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Bend Those Rules

Beverly Kaye Posted by Beverly Kaye, Founder, Career Systems International.

Beverly Kaye is a bestselling author on career development and workplace performance, and the Founder of Career Systems International, an employee engagement and career development company. 

Bend Those Rules

Quinn Dombrowski, Creative Commons 2.0

Here’s the story of a manager who questioned the status quo and ended up supporting a talented employee.

My company had never allowed telecommuting, and I believed it probably never would. One of my top employees asked me if she could work from home two days a week, and my immediate response was no. A month later she sadly handed in her resignation and said she had found an employer who would allow her to telecommute. I simply could not afford to lose her, so I went to my boss and asked if we might bend the rules on a trial basis, offer her telecommuting two days a week, and see how productive she was. She stayed with us, increased her actual productivity by 10 percent and is a grateful, loyal employee. Since then we have loosened our policy substantially and consider telecommuting on a case-by-case basis for any employee who requests it.

Rules are necessary to some degree, especially to effectively operate large, complex organizations. But rules often take on a life of their own. And sometimes they end up stifling productivity and creativity. If your employee comes to you with a request that goes against a policy or rule, are you willing to hear their point? Give it a try? Go to bat for them? Employees who feel they can come to their manager with a solid request for a new way for work to be done deserve to be listened to. Motivation and commitment will increase if you keep that door open.


  • Consider an “out of the ordinary” request by thinking about whether you can honor it for a short period of time. Evaluate how the trial works, how it impacts others on the team, and what the barriers might be to extending that test period. Sometimes we leap to a “no” before we even try something out!

Adapted from: Love -Em or Lose -Em; Getting Good People to Stay . Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans have co-authored Love -Em or Lose -Em: Getting Good People to Stay (Berrett-Koehler, 1999), now available in 17 languages and recognized as the world’s best-selling employee retention book. Their latest book, Love It, Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work (Berrett-Koehler, 2003) offers “anyone who works” easy-to-implement strategies for increasing job satisfaction. Beverly is the founder and CEO of Career Systems International, and Sharon is the president of the Jordan Evans Group.