Thursday, January 24, 2019

What's is the dumbest workplace policy you've ever encountered?

I spent my day yesterday mediating a case before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. The mediation took place in a conference room on the 8th floor of the state office building in downtown Cleveland. The hardest part of my day? Believe it or not, it was simply getting to the mediation.

Unbeknownst to me, backpacks are not permitted to enter this building. The bag I use for work to carry my laptop and files happens to be a backpack. Thus, my bag was denied entry. "It's for security," the guard, and later her supervisor, and even later the building manager, explained to me. Mind you, this building lacks any other security—no metal detectors, no x-ray machines, no pat-downs, no bag searches, not even any show of identification. The lone security measure protecting this State of Ohio office building is its "no backpacks" rule.

This rule presented a slight problem. Every document I needed for the mediation was stored on my laptop stored inside my backpack. Ordinarily, I'd simply have walked the bag back to my car, stashed it there, and walked back with laptop in hand. The torrential rain storm, however, suggested that walking two blocks with a computer was not in the best interest of the health of said computer.

What to do? Canceling the mediation out of shear dumbfounded frustration was certainly one option that crossed my mind.

Instead, however, I left my bag in the lobby with my client and traveled up to the 8th floor to see if the mediator had any suggestions. As it turns out she did.

"Let's put your backpack insider another bag, and carry it up that way?"

Come again?

As she explained it to me, the rule only prohibits carrying a backpack. It does not, however prohibit placing said backpack inside of another bag and carrying that outer bag into the building.

(I'll pause while you have a good laugh.)

So, she provided me a shopping bag for me to use to transport my backpack.

That way, I was not longer "carrying" the backpack, and was free to enter the building. (Score one for mediator creativity.)


How many ways can I count what is wrong with this scenario.

  1. Given the utter complete lack of security, the "no backpack" rule serves zero purpose, other than reinforcing some stereotype that people carrying backpacks must be up to no good.

  2. If security was their legitimate concern (as it should be in a government building), then install metal detectors and x-ray machines, pat folks down, open bags, and check IDs. Otherwise, your security is worthless. 

  3. I could literally have carried anything nefarious into that building, either inside my pockets, any other bag, or the backpack resting inside the shopping bag.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. What the dumbest, most nonsensical workplace policy you've ever encountered. I know my answer. Share yours in the comments below.