Bosses are always implementing new rules. Usually, it's with the best interest of the company and employees in mind. But sometimes it's hard to imagine how they came up with such a misguided idea. Any bad rule will end up meeting backlash from employees, most likely with good reason. They're the ones that have to deal with the repercussions after all.
Check out the best stories about rules that backfired at people's workplaces. Content has been edited for clarity.
Record Breaking Backfiring Time
“The utility company I worked for hired a new human resources manager. One of the first new rules she implemented to ‘cut overtime’ was if you worked over one day, you came in late by the same amount the next day. For example, if you worked 15 minutes past your shift on Monday, you came in at 8:15 Tuesday. There were no exceptions.
The new rule went into effect Monday. Wednesday, a tractor-trailer accident resulted in my whole department working six hours after their shift. When the entire department came in at 3 pm the next day (yes I know that’s 7 hours but lunch hour is noon), EVERYONE was freaking out. The head honcho looked like he was ready to have a heart attack. The human resources manager was in his office getting yelled at.
The new rule was rescinded that day. The human resources manager didn’t last a year.”
They Tried To Fix What Wasn’t Broken
“The beach club I worked as a cabana boy at decided one summer to buy $40,000 worth of ‘club umbrellas.’
The old system was that you as a cabana boy had 30 to 60 families who you took care of in exchange for tips. One of your responsibilities was to carry whatever heavy beach equipment they brought, like Tommy Bahama chairs and umbrellas, from the cabana to the ocean and set it up. Then you’d carry it back up to the cabana at the end of the day. If you left chairs or umbrellas on the beach, the club supervisors would charge you a dollar per item because they would have to carry it to avoid the stuff from getting washed away, broken, or stolen by locals. It was a pretty fair and workable system.
The new system was that members still had their own chairs, but would request a number of umbrellas from the cabana boy. Obviously, they requested way more than they would ever need or buy themselves. The club umbrellas were extra heavy and exhausting to set up. We complained to management about this and a lot of other stuff, but they basically just ignored us. Well, that didn’t exactly inspire us to do them any favors, considering most of our pay came from the members.
Since all the umbrellas looked the same, we would just take the chairs and leave the umbrellas on the beach. No one would know who was supposed to be responsible for picking them up. The supervisors simply couldn’t get them all and almost all of them wound up broken or missing by the end of the summer. Whoops.”
Creativity Beat Out This Rule
“At the company I used to work for, we had a couple big trade shows per year that we went to, where most of the staff attended. For a long time, the rule was that you could be reimbursed up to $30 per day for meals – you just had to turn in receipts afterward.
Well, inevitably somebody, Mike, decided that he would spend his per diem every day for a week on drinks, and turn those receipts in. He got reimbursed, but there was a new policy implemented: From there on out, you could only submit two ‘drinks’ per day for reimbursement. I think you can probably figure out where this is going.
Some fought the rule by simply going to ‘dinner’ late, getting their check before the clock struck midnight, then opening a new tab, allowing them to have more than two drinks on the company in a single sitting. But that was for amateurs since the rules didn’t specify your receipts had to be from some kind of restaurant. People would often go to the grocery store to buy snacks, protein bars to nosh on during the day if they couldn’t grab lunch and whatnot.
Turns out that you can get two big 1.75-liter plastic bottles from the bottom shelf at the store AND order off the Value Menu at the McDonalds drive through for less than $30.”
The Forced Lunch Break
“My job punished me for not taking my lunch. This was in Utah, one of the states out there that doesn’t even require you to give your employees lunches so this makes it even more absurd. The problem was they didn’t want to cross-train others who were there to cover my role of loading up trucks with gasoline product. So I was busy as could be non-stop with no backup. I often didn’t even have time to stop for lunch or I’d get put back to work about 20 minutes into lunch. All of a sudden, they were looking at causes of overtime and how to cut down on OT spent, I find my timecard for the pay period has been cut back to reflect all these hour lunches I never got. I raised a big fuss about this and pointed out it was illegal. They told me there is no reason I can’t take an hour lunch every day.
They regretted it when I’d lock myself up in my little outside shack for an hour and refuse to open it or come out regardless of what trucks showed up if I was already on lunch. Once that became a big issue, I simply just left and stayed gone for an hour and refused to answer my phone. About several months into getting sick of ignoring my phone for a whole hour, I found it to be a great source of amusement answering it and telling them, ‘Sure, hang tight! I’m heading back in to work right now!’ I would proceed to sit there and not bother returning to the property until an hour lunch was well over while they all waited eagerly thinking I was on my way back right now.”
An Unnecessary Precaution
“When I worked at a spice factory, they started adding a bunch of extra safety measures like hard hats and goggles. Then, they made it so that every person on the factory floor needed to wear cut-proof gloves. Now, these gloves were very bulky on their own, but if you were in hand pack, where you don’t interact with any sharp objects except occasionally safety knives to open boxes, you were supposed to put latex gloves under the cut-proof ones AND over the cut proof gloves. This made your fingers close to impossible to move properly.
In hand pack, we were packing bay leaves into small jars. We needed to hit a certain amount of jars an hour. Well our numbers started dropping dramatically after the glove rule because it was close to impossible to shove the bay leaves into the jar in a timely fashion when your hands are two times larger than usual. The administration couldn’t wrap their heads around why, even though our supervisor was very vocal about how ridiculous it was.”
The Entire Staff Stood By Her
“I worked at a very famous fast casual restaurant. The manager declared that after closing, the front door would not be unlocked to let people in for any reason.
Two creeps that had been in my section, who the manager had refused to deal with, were waiting for me in the parking lot at like 2 am. I tried to go back inside and he reminded me of his rule and would not bend to let me in. The rest of the closing staff quit on the spot to walk me to my car. He had to beg us all to come back the next day otherwise he would have to explain to corporate why he had no cooks or servers during the holidays.”
Other Places Were Happy To Have Them
“I used to wait tables in college. It was a very popular hangout for business professionals, movers and shakers, etc. The restaurant/bar was always very busy and the ‘in’ place to be. After work, the staff would frequently drink in the bar. We paid full price for drinks and any food we ate. We shared tables, danced, and socialized with the patrons and everyone was happy. Except for the owners.
The owners decided we were cluttering up the place and ‘reserved’ a special table for us. It was upstairs behind the dirty laundry pickup station. So we all decided we really didn’t need to spend our money there if we weren’t wanted. We moved to another bar for our after-hours fun. And we took all those movers and shakers with us.
The restaurant went out of business about six months later.”
The Damage Was Done
“One of my previous employers introduced a new rule to tackle people being late on the production floor. If you were late 5 minutes, they’d suspend your salary by ½ hours. If you came in 10 minutes late, the suspension was a full hour.
I don’t think I need to explain what happened next: anyone who knew they’d be late for whatever reason stopped rushing to work. They’d just come one hour later, as the damage was already done.
As a result, there were even bigger delays when the work shifts were changing.”
A Very Short Lived Policy
“It was a call center. Management felt there had been too much socializing happening on company premises. They implemented a rule that staff must leave immediately after a shift and doors were to be locked until ten minutes before the first shift in the morning.
However, they didn’t delegate any of the key-holding managers to come in and unlock the door at 6:50 am. The next morning the first of them turned up at 9 and found us milling around outside, unable to get in. The client company was not happy.
That policy lasted one day.”
“Three years ago, while working at a large resort in Colorado, our general manager decided to stop hiring the outside company we used for Christmas decorations. Instead, he made all of us managers sign up for multiple 2-hour blocks to decorate since most of the decorations we owned in-house. Well…we were a lodge style resort with rafters ALL OVER. This meant fluffing and decorating multiple trees for our 30,000 square feet of meeting space and hanging the icicle lights with a heavy-duty stapler on every stupid rafter. Nobody wanted to do this. Not even the engineering crew. We all had so much to do in this period like preparing for banquets and holiday parties each night, sales coordinating the banquets, the front desk was crazy busy, etc.
So we all decorated. Nobody said how good it needed to look. The front desk manager stapled his thumb. He had to be out of decorating. It took twice the time to check people in when he was on the desk. The sales department decorated trees on only the outward facing sides, and awfully I might add. The ornaments were so sparse it looked like a tree decorated in a halfway house. People found these old Peanuts Christmas decorations from probably 20 years ago in the basement that were unanimously decided to be placed all over. It was a 4-diamond resort with Snoopy and Charlie Brown all over. The one thing I did that was cool was I made a bottle rack advent calendar. I told them I gifted a cheap bottle each night to a random guest who had a pretty high check. I tried it once and the guest was weirded out and thought I was messing with them so I just gave them out to my friends at home.
Needless to say, the general manager was furious. He couldn’t discipline everyone so we hired the company back and everyone gloomily went back to their normal jobs.”
A Roundabout Way Of Handling This Situation
“My past workplace was a job training program for urban forestry and landscape construction, which meant that we did a lot of work outside in urban green spaces. Due to the prescription painkiller crisis, over the last few years, my coworkers and I noticed an extreme increase in the number of used paraphernalia lying about the areas we worked. This was obviously a huge health and safety hazard.
We advocated for over a year to get protective equipment and policies in place to protect us and our inexperienced trainees. Our management took their typical head in the sand approach and claimed it wasn’t a real problem, and that we should just get the work done. Eventually, I threatened to report them to OSHA. They created a safety plan that ignored many of the practical things we were asking for, like a sharps kit. Instead, we were instructed to stop all work within 15 feet of a used needle or other potentially infectious materials. Of course, this meant that we couldn’t do work in about 80% of the areas that we had contracts for. They ended up losing months of productivity.”
“It Was The Most Heartless Thing I Have Ever Heard”
“I worked at a call center. Whenever someone called customer retention to cancel their service, you would lose a point if you could not talk them out of it. The people with the least points lost got more hours.
So whenever people called with a legit excuse like ‘I am moving’ the phone agents would hassle the caller to try and make them stay or give them the run around so they would get frustrated and just give up. Once I was on the phone with a lady and she wanted to cancel her service. I asked her why and she said, ‘It was for my mother and she has died.’ I gave her absolutely no pressure to stay or change her mind. She sounded like she was having a hard enough time as it is.
After the call ended, I got a message from a supervisor that had been listening to my call. They randomly listen to our calls from time to time. He wanted to know why I did not try and get her to stay with them. I said, ‘The service was not for her it was for her mother and she died.’
His response was the most heartless thing I have ever heard: ‘You should have made her send us proof of death, that can take over a month to do, and that’s another bill for us. Or try to convince her to keep the service in memory of her mother, it’s all about delaying the customer until after their next bill.’
After my shift was over, I gave them my two weeks notice. As a final ‘stick it to ya’ move, they changed my schedule to all early morning shifts from 6 am to 2 pm for both of my last weeks. I told my boss I had made a mistake. I took back my letter saying I would still come in for the next two weeks, left, and never came back.”
Turns Out He Was Wasting The Least Time
“My boss didn’t like that I would go out regularly for a few puffs. It was a family owned business and I ran it for him. He was still working with us, but I was the hiring/firing guy and the office manager and could pay employees with the company credit card they gave me. It goes to say that I have a lot of responsibility within the business.
He came to me one day and said I took too much free time and I needed to clock out whenever I left my desk. I was going out about once an hour for literally under two minutes and never took my 15-minute breaks.
The next two weeks, I clocked every employee in and out every time they stepped away from their desk for non-work related things. This included the owner and his wife who both worked with us and didn’t make a salary so they could skimp on taxes and give themselves overtime each paycheck.
I’m happy to say that was not an issue for very long and ended very quickly. I made my point that I was not a time thief and I was a good worker. To be fair, I was taking more time than my lunch and two 15 minute breaks allowed. But, out of the 8 employees, I was 3rd to last on the list of abused time management. The owner’s wife and the two sales girls were the worst, followed by the designer, the owner, and then myself.”
Two Days Off Turned Into A Lot More
“In college, I worked at a department store. I was a pretty good employee. I always showed up on time and never called off. I always did the right thing. I folded and cleaned while others just sat around, disappeared, or goofed off. I didn’t ask for crazy accommodations with my schedule. So some sort of formal rolled around. I requested off that Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was to attend. Sunday was to recover.
I was informed that there was a new policy and sales associates could no longer request off two days in a row. I was not guaranteed either. They would not give me a decision. I just had to wait until the schedule came out. I got the schedule. I was on it until 4 on Saturday and schedule for open to close on Sunday. I worked that Saturday until 4 but wasn’t happy about it. I decided that they needed me more than I needed them. So if I woke up feeling good enough to go in to work on Sunday, I would. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t.
I didn’t feel good Sunday morning. So I stayed in bed. I got a call from the manager shortly before my shift. The manager wanted to know where I was and when I would be there. Then she emotionally unloaded on me. I told her she could enjoy covering for me for the rest of the week because not only was I not coming in for this shift that I had requested not to work, but I would also not be coming in for my remaining shifts.”
Attention To Detail
“A place I used to work had a guy that was a little skittish. They were trying to reign him in as he was often seen wandering around rather than working.
They asked him to keep a log of the time he did things and what he did. They had a great laugh at the log when it also indicated when he went to the toilet and when the door was locked because someone else was in there. He even wrote down how long people took until they vacated the toilet for him to use because he would wait outside the door rather than go to one on another floor or go back to his desk.
Management had to reiterate what the log was for. The guy was let go a week later. I tried to help him out but some people don’t even help themselves.”
Trading One Problem For Another
“My brother’s friend works at a large company where safety is a ‘top priority,’ even in corporate offices, to the point of absurdity. After an employee fell down some stairs, the company instituted a rule that all employees must use the handrails at all times.
Signs were posted in stairwells, reminder emails sent out. The idea was scrapped after a record number of employees came down with the flu.”