Enforcing Work Rules Consistently in the Workplace

Letting workers contribute to workplace policies can boost morale.
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It might be surprising to know that the rules in your office are not just there to keep employees safe, they're also there to keep your business afloat. Good workplace rules keep your business running smoothly and can also help you avoid lawsuits or costly injury claims. If you don't already have a set of written rules in place, get started right away. If you do, make sure you're enforcing them in the same way for all employees.

Know the Rules

    Before you can enforce the rules, employees need to know exactly what those rules are. Good rules for a workplace should be ones that are necessary, reasonable, in compliance with existing laws, beneficial to employees, and are clear and easy to understand, advises the University of California-San Francisco. If you don't already have written rules, make it your priority to devise the key words that will safeguard your organization. If you already have rules in place, review them from time to time to make sure they continue to meet your criteria.


    In order to enforce work rules consistently, you not only need a set of rules to follow, but a set of consequences that result when someone doesn't follow the rules. Review your rules to ensure the consequences are spelled out for breaking them. This may be different for every workplace, but a common way to handle consequences is to offer a verbal warning for the first offense, a written warning for the second, send the person home without pay on the third, and fire the person for the fourth offense. Creating a set of consequences makes it easier to enforce the rules consistently, since there's a set protocol for each instance of rule-breaking.

Post the Rules

    Once you've established your rules and their consequences, you need to make sure all employees are aware of them. Post the rules in a number of different locations, such as in the employee handbook, on posters around the workplace, or on an internal page of the company website. If you're just getting started with initiating a set of rules and consequences, hold an employee meeting to discuss the rules, and allow employees to weigh in on other things to add. When employees are involved in the process, they should be more accepting of the rules, advises the Business Owner's Toolkit. This may also mean fewer complaints about inconsistency. Ask every member of the staff to be an enforcer and monitor of the rules, so not all reports and consequences come from management.

Playing Favorites

    If you're following your company's set of rules and following through on the consequences, you may avoid being accused of not enforcing the rules consistently. If you have "buddies" at work or people with whom others would say are your "favorites," it's especially important to enforce your rules and consequences equally for everyone. Favoritism is poison for morale in the workplace, says Joan Lloyd, a Milwaukee-based executive coach and organizational and leadership development strategist. By clearly defining rules, following through on consequences for all employees and not glossing over the mistakes of "favorites," you'll help your business run more smoothly.

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