Stand up for scruffbags! That was my initial reaction when I heard all about an outbreak of bossy bureaucracy at the august American magazine Newsweek. (Incidentally, how quaint is it to know the world still has room for a weekly news magazine in the age of rolling news and Twitter?)
It turns out that Newsweek has a strict dress code which suspends employees for looking too casual. Were such a policy to be implemented here in the newsroom then I would no doubt be the first employee booted out of the door.
Do not be fooled by those fancy publicity shots on the world wide web, my friends, because I do love to dress down in the mornings. (Well, who’s getting into their best gear at 3.45am?) Most days you’ll find me here mining at the coalface of truth in one of my, now notorious, Grandad shirts, handmade for me by my personal tailor somewhere in Turkey. (I’m not making this up you know.)
All this got us searching around for some other examples of silly office rules and it appears there are plenty out there.
Let’s take, for example, the workplace where there is a ban on ‘casual religious references’. The complainer stated: "Someone at work sneezed and another one said 'bless you!' A third party heard it and complained to HR about it. The person who said 'bless you' was given a warning and had to take a course in professionalism."
It sounds to me like the kind of place where they insist on celebrating ‘Winterval’ instead of Christmas.
There are many tales of call centres where staff have to ask permission to take a toilet break, in much the same manner as my six year old does at school. But it appears that one retailer somewhere in the world is taking this a step further and tackling the problem at source, if you get what I mean. This complaint went as follows: "My place of employment only lets staff drink water from small cups, and you must drink the whole cup immediately, then dispose of the cup. You are not allowed to have water bottles on shift, no matter which part of the store you are working in.
Then there’s facial hair which was in the headlines not too long ago when the legendary Jeremy Paxman returned from holiday with a new look which managed to fill newspaper columns for best part of a week.
Among those gripped by the scandal were keen Scrabble players who discovered the word Pogonophobia which means an irrational fear of beards. The bosses at the company where this person worked are quite clearly pogonophobic: "I used to work for a ritzy cafe that had five separate and distinct beard rules. Beards had to be between a certain length or you had to shave it. No mutton chops. There were rules about moustache/beard combos. If you wanted to grow a beard, you were not allowed back into work for two weeks until you grew it out to a 'respectable length.'"
One of the strangest examples we received was this: 'We have to wear safety goggles when using a stapler at work due to an idiotic employee.' The mind boggles! What on earth was the employee who provoked this new rule doing with the stapler in the first place?
Finally, here’s a fine example of a boss somewhere in the world who needs help to overcome their control-freakery. It is the rule that every email must have an explicit purpose.
(Please note for the avoidance of doubt it’s the reason for the email that must be explicit – not the email!)
Our whistleblower wrote: "We are incapable of sending emails from our work accounts without selecting what the email is for. To send it, we have to select from a drop-down menu things like 'casual memo' or 'request for time off...
Do they have an option for ‘bitching about the boss’ I wonder?