Follow the Rules and Save the Tears

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    My family and I spent the weekend at an indoor water park. It ended up being a great weekend that everyone enjoyed. However, it was not without tears and frustration for my youngest son when he was advised on the last day of our stay that in order to go down a certain slide, he had to sit up straight and hold on the handles on the front of the raft. Now my son is definitely not the type to cry when he doesn’t get his way. In fact, he is the rule follower in the family and gets upset when others break the rules. The problem with this situation was that he had been going down that same slide without having to sit up straight the entire day before. When we explained this to the lifeguard on duty, she responded that she had to follow the rules and that failing to go down the slide in the proper way could result in injury. There was a similar situation at our local pool in the summer when midway through the summer, a lifeguard said that he wasn’t tall enough to go down a slide he had going down for two months already. Apparently, there was an inspection during which it was found that the measuring stick was mislabeled and he actually didn’t meet the height requirement. Luckily, he passed the swim test and the summer was saved, but not without some tears.

    The problem in both situations come down to rule following. There were lifeguards who bent the rules and lifeguards who followed the rules. Unfortunately, the rule followers got stuck with the tears and apologies, while the rule benders got smiles. The same situation happens so often in the workplace. As an HR professional, you know the scenario. One manager lets their employees wear jeans to work even though the handbook states that they are prohibited. The manager may see it as a perk and thank you to his employees or he may just like jeans himself. Either way, it makes the manager who follows the rules the bad guy. They (or the HR pro) get the tears and complaining and statements about fairness. Further it sets the stage for larger issues. Not following rules consistently can be an attorney’s greatest advantage in his suit against you.

    If you make the rules, follow them. If they are strict or don’t make sense, change them. If you don’t love them but can’t change them, follow them anyway.

    For more resources, See the Human Resources library.

    Sheri Mazurek is a training and human resource professional with over 16 years of management experience, and is skilled in all areas of employee management and human resource functions, with a specialty in learning and development. She is available to help you with your Human Resources and Training needs on a contract basis. For more information send an email to or visit Follow me on twitter @Sherimaz.