre, it’s the ones that seem to have been normalised that we should look at more closely. Dr Travis Bradberry has a background in clinical psychology and is a writer on the subject of emotional intelligence. In an article in the Huffington Post, he outlined some “idiotic” office rules that drive everybody mental. He said that some organisations, in an effort to maintain order, put in place policies that usually kill employee morale.
“When companies create ridiculous and demoralising rules to halt the outlandish behaviour of a few individuals, it’s a management problem,” Dr Bradberry noted in the article. “There’s no sense in alienating your entire workforce because you don’t know how to manage performance. It makes a bad situation that much worse.”
Having worked in offices most of my life, some of the rules he listed struck a chord with me. These were ones I’ve seen in former workplaces that made me want to stay in bed in the mornings:
Restricting internet usage
It’s fine to block potentially harmful websites but companies have a tendency to become overzealous with restricting how employees can use the internet at work. It’s not uncommon for social media to be banned in some offices, mainly for productivity reasons, but Bradberry scoffs at this idea:
“People should be able to kill time on the Internet during breaks. When companies 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 companies 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.”
Strict attendance and leave policies
If you’ve had an anal manager who has made a fuss about you being five minutes late to work even though you regularly stay back at the office, you’ll know how frustrating that can be. Then there are companies that demand employees to submit medical certificates to justify sick days. While organisations are within their right to enforce strict attendance and leave policies, it shows that they have little trust in their workers.
Shutting down self-expression (personal items and dress code)
I remember one of my ex-employers pulling me aside one day to tell me that the way I dressed for work was too casual and asked that I get some professional attire. Dressed in jeans, a World of Warcraft t-shirt and Dr. Martens boots, I remember feeling embarrassed and indignant.
I thought about how illogical it was that I should be required to change the way I dressed given I don’t leave the office most days and if I ever had to meet with clients, I had a stash of business dresses I kept at work to change into. It was also at this company that I was told I had too many personal items on my desk (mainly geeky collectibles). I ended up becoming extremely unhappy in that job and left.
In Dr Bradberry’s opinion, it’s silly for organisations to dictate what employees can keep at their desks so long as those items don’t adversely impact the work environment (obviously, no nude calendars). As for dress codes in the office:
“They work well in private high schools, but they’re unnecessary at work.”
Bottom line is companies that put in place stringent work rules need to step back and think about whether or not they are necessary, how they will affect worker morale and whether they will make really make the office more productive.
Does your workplace have some stupid rules that need to be killed off? Let us know in the comments.