This will be short and sweet. I want you to think back to the last time you tested gravity. That is, when was the last time you tried to do something that would only be possible if Earth’s gravity were suspended? I can guarantee that if I were asking this question to a room full of people I would be getting a lot of puzzled looks right now. Do you know why? IT’S A RIDICULOUS QUESTION!! And why is it a ridiculous question? BECAUSE GRAVITY ALWAYS WORKS!!! And, because gravity always works, no one ever seriously challenges it. No one ever truly defies gravity. They may do some fairly amazing things working within its limits, but gravity always wins.
What does this have to do with business? When I talk with companies that are dealing with high turnover and low morale, one of the frequent culprits is that they don’t treat their policies like gravity. In other words, they apply them selectively. People show up late, and sometimes someone says something. They say inappropriate things, and people mostly let it slide.
When this happens, resentment builds. Managers get quietly resentful while their employees don’t act the way they “should.” Coworkers get resentful while their managers don’t provide the accountability they “should.” And when someone finally does call out these missteps, the transgressors get resentful because of the inconsistency. Everyone’s resentful! It’s no wonder people are leaving.
If you want your people to follow rules, then apply them like gravity. And if you’re unwilling to apply them, then get honest and get rid of them. Holding people accountable to rules is a drag. But it’s only a drag for the short amount of time it takes to have and document a conversation. Having rules and only sporadically applying them is a drag that will pull your culture down. If you really want a great culture, you’ve got to get willing to deal with the small discomfort of holding people accountable. No one will thank you for it, but you and your team will be a lot happier.