Should Rules Cover Everything from Soup to Nuts?

On the first day of class, a button-down-shirt high school teacher opened his class by announcing thirty-eight rules.  Rule Number twenty-three read, “There will be a consequence for anyone who jumps out of the second-story window.”

For the first time in memory, six students were caught jumping out of the window.  When asked why, one student replied, “Well, we had never thought about jumping out of the window.  I guess we took it as a challenge.”

I do understand that discipline is important, and I am aware that rules are necessary for defining unacceptable behaviors and applying consequences.

I am also aware that attendance rules do not eliminate absenteeism, and social media rules do not prevent employees from wasting time on Facebook.

Some organizations have elaborate, detailed handbooks that cover everything from soup to nuts.  These handbooks usually include many, sometimes confusing, disclaimers such as:  this is not a contract; all policies are subject to change; and if a rule contradicts a policy, the rule will prevail.

There are no prefab options for good discipline.  I say keep your handbook thin and limit it to a few, not exhaustive, rules.  The best way to maintain good discipline in the workplace is to hire employees who are self-disciplined.