The field trip was nearly completed and my high school psychology class was finishing their lunch at a fast food restaurant. As students began to head out the door, making their way to the bus, I noticed that most had left their trash on the tables. To no one’s surprise, I called to them and explained that they were to make good use of the trash bins near the door; we would clean up after ourselves. And, when one said to me, “But, Miss Mullins, we will be taking jobs away from the people who do that,” I just smiled and waited until the job was done. To me, bussing my table at a fast food restaurant is like parking my shopping cart in the cart corral. I do both.
But, are those “rules”? (By the way, a “tellwut” survey reports that about 10% of Americans leave carts stranded in the parking lot. I am positive that the Pensacola percentage is much higher!!)
I was discussing this issue of “rules” with a friend and the following question came up: Is crossing the street in the middle of a block (instead of in a cross-walk) against the law? It seems dangerous and I remember clearly the lessons I received (at home and at school) on the issue, but, is it a “rule”?*
So many times, leaders find themselves enforcing “rules” that are “unwritten” or being pushed to establish new rules that seem to be trivial. It can be challenging, particularly when we have personal history with the matter.
So, let’s break it down. In the workplace, we need established standards and processes to ensure the work product meets the goal. Safety, compliance with law, adherence to professional standards, producing what was advertised, maintaining high quality and ensuring cost effectiveness are all good reasons for workplace rules. So, use all the resources available to you (including your workforce) to identify, draft, vet and revise “rules” for the workplace.
In all other areas, my recommendation is to have as few rules (written and “unwritten”) as possible. Allow for individual differences. And, rather than demanding others to follow your personal preferences, model the behaviors you want them to emulate. Teach by example. Train by demonstration. I love how Paul said it to the church in Thessalonica.
“We lived transparently before you so that you would know what sort of people we truly are. We did it for your sake, and you have modeled your lives after ours just as we are modeling ours after the Lord. You took to heart the word we taught with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, even in the face of trouble. As a result, you have turned into a model of faith yourselves…” (I Thessalonians 1:5b-7a, The Voice).
I know, the abandoned shopping cart, the trash left on the table and the wandering walker can be frustrating, but we shouldn’t lose your cool (or our jobs) by trying to legislatively recreate ourselves!
*Florida state law says that vehicles are to yield to pedestrians in cross-walks and pedestrians are to yield to vehicles in all other areas. (Local laws could have more stringent regulations.)