Workplace Rules That Sent Workers Into a Panic

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Workplace rules are nothing new in businesses around the world. A lot of the time, they go pretty far in helping to maintain order and professionalism. But sometimes, workers get slapped with some new rules that almost break the system.

These hardworking people on Reddit talk about some perplexing workplace rules they have to obey. From banning items to automatically extending hours, these rules didn’t sit well with many people who were punching in for another day at work.

Swear on Your Life

At my old job, HR held a meeting to tell us that there was too much swearing on the sales floor. Someone raised their hand and pointed out that swearing is very common in our industry and that’s the way that our customers speak. HR later sent out a memo explaining that swearing should be limited to conversations with clients. It was amazing.

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Who Wears Short Shorts?

The dress code policy is just dumb at my work. Different positions have different requirements, even though we all work in the same office. My favorite rule though is the one on shorts. We can wear shorts on Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day. However, the shorts can’t have pockets on the side. It was written to discourage ratty cargo shorts. But the way in which it is written allows me to wear gym shorts. So I do.

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Music to Their Ears

One old job of mine was in a warehouse. Our stations were pretty far apart, so when we’d listen to music we’d all usually have our own stuff playing. It wasn’t a problem since you could barely hear the neighbors’ music. Well, the CEO didn’t like hearing multiple songs when walking through the warehouse. He made a rule that we all either had to listen to the same music or none at all.

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Mightier Than the Sword

I once needed a pen and figured this was a reasonable ask. I went to the supply closet on my floor, which was locked. I asked the floor’s admin, and she told me to go to the main supply room in the basement. I went to the basement and explained my situation of needing a pen. They told me all requests for supplies must be approved by my department head. The problem was, being new, I’d never met my department head. She also worked in San Francisco (I worked in Milwaukee), so I needed to send an email both introducing myself and asking her if I had permission to get a pen from the supply closet.

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Time Is Not on Their Side

At my work, if you’re one minute late it counts as a tardy. If you take a half day, nothing goes on your record. I was told to just take a half day if I was going to be late because they straight-up fire people for tardies. Also, if we clock out early, it counts as a tardy. If we have to go to the doctor on lunch break and it’s going to take 10 minutes longer than our allotted break time, we just take the rest of the day off. Weird.

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Third Time’s the Charm

We have to do all of our paperwork at least three times. There’s a copy of it in our personal folders, a copy online and a copy in our store folders. Not only does it waste time and paper, but forgetting to do one has gotten at least one person fired. They did the other two identical pieces of paperwork confirming that yes, they did take out the trash, and yes, they did check the store voicemail, but how dare they forget to do the third piece of identical paperwork? Our weekly visits from corporate revolve around whether or not we’ve all done this paperwork. It’s so redundant.

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Nature Calls, Queen

All the extra toilet paper in the building has to stay in a single closet where it can be overseen by the toilet paper queen. I heard her shrieking the other day when she discovered someone had “hoarded” one spare roll of toilet paper upstairs so the people who work upstairs wouldn’t have to walk down multiple flights of stairs when the toilet paper ran out.

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There’s No Crying at the Office!

When I was in the military I saw a buddy of mine sitting outside crying. I went and consoled him as best as I could — apparently he was just depressed and unhappy. After he was feeling a bit better I went to go and find someone to tell them what was happening. They knew. In fact, he had been crying so much lately that they had instituted a “no crying at your desk” policy — which is why he was outside.

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Color Me Surprised

I worked as a call receiver. We never saw customers. We were only on the phones with them. Rule: Your hair must only be a natural color. I dyed my hair the same exact color that someone from a different shift had. I was reprimanded. I told them that if the rule is not enforced for everyone, they couldn’t single me out. Their reasoning for letting the other person have that color but not me? Mine was my real hair, dyed an “unnatural” color; hers was a weave that could be changed very easily.

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Really?! Then why hadn’t she been asked to change her hair? They gave up trying to convince me they were in the right.

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A Stain on Their Schedule

I work in retail and we have “on call” shifts. Your name will be listed on the schedule for a certain time as a call-in, so you have to call one hour before your shift to figure out if they need you to work for the day. For example, you would be listed as “on call for 2 p.m.” and wouldn’t know until 1 p.m. if you were working that evening. If you don’t call in, it’s considered “not showing up for a shift,” but there’s no extra pay for the shift whether they need you or not.

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So for three days of the week, I don’t know if I have to work or not. I can’t make any solid plans to do anything except call my work and ask if they need me. I can’t imagine having children or elderly relatives that need taking care of. It would be such a hassle to arrange care for them just an hour before having to work.

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What Kind of Cake?

I worked at a place where HR wasn’t allowed to tell us if someone was fired. It was a big enough place that you might not immediately realize someone had left, and, when you found out, you weren’t supposed to ask why. So, if you wanted to know if they were fired, you asked, “Was there cake?” Which was to say that, if the person had retired or left on good terms after a number of years, they would be given a party with cake. If they were fired, not so much.

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Not Sitting Pretty

There was an issue where there was too much “socializing” happening on the factory floor, particularly when people were working while sitting down (false — skewed supervisor perception), so they made everybody stand. When that presented ergonomics problems, they brought in these weird chairs that made you sit at a slant and had no backs or wheels, so they wouldn’t cause “distractions.” No part of it made any sense.

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Clean as a Whistle

We had a rule that said “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean,” which fairly obviously meant if there was no work to do then we should be cleaning things. It was at an aircraft servicing station that was fairly small, but we needed a crew of at least three people for larger planes. The problem was that sometimes there were just no planes, so there was no work. We would clean for a couple of hours and then just run out of stuff to clean, but according to management, that was no good — we had to be busy! It got to be that we would fight over work when it came in because everyone was so bored, and finding busywork was much, much harder than just working.

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I remember getting the crew together to pick up pebbles off the taxiway for a couple hours. There’s an old joke in aviation — “Go sweep the taxiway!” — so we actually did it.


Tale of the Tape

The weird rule? No scotch tape. On anything. I was a teacher, and the principal wouldn’t allow it in the building, threatening adding letters to our files for insubordination if she saw it on our desks. We could only use painters tape, which by design is meant to not stick very well. I hung posters in my room with circles of duct tape on the back side, with strips of painters tape on the front side just for show. Subtle, petty insubordination.

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Funny How the Rules Change

For a while, we were going through a lot of bandages and my manager was tired of buying them. So, she locked the last remaining bandage in the safe (we had to have one; it was required by the health inspector). No one was allowed to use it if they cut themselves. I worked at a fast food joint where people could knick themselves on knives, tomato slicers, sharp edges, etc. If you cut yourself, you just dealt with it or openly bled. The rule changed pretty fast though when she cut herself while using a box cutter and we had no bandages in the store.

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That Pencil’s Gonna Look Tasty

You couldn’t eat at your desk. The team managers, however, were pretty tolerant — on a hot day they would sometimes even hand out popsicles. The regulation people (who were especially in charge on the weekends, when no team managers were around) were very strict with this. A colleague of mine was shouted at because she ate a small pretzel, which was her breakfast. Then again, some colleagues would casually eat a whole pizza or kebab while making a huge mess.

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A Little Too Clean

At my first job, we had a “clean desk policy” — in other words, “have nothing on your desk besides what you’re currently using.”

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I, and a few others working in IT, often had to set up computers and laptops while also taking on support tickets at the same time. And we had no spare desks to use as a “lab” so we couldn’t set anything up anymore. We’d have to leave the office to do that part of our job. So we no longer could take calls or tickets. We just kind of messed around in the tech area, because otherwise, we’d have to climb stairs up and down every time we were going to work on some new machines.

I told all of this to the superiors; they held fast. The price was an untold number of tickets building up, new users not getting their machines in time and a general decrease in productivity…ultimately leading to the company failing.


Disrespect to Their Art

Our workplace started a friendly Post-it war with the office across the street. It went on for about half a day. Honestly, all of the pictures were safe — super-basic stuff. The pieces were getting pretty good too and it was clear both offices were having a blast thinking of the next fun design.

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Our CEO walked by around 4 p.m. that day, saw the Post-it art and asked what it was. We exclaimed, “Oh just a Post-it war with that office! Would you like to join us in the next mural?” She said she didn’t get it. She didn’t get the concept of the Post-it war. So, we spent a few minutes trying to explain what it was about: You make art out of Post-it notes on the window, and whoever has the best mural wins. Pretty simple stuff. She kind of laughed it off, but it was clear to all of us that she still didn’t quite understand why someone would do it.

The next morning, an office memo was on every desk saying that no one was allowed to put Post-its on windows. We had to take all of our art down. When we asked the office manager what we did wrong, she explained that the CEO quite literally still didn’t understand it and banned Post-its for that reason.


Water Cooler Talk

I work for the federal government so there are tons and tons of rules, and most of them are there for good reasons. The one I really hate, though, is that we have to pay to join the “water cooler club” to use the water cooler. It’s like $30 every month or two. I mean, I get it. Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for extravagant purchases, and there are certain perks you get in the private sector that you don’t get in the public sector (and vice versa). I just don’t think it’s the height of decadence to want decent water. They say we can just use the fountains, but the fountains are disgusting. This isn’t the local post office, either. This is a major department’s main building in D.C.

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Perfect for That Indecisive Customer

Grocery store here. We’re not allowed to make an announcement that we’re closing or now closed or to confront a customer about being closed. Apparently, the CEO was in one of our stores past our closing time when a manager in the store made an announcement to the customers (who were still shopping many minutes past closing).

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The CEO didn’t like it because customers matter way more than employees going home. So now it’s banned, and we have to stay in the store and deal with still-shopping customers even 30 or 40 minutes past closing. Some people know we’re about to close and do it anyway.

So now what we do is make an announcement to any night shift employees to make their final purchases. It doesn’t really work.


Hatred for Logos

I work for a small company (fewer than 10 employees) that distributes textiles. The company name is the founder and CEO’s name. Nothing in the office is allowed to have a brand label. Any food brought into the building must be repackaged in a bag or foil, and every morning I have to pour my lunch soda or coffee into an unmarked mug before walking in. All boxes are turned inside out and taped back together. She hired someone to file the brand logos off of the computers and appliances. Cleaning supplies have labels carefully peeled off or are rebottled in generic containers. The exceptions to the rule are the fire extinguishers that are rotated so that the labels are not visible.

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Earn Your Stripes

Last year I worked in a factory job where it was pretty common to wear sweatpants. The sweatpants were fine, but management suddenly instituted a new rule that said we weren’t allowed to wear sweatpants that had more than one stripe running down either side of the pants. When we asked HR why, they simply said, “Uh…we don’t know.”

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The Stuff Hits the Fan

I worked in a gasket factory that gets extremely hot, even during the winter. For years, workers asked for fans but never got them. Instead, most workers brought their own fans, and that worked fine for a decade.

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Then a new plant manager took over, and he banned fans because “if a gasket falls on the power cord, you could be electrocuted.” Never mind the hundreds of other power cords lying out around our workspaces. Fans were the only thing that could kill you, apparently.

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Charge Up Before Work

The rule is no USBs under any circumstances. We can get fired even for just charging our iPhones. The funny part about this is that it is otherwise one of the most laid-back, overpaid and underworked workplaces imaginable. It’s nearly impossible to get fired no matter how lazy and incompetent you are, so long as you abide by the USB rule.

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Big Brother (and Sister) Are Watching

My last job wouldn’t let anyone leave the building. Not on your 15-minute paid breaks and not on your one-hour unpaid break. Once I climbed the corporate ladder a little higher, I found out that the many, many cameras we had throughout the building recorded not only video but also sound. The ownership team — a family made up of a brother and sister and their father — would review the tapes and use recorded audio to justify terminations.

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Example: An employee was terminated because they had her on video during her lunch break. She was talking to a coworker about how she was worried the company wasn’t doing well financially due to many layoffs and downsizing from a brand new shipping facility to one that was a quarter of the size. Our HR manager stated she was “inciting fear in other employees with the sole reason of creating chaos within the company.”

Now my state (as most others) is an at-will state, so legally they could have fired her because she looked at someone funny. However, it didn’t sit right with me ethically, so I left soon after.


Fashionably Late Deliveries

I’m a delivery driver for a grocery chain in the UK. The higher-ups recently implemented a rule where we aren’t allowed to deliver to any customers earlier than their booked hourly time slots and told us they would rather us be late. Why? Nobody knows. I just do not understand this rule. Literally 99% of customers like getting their orders early, and if they aren’t in we simply wait until the booked slot. This worked. This made sense. It meant if we were ever held up or really busy we wouldn’t be late to anyone as we’d be ahead of ourselves. These higher-ups haven’t ever stepped foot in a van, but boy do they love making up new rules.

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Family Comes First

At my job, it’s apparently a rule that you’re not supposed to leave to pick up your child if you’re a single parent and the school calls reporting the child is sick and needing immediate pickup. Also, it’s apparently perfectly acceptable to tell a single male he shouldn’t be allowed to be a single parent because it interferes with work and is immoral.

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Yeah. I had to literally tell management that I will name drop them directly to law enforcement if they keep me from my child, as it is super illegal to tell someone to abandon their child (I presume, at least). I’m not fired yet, but the gears are turning. I’m pretty sure I’m on the chopping block as a result.


Gotta Hold It In

I used to work in a call center. There was a rule that an employee could take a maximum of 10 minutes of toilet breaks per shift. If you went over 10 minutes, it was a breach. Three breaches in a month meant you didn’t get paid your sales commission for that month. So if you went over three times in the first week of the month, there was no incentive to sell anything for the next three weeks.

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Can’t Stunt Its Growth

For the longest time, my casino would not allow men to have beards; they could only have goatees or mustaches. Well, they just changed the policy and it now says, and I quote, “You must grow your beard on your days off.” A sassy coworker of mine sent our director an email asking how he was supposed to stop his beard from growing while at work. Our director did not find this funny.

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What’s in a Name?

Everyone has to have a different name. If you’re a new hire and someone is already using your name, even if it isn’t their real name, you have to choose a new “work name.” The boss’s name is Allen, so when an employee named Allen came on, he had to use his middle name, Darrell.

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Then we hired another guy whose first name was Darrell, so he decided to go by his last name, Morgan. So the real Darrell had to use a different name because, even though that wasn’t anyone else’s actual name, it was someone else’s “work” name. No switching allowed. Now I’m just waiting for someone whose first name is “Morgan” to join up, and see where this goes next.