Want to feel better about where you work? It’s easy. Just check out some of the bizarre and oppressive rules imposed on employees at some offices. You’ll instantly go from “I hate my job” to “I am the luckiest employee on planet earth. In fact, I think I’ll go tell my boss how much I love him right now.”
Think we’re exaggerating? Don’t be so sure. Depending on where you work, you might be required to stand around all day, or have your waistline randomly measured, or banned from wearing deodorant, or even fired for being too ugly. It’s kind of crazy how much control some companies think they should have over their staffs. They think they’re boosting morale and productivity, but they might be doing the exact opposite.
Yves Morieux, director of The Boston Consulting Group’s Institute for Organization, claimed in a 2015 TED Talk that too many rules can actually hinder rather than help employees get their jobs done. “If you think about it, we pay more attention to knowing who to blame in case we fail, than to creating the conditions to succeed,” he said.
Here are 30 of the most ridiculous, unreasonable, counterproductive policies and rules that companies have ever tried to force on their unwitting employees. See if you can read them all without feeling infinitely better about your own job. For more on bad bosses, check out the 15 Things Dictator Bosses Banned at Their Companies.
No correcting customers!
Have you ever felt like an Apple employee was quietly judging you? Well sure, we all have. But at the very least, we expect them to correct us when we get something wrong, like grossly mispronouncing the names of their products. But as it turns out, they’re not allowed to.
If a customer walks into an Apple store and announces, “I’m looking for one of those Izzy-phones,” they are not permitted to say something reasonable like, “You mean the iPhone?” Because that would be condescending. We’re thinking of testing this company policy. Who wants to go to the nearest Apple Store with us and try to buy a Micky-Book? And for more facts about Apple, check out these 10 Crazy Workplace Design Innovations at the New Apple Headquarters.
No “Unnatural” Haircuts!
Abercrombie & Fitch, the clothing retailer for teenagers, demanded a very specific type of hairstyle on their employees. They were so strict that they handed out a “Look Policy Guideline” with instructions on which haircuts were and weren’t acceptable. Acceptable hair must appear “sunkissed” with “subtle highlighting,” while unacceptable hair would involve unnatural bleaching and anything deemed too “extreme.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, they also had very specific rules about jewelry (a maximum of two earrings per ear were allowed for women, but no jewelry whatsoever for men) and fingernails, which were not permitted to “extend more than 1/4 inch beyond the tip of the finger.” And if you’re an Abercrombie shopper, be sure you know the 30 Tips Guaranteed to Save You Money on Clothes.
No phones or email!
Ever felt like you couldn’t get anything done because you’re constantly responding to emails? So did Phil Libin, former CEO of software company Evernote. So he got rid of email. And phones, too. If you wanted to reach a coworker within the Evernote office, you couldn’t do it with any of the techno-gadgets on your desk.
“I kind of want you to get up and go talk to them,” Libin said. A great idea in theory, but we can definitely see how this could be an even bigger time-waster. At least you can ignore an email or a ringing phone, but it’s not so easy to ignore a coworker peeking into your office and saying, “Gotta second?”
Some food restrictions at the office make sense, especially if they’re intended to protect coworkers with food allergies. But sometimes they just seem weird and arbitrary, like this account from a Reddit user who claims his boss has a strict policy against popcorn.
He and his colleagues received a “strongly worded email from the big boss” that forbid all popcorn on company property. Why exactly? “The reason given in the email was ‘Has anyone ever tried to talk on the phone and eat popcorn?’” We can’t say that we have, but since this boss seems so against it, we say challenge accepted! And for more on Reddit, check out these 10 Essential Subreddits for Health-Minded People.
Stand for the boss!
The ideal work environment is an office that doesn’t feel like it’s being ruled by a ruthless despot. When they walk past, you can greet them like a normal person, or maybe not at all if you’re busy. But that wouldn’t do for Ségolène Royal, France’s ecology and energy minister in 2014, who let her staff know that they were expected to stand whenever she passed them, regardless of what they were doing when she approached.
She even hired a guy to walk out in front of her and announce her arrival, so employees would have enough time to leap to their feet. It sounds way too exhausting to us. Isn’t a forced smile pretending to be enthusiastic when we’d much rather be home in our pajamas enough? And if you’re looking to heat up your own career—with or without a dictator boss—here are the 40 Best Ways to Jumpstart Your Career!
Don’t be ugly!
You needed to have pretty good self-esteem to work for (the now former) American Apparel CEO Dov Charney. According to leaked documents, all prospective candidates needed to have “head to toe” photos taken of them, to make sure they were attractive enough to work for the company.
The occasional employee who slipped through the cracks despite not being easy on the eyes was also in jeopardy. One former manager alleged that “anyone [Charney] deems not good-looking enough to work there is encouraged to be fired. … Dov wants to weed out the ‘ugly people.’”
No animal products in any form!
Matt and Nat, a Canadian handbag company, allows its employees to eat whatever they want during lunch breaks, as long as it never had eyes or a mother.
Meat — and yes, that includes fish — is strictly forbidden, and that includes dining outside the company headquarters, at a restaurant with clients. It’s vegetarian only, all the time.
The policy, which Creative Director Inder Bedi admits is “a little bit hippie-dippie,” also applies to fashion. Leather jackets, shoes, or purses aren’t can’t be worn while employed by Matt and Nat. Although some workers have complained, Bedi isn’t budging. “This is very much a vegan company,” he says, “and we just felt it would be odd if we had meat and fish floating around the premises.” And for more bizarre facts, check out these 20 Crazy Facts About One Dollar Bills.
Here’s $3,000—now empty out your desk!
Zappos, the online shoe retailer, has some very odd severance policies.
Call it a “get out of jail not so free” card. According to its former H.R. director, every new employee agrees to a clause that after a brief training period, Zappos can decide out of the blue to fire them, no questions asked, paying them $3,000 for their trouble. It might be slightly ego-bruising, but it lets the company change their mind without having to justify why they changed their mind. And for more on unique work situations, read up on how this YouTuber made $16 million last year!
Employees must share underwear!
Ah, Disney World, the happiest place on earth. Unless sharing underwear with some guy dressed like an anthropomorphic rat isn’t your idea of happiness.
For many years, employees playing the same Disney character didn’t just share the same costume, but the same undergarments as well. So when you came in for your shift to play Mickey, you wouldn’t just put on the same costume of the last guy, you’d also put on his underwear. The practice was discontinued in 2001 because, duh, it’s just gross. Oh, and speaking of undies, here are the 50 Best Pairs of Men’s Underwear on the Planet!
If you’re not a fan of casual Fridays, then you definitely won’t enjoy it’s more invasive cousin, Naked Fridays. Leave it to the Brits to come up with an all company policy that’s guaranteed to make everybody uncomfortable, from the CEO down to the interns.
A design and marketing firm in the UK gave it a try, with some of the employees going so far as to call it a “brilliant” idea. “It may seem weird but it works,” says the business psychologist who cooked up the concept. “It’s the ultimate expression of trust in yourself and each other.” If it’s all the same, we’ll stick with our idea of a casual dress code. We call it “Keep Your Pants On Friday”. But if you prefer socializing in the buff, consider traveling to the Most Secret Nude Beach in America.
The ban on facial hair at the New York Yankees has its origins in the 70s, when long-haired hippies roamed the earth. It started with former owner George Steinbrenner, who didn’t like how some players had such long, unruly hair that it covered the number on their jerseys during the Star-Spangled Banner. So he instigated a new policy, which demanded that all employees of the Yankees, from players to coaches to male executives, were “forbidden to display any facial hair other than mustaches (except for religious reasons), and scalp hair may not be grown below the collar. Long sideburns and ‘mutton chops’ are not specifically banned.”
We can agree with some of that — nobody needs to see mutton chops when they’re trying to enjoy a ballgame — but the ban on beards feels archaic in 2018. There’ve been some calls to end the policy, but it remains in place to this day.
We get it, not everybody enjoys garlic. Some people, through no fault of their own, are vampires. And then some people run publishing empires.
The late S.I. Newhouse, former chairman of Condé Nast chairman, so detested garlic that he banned it from the company’s lunchroom. It leads us to wonder, just how much garlic was being consumed at Condé Nast before Newhouse decided to outlaw the herb? Were they popping garlic cloves like breath mints? Did the Condé Nast offices smell like a big garlic press? We need answers!
Have the perfect waistline!
You know what’s absolutely not your boss’s business? Your waist size. In fact, anything having to do with that general area of your body is 100% not his or her jurisdiction. But in Japan, thanks to the Metabo Law, employers are legally allowed to measure the waists of workers they suspect of having too much puddin’ round the middle.
For men, that’s anything more than 33.5 inches, and for women, it’s a waist exceeding 35.4 inches. So if you’re going to work in Japan, know the 30 Best Ways to Lose Weight at Work!
Eight minute bathroom visits only!
“Bathroom breaks would be so much more fun if I was being timed,” said no one ever. That didn’t stop a Norwegian insurance company called DNB from tracking how long their employees were away from their desks visiting the loo.
If they’re gone for longer than eight minutes, a flashing light goes off. If that sounds mortifying and horrible, you’re not the only one to think so. Norway’s privacy regulator protested the monitoring system, reminding the bathroom tyrants that “each individual worker has different needs and these kinds of strict controls deprive the employees of all freedoms over the course of their working day.”
Absolutely no funny hats!
Regardless of where you work in New Zealand, if you wear anything on your head that could be construed as a “funny hat,” you could see your paycheck docked by at least 10%. That sounds ridiculous to us, not because we think all workers deserve the right to wear funny hats to work, but because we didn’t know wearing funny hats to work was such a problem for New Zealand that they had to start issuing financial fines to curtail it.
Air New Zealand, the commercial airliner based in Auckland, thinks it’s such a disruptive workplace practice that they’d like to see the fine amount raised to 25%. Clearly we’re not taking enough flights on Air New Zealand. It sounds like their flight crews all want to be Steve Martin in the 70s. And if you’re a fan of great headwear, consider these 10 Summer Hat Options That Are Way Classier Than a Ball-cap.
Don’t get married without permission!
“If they catch us doing so, they cut our monthly pay and ask us to write and submit an official self-reflection letter,” she told the paper.
Even more alarming, when they did find a partner that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with, they’d have to “introduce him to the boss and ask for his blessings.” And if the boss says no to your prospective suitor? Well, we suppose you either leave your job or your workweek turns into a very surreal adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.
Only curse around clients!
We don’t know where this Reddit user works exactly — he probably avoided getting canned by not mentioning them by name — but wherever it is, it sounds like something out of a David Mamet play.
As he explained, HR at his company held a meeting to inform employees “that there was too much swearing on the sales floor,” he claims. “Someone raised their hand and pointed out that swearing is very common in our industry and that is the way that our customers speak. HR later sent out a memo explaining that swearing should be limited to conversations with clients.” Hey, if you’re going to talk like a drunken sailor, at least do it in front of the customers! We’re trying to look professional here!
Never point with one finger!
We don’t want it to seem like we’re picking on Disney World, but they’ve got some seriously hilarious rules. Some of them even seem counterintuitive, like their policy against any Disney employee — sorry, we mean “cast member” — using a single finger to point anywhere.
They can’t ban pointing altogether, as visitors are always asking them for directions and they can’t point them in the right without, well, pointing. But instead of using a single finger, they can point with two fingers. Which is… less offensive, we guess? Personally, we’ve never been offended by pointing, especially when we ask someone “Which way to Space Mountain?” But somebody must be, because you’ll never catch a Disney cast member waving one finger in your general direction. And speaking of the Magic Kingdom, here are the 20 Secrets Disney Employees Don’t Want You to Know.
No sitting down!
Even people who use standing desks at work take a break from it occasionally and find a seat. But that’s not an option at the Japanese plastic manufacturer Iris Ohyama, which banned employees from using laptops from home (which they might be tempted to enjoy while sitting) and forced them to use computers at one of the company’s standing desks, i.e. the only desks available.
What’s more, they could only use the computer at 45 minute intervals, which the company felt would “increase concentration, boost creativity, and improve worker health.” So, you’re standing all day, and the clock is constantly ticking, reminding you that at any moment the computer will shut down and you’ll lose all your work. Not only would that not make us more productive, we can feel our blood pressure raising just reading that last sentence.
Dry cereal only!
Employers at Sparrows, an offshore oil and gas services company based in Scotland, sent an insane memo to their staff in 2013, informing them that milk, while still permitted on the premises, could no longer be used in cereal.
“The milk purchased by the company is for use with tea or coffee,” the memo read. “The use of this milk for cereal is to cease with immediate effect.”
It’s hard to take a rule like that seriously, but the employers made it very clear that they were not only serious but looking for spies. If somebody spotted a co-worker putting milk in his or her cereal, the memo read, “drop me an email with the offender’s name and I will deal with them.” Wow. It’s just like an Orwell novel, but with milk.
No taking photos of money!
We just assume that most banks have a general policy against their employees stealing money. That should be rule number one. But according to a Reddit user, he was employed by a bank that had bigger concerns about the cold hard cash left in their care. Like what? Like having their money end up going viral on social media.
“We had a rule of ‘no taking pictures of the money and putting it on Instagram,’” the former banker shared on a Reddit thread. Well sure. Because the last thing you need is for money to get too many views on Instagram, which instantly devalues it. Stop using adoration from strangers to prop up your self-worth, money! You’re better than this! And for more on money, here are 20 Crazy Facts You Never Knew About Dollar Bills.
Only women are allowed to sell bras!
Is there anything more embarrassing than buying a bra from a dude? Apparently not in Saudi Arabia, where women have only recently been allowed to enter the workplace.
After a Saudi woman was embarrassed by a male clerk while trying to buy some underwear, she called for a “boycott of lingerie shops that didn’t employ women” and it soon became standard practice for stores that sell undergarments to hire mostly women.
Excuse me? No coffee? No coffee?! Now you’re just getting unreasonable. But that’s what happened at several UK hospitals, where coffee and tea were banned because, according to what medical staff were told, drinking such beverages was “presenting a poor impression to the public and staff who visit our departments.”
Um, no, just the opposite. It presents an impression of a medical worker who is caffeinated and mentally alert, and thus less likely to leave a scalpel in somebody’s chest during surgery. We need more caffeinated doctors, not less caffeinated! Good lord, what is wrong with you Brits? Get it together!
It apparently wasn’t easy to work for Houston oil and gas magnate Edward Mike Davis, especially if you’re one of those people who like things like “smiling” and “birthdays.”
No, we’re serious about the birthdays. As he instructed his employees at the Tiger Oil Company in 1978, there would be “no more birthday celebrations, birthday cakes, levity or celebrations of any kind within the office.” That’s right, he actually outlawed levity! How do you even do that? Did workers get fined when their expressions weren’t desperate and hopeless, like a Dust Bowl photo from the 30s? Davis went on to remind his staff that “This is a business office. If you have to celebrate, do it after office hours on your own time.” We would’ve loved to see this guy forced to spend a day at Chuck E. Cheese.
Wear tracking devices!
Amazon sure doesn’t trust their employees. Not only are they banned from wearing wristwatches, or anything else that the company actually sells — because obviously if they didn’t, every worker would be clocking out with five watches on each wrist — but now they’re preparing for the ultimate in corporate paranoia: Tracking devices. The company has patented wristbands that keep tabs on an employee all day (and maybe beyond), so you always know what those sneaky little devils are up to.
No moving around!
If there’s one thing you don’t want from an employee, it’s an ability to multitask. Wait… what? Well that’s what the corporate titans at Starbucks seems to believe, at least according to the Wall Street Journal, who reported in 2010 that all baristas must stand in one place “at the espresso bar instead of moving around,” even if there’s nothing to do at their particular station.
Yes, it’s a silly rule. As one Starbucks employee from Nebraska told the paper, “While I’m blending a frappuccino, it doesn’t make sense to stand there and wait for the blender to finish running, because I could be making an iced tea at the same time.”
The City of Detroit never expected to get sued by a former employee in 2010, after she complained that a co-worker’s perfume was aggravating her allergies. And they certainly never expected to lose to the tune of $100,000. So they changed their policy, announcing to all city employees that they must “refrain from wearing scented products, including but not limited to colognes, after-shave, lotions, perfumes, deodorants, body/face lotions, hair sprays or similar products.”
We don’t know if you’ve ever lived through a Michigan winter, but it gets cold, and your skin starts to crack. No lotion at all is the worst thing that could ever happen to somebody who calls Detroit home. And that’s not even bringing up the deodorant issue…
This has to be our single favorite company policy, shared by a Reddit user who swears his workplace has a strict rule against bringing “machetes or BB rifles on property.”
Our first thought is, wait, you had to ask employees not to bring machetes and BB rifles? And for some much better run companies, read up on The Most Admired Company in Every State.
Tell us if you’re sick!
Never call a coworker “honey!”
OK, this is actually a good one—especially in a post #MeToo world.
Health workers in Australia received a memo in 2012 forbidding them from using words like darling, sweetheart, mate, and honey. “This type of language should not be used across any level of the organization such as employee to employee or employee to client,” the memo read.
We can’t agree more.
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