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If there's one thing I've seen repeatedly, it's dysfunctional offices. Most of the places I have resigned from have closed, and it's not a coincidence, either. A lot of the jobs I quit were too unstable, had toxic workplaces, or just had awful management over the years.
Though the places sucked, I have learned a lot through observing these companies. I've learned what are the worst management mistakes to make, what are the worst people to hire, as well as the many different signs your company is going under.
For me, the biggest sticking point I have are rules. I have seen a lot of great employees quit stable jobs because management put into place a handful of rules that drive good employees away.
As a former employee of dysfunctional workplaces, I want to send out a warning to management. These rules and statements will make even the most passionate employees quit.
"We don't offer rewards for top performers; it's company rules that we treat everyone equally."
One of the most obvious rules that drive good employees away is a companywide policy of not rewarding exceptional performance. If it's the rules that you will not get bonuses, raises, or even a shot at a promotion, why would anyone put in effort to stay there?
Good employees are hard to find and even harder to keep. If you act like they are replaceable, great employees will not stay long. In fact, chances are that they will leave the moment they get a better offer.
Running a business is a two-way street, but management often forgets that. Businesses cannot grow to a major corporation without top talent there. Top talent can't flourish without a business that treats them well.
Talent isn't always replaceable, so don't enact rules that it is.
"You can't use the internet for anything other than company business, and we're going to have to track every site you visit."
I have been in three companies that had this rule, and while it may seem to encourage productivity, it did anything but. The truth is that people have lives outside their jobs, and getting this heavy-handed with a utility as widespread as internet doesn't look good.
If anything, it tends to be one of the rules that drive good employees away. After all, we all have our own work processes. Constantly micro-managing is a great way to make even the most dedicated person throw their hands up and resign.
"We realize we're asking for top talent, but we need to hire you at $12 per hour, okay?"
No, not okay. That's exploitation, pure and simple.
If you have a hiring process that involves telling prospective employees that they have to be paid way under market, your company can't afford to hire anyone and shouldn't hire anyone. This is one of the hiring-end company rules that drive good employees away—and rightfully so.
You can't treat people like discount goods, because they aren't goods. They are people and they are the people who could make your company turn around.
Top talent will always eventually be aware of the value they bring to companies, and if you low-ball them, you'll end up watching them walk away.
"If you had a death in the family, we're going to ask for written proof."
True story—I once worked at a place where a coworker's father died. She told the CEO, who asked her for proof and then told her that she still might not get the day off.
This girl, dedicated as she was, had been there for years despite the terrible management. She got up and left that day. I don't think I've ever seen a person look as furious as she did that day.
I need not explain why these kinds of rules that drive good employees away are inhuman, right? It's a horrible assertion, and does little but insult the person who's sick or grieving.
"Our company policy is to count every minute. You don't *get* breaks here."
30 minute errand? Too bad. If you've ever had a boss who literally nickel-and-dimed you for every minute you spent in a bathroom during a performance review, you'll understand why this is one of the worst rules on this list.
Bad attendance policies like this regularly are mentioned among rules that drive good employees away. The worst part is that they don't even just drive good ones away; even mediocre employees will typically start looking elsewhere the moment that they notice this happening.
"No music on shift."
Studies have shown that music is actually beneficial to productivity and helps people calm down during high-stress times. If you are constantly telling your employees to avoid listening to music at work, you're driving them away—and probably driving their blood pressure up a bit.
"Formal business attire is required, regardless of whether you see customers at all."
Okay, I get it. There's a certain level of hygiene that we should expect, and there are certain wardrobe staples for every job interview. However, if your people aren't seeing customers face-to-face, there's no real point in expecting them to dress formally.
Speaking as someone who dresses eccentrically but is considered a top performer in their field, I can tell you that great talent doesn't always come in a business suit. In fact, some of the most intelligent people I know never wear ties to the office.
I've personally turned down job offers due to a wardrobe policy. I'm not the only one, either. This is one of the more superficial rules that drive good employees away, and trust me, most companies that implement it don't realize the damage their doing to themselves when they do.
"Personal phone calls, short breaks, and eating outside of the office are all prohibited."
If you haven't noticed, a lot of the company rules that drive good employees away tend to forget that people are human. It's not surprising that companies that treat people like robots do not tend to have good results. It's also not surprising that acting this way will end up giving your company a bad reputation with job seekers.
Most employees do best when they feel they have a good work-life balance. This includes giving them little things like lunch breaks, smoke breaks, and once in a while, letting them get personal phone calls during work hours.
Take those away, and you'll notice the morale plummet.
"Suggest something outside of what I would do? Insubordination."
Perhaps the worst rules that drive good employees away deal with stroking a boss's ego. These kinds of rules are the ones that get employees in trouble when they offer suggestions, make a point to tell employees their job is not to "suggest, but do," and may even limit an employee's bid for a promotion unless the manager greenlights it.
I call these rules "the manager is always right" rules. Why? Because the only reason they are around is to make the managerial team feel important. The manager isn't always right—just like the customer isn't always right.
These rules aren't just stupid, they are downright toxic to companies. Why hire people you never want to listen to? Acting like they do not have a right to voice concerns is a smart way to turn a healthy work environment toxic.
As someone who has seen this at work, I will tell you that you need to quit your job if this policy gets passed at your office. It will end up going downhill from there.
"HR is not about creating culture. It's for enforcing rules."
This is a very unhealthy way to view HR, and putting this into policy makes for one of the stupidest rules that drive away good employees. If you don't try to make a positive culture, all the HR work you're doing is a waste of time.
Great employees need great culture. As such, you need to make sure that the company you're trying to create will have the tools the best need to succeed.