What happens when you Make Rules?

Have you ever worked in a place where new rules and edicts were enacted almost daily?  How did that make you feel? What if instead of adding rules, they had spent that energy building trust?  Would rulemaking become obsolete?

Let’s walk through a scenario.  Your team has been working together smoothly for several months.  Then one day, a team member doesn’t update their status. It happens several days in a row.  What should the team do?

There are basically 2 options:

  1. Enact a rule.  Something along the lines of “Everyone must update their status daily.” And maybe even add some teeth, “Otherwise you will be ejected from the team, and face possible job loss.”  Perhaps you can even implement a tracking mechanism to run a report on anyone who hasn’t updated their status and have someone oversee that all status is updated daily.

  2. Build trust.  With love and compassion, the team gathers around the team member to find out what is going on.  They always updated their status in the past, what has changed? Suppose the team finds out that the team member is facing a health crisis and feels that status is not his top priority right now.  How would that change your stance?

What happens when you enact a rule every time something goes wrong?  First, you end up with a lot of rules. Second, you end up with tons of processes to check that the rules are being followed.  Folks, this is how bureaucracy happens.

Rules can create negative emotions.  I had a client that felt it was unseemly for people to be late.  We shared an elevator with the CEO and they didn’t want him to see stragglers showing up at 10:30 AM.  An edict came out that everyone needed to be in no later than 9 AM. As it turns out, the people who were showing up at 10:30 were running overnight data processing. Their response to the edict was, “You want me here at 9AM? Fine. But I’m not staying up all night then. I’m leaving at 5.” The result was a sharp decline of productivity and effectiveness for the whole organization.

Think about how you feel when a rule comes out that you have not been violating.  Do you feel insulted that anyone would think you needed a rule for that? What about if you were a violator?Do you feel misunderstood, as if the context was overlooked?

Dismantling rules.  Once rules are in place and a system develops to enforce them, it’s very difficult to dismantle.  There is fear that if there is no rule and no punishment, people will just go crazy and break the rules.  Is your team really so untrustworthy that without rules they will fall apart? If you answered “yes”, it may be worth peeling back the layers and finding out why your team is so untrustworthy.

A truth is a truth until you organize it, then it becomes a lie.
— Wayne Dyer

What do you think about rules?  Let our readers know in the comments!