I get it. Companies need to have some rules, but ‘brules’, that’s what leaders need to question.

Coined by Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley and author of The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, brules, otherwise known as ‘bullshit rules,’ is a term for limiting rules, largely unconscious, insidious limiting rules that a company or culture is holding that no longer serves the greater good.

Often they are rules someone invented in the past that no longer apply to the current situation or were created as lazy attempts at creating order or in a knee jerk response to the folly of one difficult employee who did something stupid.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s important to give structure to employees and to be able to maintain standards. What I have found working with dozens of companies however is that in nearly every case, upon closer inspection, establishing a new rule would be seen as management coming down hard and is potentially a narrow sighted, morale-killing way to address a small problem. The vast majority of the time, the problem needs to be handled one-on-one by the employee’s manager, promptly and efficiently.

Why get an entire workforce offside because one manager avoids conflict and doesn’t know how to manage performance and have a difficult conversation. It just makes stupid part of the whole system. What I would recommend instead is that leaders are given tools, coaching or training to support them in learning how to address such issues in a timely and efficient manner.

So what kinds of Brules am I talking about? There are so many but here’s three of the common ones I come across the most:

1. Limiting internet use.

We are living in the internet age. People should be able to connect to their online lives during breaks. When you take stupid measures to restrict people’s internet activity, it does more than demoralize and treat them like children, it can also limit their ability to do their jobs. In case you hadn’t noticed it’s rare to visit a library to do research nowadays, we all do it online. Checking the LinkedIn or Facebook profile of someone you just interviewed for example is a totally legit way to be using social media. With trust as a foundation in a culture allowing internet access is a non event.

2. Shutting down uniqueness and self-expression

Many organizations control what people can have at their desks and what they wear. Yep I worked at one of these and it almost killed me (no feather boas and tiaras allowed!)

A semi naked sexy calendar? On a worksite in strappy stilettos? Yep, I get it; they're a no go. But employers who dictate how many personal photographs people can display, whether or not they can use a water bottle, have a plant or put up their kids drawings at their desk is just ludicrous. (Hint these are people not AI robots). Again it comes down to culture, to leaders being able to address issues competently and confidentially and treating employees like trusted adults. Simple.

3. Crazy hoop jumping for attendance, leave, and time off.

You pay your people for the work they do, and the value they produce right? Seems not, many workplaces today still believe they pay people for the specific number of hours they sit shackled to their desk. And I thought slavery was abolished! When companies are unnecessarily strict in requiring documentation for bereavement and medical leave, it erodes trust and leaves a bad taste in employee’s mouths. True there have been instances where employees have faked a sickie to take a day off, but if you’re hired those kinds of people what does it say about your hiring and screening process or the level of engagement you have? Not the kind of culture you want to create. In a culture with trust and transparency people actually ask for a day off when they need it, some workplaces even allow mental health days, it can work.

What's the Take Away?

Take a look at your policies and rules - are any of them erring on the side of Brules? Can you remove or alter those that are unnecessary or demoralizing? You may find you keep the best people and increase the productivity and positivity at work.

What other policies and Brules drive you bananas? I’d love to know – share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Author's Bio: 

Keynote speaker and workplace futurist, Heidi Alexandra is without a doubt a leading authority on the topic of the power of unleashing individual’s unique strengths and power so they can volunteer their best work every day. Obsessed with helping leaders, organisations and entrepreneurs to create companies that balance people, planet and purpose with profit, she founded UQ Power – an executive development consultancy dedicated to rethinking and reimagining the workplace. You can download her free report Unleash Your Future Potential Now at www.UQPower.com.au