Best employers secret #3: Get rid of idiotic rules

Nik Penhale Smith

In the third of our instalments in the 7 secrets of the best employers, we discuss bureaucracy and how removing idiotic rules is a key element in becoming a best employer.

Senseless bureaucracy

In nearly every organisation that we conduct employee surveys with, we come across examples where employees have felt there to be senseless controls and bureaucracy. Unnecessary regulations prevent employees from using their own common sense, and are one of the quickest ways to create immense frustrations. Left unchecked, such frustrations very quickly damage engagement and commitment.

All of the high performing organisations we surveyed eliminate as many idiotic rules as possible, and ensure that they quickly address those rules that make life hard for employees. The majority of organisations have needless rules, but the question is: how should you deal with them?

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Eliminating idiotic rules

One of the best examples that we encountered, was from an organisation in the health industry.

For the organisation in question, it was important for them to enable employees to be able to alert senior management and HR of rules that were hindering their work. The organisation therefore decided that they would introduce a quick and easy way for employees to flag what they thought were idiotic regulations. In order to achieve this, the organisation built into their intranet a button known as the “Kafka button”.

The button gave employees a simple and convenient way to flag up senseless rules. Once an employee flagged up a rule, the board of the organisation in question promised the employees that the issues of the flagged rules would be discussed, and whenever possible, resolved. Such a pro-active approach thus helped the organisation to at very minimum explain the frustrating rule, and in most cases remove it, resulting in reduced employee frustration.

A fine line

One of the biggest dilemmas that organisations face, especially large ones, is the balance between regulatory compliance on the one hand, and allowing employees as much freedom as possible on the other. Organisations are faced with more and more legislation and regulation, and we increasingly see that they’ll be lambasted – for instance, through social media – should anything go wrong.

It has become increasingly necessary for organisations to prevent mistakes, whilst avoiding patronising employees. Creating a framework that gives employees enough freedom, but still keeps them inside the lines is an art. The challenge is to find this balance and whilst doing so, keep in perspective just how damaging the frustrations from idiotic rules can be.