November 2012
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TD Magazine

Intelligence: No Whispering or Eating at Your Desk and Other Silly Workplace Rules

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A recent article by Allison Linn on Life Inc., MSN Today's website dedicated to depicting how the economy affects the lives of Americans, reports a slew of surprisingly real-life stories about wacky workplace rules.


The article prompted hundreds of readers "to share Dilbert-esque tales from the nation's cubicle farms and factory floors."

Some of these "strange, strict, and stupid" office edicts include:

  • the boss who wouldn't let people eat at their desks
  • the retailer who informed employees that they could not leave any reading materials in the break room
  • the worker who was told not to kiss a spouse or loved one in the company parking lot
  • the human resources department that informed an employee she could take only three bathroom breaks a day instead of her usual five or six
  • the worker who had to contend with a "no whispering" policy
  • the employee who wasn't allowed to befriend any co-workers
  • the company that required approval for speaking
  • the bosses who made employees get permission to use the bathroom, or even leave their desks

One way for managers to uncover how employees really feel about workplace policies is to ask them. Linn cites an article in The Wall Street Journal, "Doing Away With Stupid Rules," by Lisa Bodell, CEO of FutureThink LLC. Bodell recommends that employers invite their teams to brainstorming sessions and ask them, "If you could kill or change all of the stupid rules that get in the way of doing your work or better serving our clients, what would they be?" Likely this process will uncover many unnecessary, time-wasting, and truly annoying workplace directives.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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