Turn Silly Policies into Serious Productivity

Orin Davis
3 min readOct 11, 2016

Policy exists because someone was a moron

It doesn’t matter which state you pick — there are some hilariously funny blue laws on the books. Almost everyone who takes a look at them ends up wondering about the crazy stories and idiotic humans that must have incited the passage of such ordinances, and no one can imagine that people actually still make such crazy policies…until they look at the rules of their workplace. Some of it is utterly illogical, like casual Fridays (if you can wear it on Friday, you can wear it on Monday!). Some of it is freaky, like the snoop software companies put on your computer so they can play KGB. And some of it is just odd, like banning Facebook on the computers when your personal smartphone is perfectly capable of checking your newsfeed.

Why companies do it? The answer almost always involves the policy-maker knowing someone who was an idiot. There’s the person who doesn’t know how to dress for work, and the person who spends all day watching videos online, and the person who surfs social media and gets completely distracted and unproductive. In all cases, there is an erroneous conception that the one twit is representative of all the good, talented employees who got through the company’s recruitment system.

Since that’s an asinine assumption, the real question is why the rule-makers think that creating policies will keep intelligent, qualified people from trying to take breaks or use verboten escapes from dull work and low morale . At best, stupid rules incite people to work around them and think less of the company while they’re at it, and at worst they lower morale further and leave employees feeling infantilized and in search of an adult job. And, when people can’t take a break on their own terms, it’s not a break!

Turn Policy into Productivity

Instead of making silly rules, or doing the sillier thing of enforcing them, make sure employees are in a position to do what you pay them to do. Here are some good questions to ask:

  • Do employees experience workplace engagement? Do they go the extra mile? Do they volunteer information?
  • Do employees have the opportunity to do good, meaningful work that is consistent with their knowledge, skills, and interests? Do they understand the role they play in the company, how they create value, and why that value is important?
  • Do employees work in a context that is conducive to the tasks they do? (Consider aspects like dress codes, seating arrangements, privacy, breaks, and the like.)
  • Do employees get appropriately rewarded for the work they do and the effort they put in?
  • Does the hiring system appropriately screen for talented people who fit the company culture?

If the answer to any of these questions is in the negative, it’s time to update the work, the company, the reward structures, and/or the hiring system. One of the first steps you can take is to look at the position descriptions and make sure they accurately reflect the jobs, and likewise to look at how candidates are assessed. From there, you can start implementing job crafting exercises for all of the employees so that they can customize their jobs to their knowledge, skills, and interests in a way that creates value effectively. In the process, you can check with employees about the resources and contextual factors they believe are key to doing their jobs well, and provide them. Finally, you can update the reward structures so that good employees get better bonuses (this need not be expensive!).

Once you’ve accomplished that, start publicizing your company’s job board.



Orin Davis

Self-actualization engineer who makes workplaces great places to work. PI at Quality of Life Lab (www.qllab.org). Consultant. Professor. Startup Advisor.