Rules People Have Tried To Enforce That Backfired Spectacularly

Corporate woman at work at desk
Photo by Microsoft 365 on Unsplash

Most of us have worked somewhere or attended a school where there were some ridiculous rules in place.

Nothing might bring us more joy than to see some of those rules backfire.


To have a laugh, Redditor TabblespoonFarmer3 asked the sub:

"People of Reddit, what stupid rule at your work or school backfired beautifully?"

The responses their fellow Redditors came up with were simply glorious.

Micro-Managing the Clock

"A boss was worried we were 'stealing time' by using the bathroom for too long. So being the nutjob he is, he locked all the bathrooms in the building except the ones he could see from his office door, shut off water to them, put out-of-order signs on them, and he would sit there with a stopwatch timing us between walking into the restroom and walking out (these are all one-at-a-time restrooms) and then would call out the time."

"This was STUPID over the top and almost positive is illegal but he never made a policy officially restricting bathroom time... he just wanted to make everyone feel uncomfortable if they took too long."

"I discovered that with my height, it was really easy to go through the drop ceiling and over the half wall and I was the only other person using the men's besides my boss, who is short... so I went in... locked it from the inside and did my business and climbed out the ceiling leaving the door locked so my boss could not get into the bathroom when he needed to go and was forced to use the ladies... which led to our female employees complaining that he was taking too long in their bathroom."

"To this day, I don't know if he ever figured out how I was doing that."

- geoffbowman

"My boss started putting 'all staff required to start 15 mins earlier than indicated' on the roster. I started keeping track of my unpaid overtime and stung her for three paid days off. That’s not required anymore."

- muthaclucker

"I worked at this company that had mandatory 1-hour lunch breaks. Since we ate on the premises, our lunch break was often 15 minutes or so."

"We tried negotiating having shorter lunch breaks so we could leave earlier and beat traffic. The next day, an e-mail was sent from the owner stating the fixed work and break hours for the whole team, and they were to be followed with no exceptions."

"Cool! Next week, a big client called about halfway through our lunch, and nobody moved. It rang and rang until the said owner took the call, talked to them, and immediately came to scold us. 'Sorry, boss, as per your rules, we are off until 1 PM, no exceptions.'"

"A couple of weeks later, we did some work on-site for the same client. They were, to be honest, one of the coolest clients I ever had in my life."

"They took us out to lunch, and while talking we ended up relaying the owner's rule. They had a big chuckle over it, and while the project lasted, they made a point to always call while we were at lunch break just to annoy the owner."

- LGMHorus

"A place I used to work had a rule that executive-level staff needed to be contactable when on leave, so they had a section on the leave form for the address of where you'd be staying and a contact number."

"Some knuckle-shuffler in HR decided it applied to all staff and the shenanigans began. People would put down the address and phone numbers of sex shops, sports grounds, and medical clinics. I gave the latitude and longitude of the place I was going camping and the UHF frequency channel my radio would be tuned to."

- Flight_19_Navigator

"My company used to be a small startup. In my first year, I was the Project Manager and Architect for a global system rollout."

"I put in my vacation days for 'Burning Man' six months out (in February), and my PTO was approved. Then a few months later (~June) my boss (who had been head of the IT department) got a new boss (new head of IT)."

"With a month to go until 'Burning Man,' the new head of IT told me that my project rollout was too important for me to be uncontactable at all and that I would need to take a satellite phone to 'Burning Man' or my vacation would be canceled."

"We were still three months from going live but he decided that we were at a critical moment that I had to be available for."

"However, neither my boss or the new head of IT wanted to carry out the daily $18/minute satellite phone calls with me, probably because they knew it was violating some labor law. So they got one of the guys in the London office to call me in the Black Rock Desert each day."

"I said I wouldn’t take the calls before 1 PM, which was 9 PM for our man in London. Every day he called, he had had a few beers, and didn’t give a s**t about project updates, he just wanted to know what parties I’d been to and what art I’d seen."

- blue-mooner

Questionable Measures of Productivity

"Management decided that lines of code written per week were a good metric for determining software engineer productivity."

"You want a 3-line function stretched out into 50 lines? I’m your captain."

- smares21

"Not mine, but an old roommate of mine was a senior developer for a small company. It was an open secret that one of the other senior devs, a guy who had been there since the beginning, would sometimes spend time looking at plastic surgery photos, before and after shots, photos of active procedures, etc."

"He did it enough that people would poke fun at him about it, but he didn't seem embarrassed about it, and it wasn't harming anyone."

"Well, one day a project manager said something to the CEO about this guy's ongoing plastic surgery obsession, and the CEO flipped. He said that going forward, no one was allowed to use their work computers to access external websites AT ALL."

"Anyone who's ever been a developer knows that half the job is googling stuff, so this policy pretty much halted productivity in its tracks."

"It only lasted a day before the CEO retracted the rule, but let everyone know that their browser history would be monitored going forward. After that, no one really changed their behavior, they just started remotely accessing their home computers to browse instead."

- Salsa__Stark

"I worked at Starbucks for like 5+ years before and during undergrad and at one point our district manager thought it was a good idea to implement a 'just say yes' policy, where we literally weren't allowed to tell the customer no."

"It lasted for about three months and in that three months, our unaccounted product and waste went up over 300% because when the system didn't have a way to punch in a customer request we had to just do it anyway."

"We also got complaints from stores in surrounding districts because they had angry customers who were requesting things that were against local food service code, and told them that we did it for them at our store."

"I knew exactly how that policy was going to play out and I just laughed every time management was freaking out about the problems it was causing."

- yunglilbigslimhomie

"My spouse's workplace realized they didn't have a policy about sending sexual images or jokes as part of their email acceptable use policy, so they added it."

"Except they made it a firing offense to send or receive sexual content (I think the intent was to stop people from subscribing to such content). They also said that your access would be immediately revoked until a determination was made."

"So someone got fired for something else and decided to send their whole management chain a graphically sexual image, then report it using the anonymous tip line. IT got the report, concluded they did indeed receive sexual content and did as required: suspended all the involved email accounts, including the Senior Vice President's."

"The policy has since been reworded."

- loljetfuel

"The bottom floor of my secondary school was a square that had a corridor all the way around. After some incident where a kid got knocked over, they implemented a one-way system."

"Unfortunately, they were Very Strict on enforcing it. If you accidentally walked past your class, you couldn't just turn around. They seemed very proud of their new rule... until everyone started showing up late for class because they had to do extra laps of the bottom floor."

- FrosnPls

Saving Money

"My old workplace had a control freak bean (money) counter."

"At one point, she decided that any purchase of equipment must come with documentation showing that we had searched around the internet and could prove we got the best deal. Honestly, it was unenforceable, so our supervisor just told us to ignore it and that he’ll deal with the backlash."

"So one day, I had to buy some tools for the workshop, and I happened to come across a bunch of coolers on sale. It just happened that we needed coolers to transport stuff, so I bought one."

"I brought it back, we measured it and found it was the perfect size for what we had planned."

"It turns out that time, the bean counter was watching us. She came strolling into my supervisor’s office with a printout from Amazon and the boss in tow, saying that she had found a similar cooler for cheaper."

"My supervisor took a look at the printout. 'So you found a cooler that’s 2 dollars cheaper.'"

"'Yes!'"

"'How much time did you spend looking this up?'"

"'Just one hour of work.'"

"And you think [our employee] should have spent one hour of his workday shopping for coolers?'"

"'Yes!'"

"'You do realize we pay Rum $17 an hour? We needed three coolers. Right now, he grabbed those coolers while out on a supply run. And you’d rather have him spent an hour of his day, at $17 per hour... to save $6?'"

"'And while we’re at it!'" The supervisor pulls out a broken vice grip from under his desk. '... this is the Cheapo brand vice grip you approved. Now, this is fine for your regular at-home needs, but we’re a workshop and need some quality stuff. We have been using a Goodstuff brand vice for 3 years. Cheapo lasted six months. Do the math.'"

- Rum_N_Napalm

​"I worked for a consulting company, traveling Monday through Thursday somewhere in my country. We had a pretty good hotel allowance (enough for 5-star hotels) and a great rule: if you stayed with a friend, you got an allowance (about a third of the hotel allowance) to buy gifts for the host."

"I got the rare treat of a 6-month project in the town of my best friend from childhood who was going to university. We made a great arrangement: I would crash at his place and spend the evenings drinking beer, watching movies, and playing video games. In return, I used the gift allowance to order dinner for the two of us."

"After submitting my first expense report, I was told by some HR drone that the gift allowance was supposed to not be used for food for myself."

"So I booked a room in a 5-star hotel, was upgraded to a junior suite because of my rewards status and invited my friend to evenings of beer, video games, and room service."

"After my second expense report, the project manager asked me about the tripling of the expenses compared to the first report. After explaining the situation and pointing out what sum of money it would mean over the six months, he got in contact with HR..."

"Two days later, the rule was rescinded. The project even got my friend (the then newly released) PS3 as a thank you for letting me stay with him."

- alphager

"I was working as a medical assistant at a private practice medical clinic. Our clinic manager wouldn’t allow the new receptionist to drive to the bank to deposit cash. Made her walk carrying the money bag so that she couldn’t 'drive away with the money.'"

"Bizarre. I know. That went on for a few weeks. Then the receptionist was mugged and over $1,000 in cash was stolen. She was allowed to drive after that."

- IndyMazzy

"The dealership I was working at decided they wanted to save money by not having the cleaning crew come in after hours. People started leaving the dealership to go home to go to the bathroom because they were disgusting."

"I lived pretty far away so I would just go use the General Manager's private bathroom."

- Jeheh

"We couldn't buy drinks at lunch with cash money, had to buy some vouchers. They were just cheaply made laminated pieces of paper."

"This was 2001, I was 13 and bored. Scanned the vouchers and printed them out on paper that kinda matched the color of the vouchers. and laminated them myself. They were horribly made and not even the right color on the backside. Also crudely cut out."

"I 'made' about a hundred of them and passed them out after I tried paying with them for myself and encountered no problems. Made some new friends and upped production."

"It took them about three weeks to find out but by then the fake ones had intermingled with the real ones and had already been resold to students via the student office. About half of the vouchers sold were fakes."

"Drinks were cash only from then on. They had no choice but to accept the fake ones for a little while longer though, as they had sold and charged for some of them."

- VloekenenVentileren

The protocols that are often set up at workplaces are questionable at best, but the stories told here are truly laughable.

Do you have any similar experiences with workplace or school rules backfiring? Sound off in the comments below.

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