Monday, February 22, 2010

Minimize the Rules

One of our customers has an employee handbook that lists out 122 rules for employee conduct and performance. This encyclopedia is required reading for all employees which, aside from a few conscientious souls, none have ever read.  Yet management is always surprised at how often people break the rules.

Too many rules sends the message that you don't trust your employees. You are asserting your power to control their behavior. Some will automatically rebel.

Sadly, you'll catch all the dumb rebels but the smart ones will escape. You'll create an atmosphere of distrust that will breed disloyalty and sloth. Worse, you'll have Rules Lawyers that will work to game the system to their advantage.

Truthfully, you don't need lot's of rules:

  1. Respect everyone and treat them like you want to be treated.  
  2. Don't touch things that don't belong to you without permission.
  3. Make good decisions.
  4. Clean up after yourself.
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You know, pretty much the same rules as Kindergarten.

Maybe you want to add a rule about sick days or vacations. Maybe a computer use rule too. But don't add too many more. Try to keep it under 10 rules. Then post them prominently, not just in a manual.

Too many rules say you don't trust your workers. You're trying to control their actions and people resent that.  We all learned good behavior in grade school. If anyone can't work for you under 10 rules, then 100 won't make a difference either.  You don't want them around anyway.

How many rules do you have at work?

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