Rules are an essential structure to keep organizations running efficiently. These rules may range from issues such as work hours, employee attire and behaviour, to personal computer usage and lunch breaks. Basically, they are there to help ensure that employees are treated fairly in exchange for working to the best of their ability.

However, if a company starts to impose too many rules, employees often feel stifled, even undervalued. This results in low morale and motivation that, over time, can kill productivity across the whole organization – the exact opposite effect to what those rules/policies hoped to achieve.

Let’s consider the consequences of implementing, even with the best of intentions, workplaces rules that end up impacting the company negatively.

Poor Employee Engagement

Employees feel engaged and invested when their opinions, talents, and ideas are put to real use. Unnecessary corporate rules end up diminishing that feeling of engagement, leading employees to feel that their employer doesn’t trust them to use their best judgment, which can lead to a sense of frustration and powerlessness.

This results in employees feeling less inclined to do their job, knowing their unique ideas and viewpoints won’t be valued, eventually driving the best, most creative employees away.


An overabundance of rules, processes, and metrics have been identified by modern managers as key choke points that keep organizations from getting things done. In many cases, this overemphasis ends up creating additional paperwork that leads to time-consuming meetings which add nothing to the organization’s ability to get things done.

Less Collaboration, Less Fun

Employees who are bogged down by rules are less likely to feel motivated to innovate and collaborate. When everything is already decided for them—how they work, when they take their breaks, when or even how they interact with coworkers and supervisors – employees stop feeling any ownership to their jobs and their roles. Concern over breaking any of the rules keeps employees occupied so much that they stop practicing creative collaboration—which is how some of the best ideas are born. Without no way to exercise their creativity, employee happiness suffers dramatically, significantly impacting the quality of work.

Rules for Making the Right Rules

What’s an organization to do, then? A company without rules is the way of chaos, and one with too many gets no work done. The key is to strike a balance, an incredibly delicate one. There need to be enough rules to create an inviting, civilized workplace but not so many that your employees view the workspace as a tyrannical kingdom.

A critical role can be played here by HR and senior managers, by taking out time to revisit older policies. If they continue to be relevant to the current work culture, keep them. Otherwise, eliminate or change anything that is deemed detrimental to employee engagement and productivity, to create a company beloved by your employees and the owners!