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Friday Fail: Strangest Company Policies

Tired of success stories? Every Friday on Inc.com we bring you epic tales of failure and shame. This week: senseless workplace policies.

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Most people like a good success story, but who can resist an epic tale of disaster, humiliation, embarrassment, and shame? I know I can't.

Here's how the Inc. Friday Fail works: Every Friday I post a new topic, invite readers to send in their favorite stories, and publish the best the following week.

Last week's topic was The Worst Workplace Romance.

This week it's Strangest Policies: The goofiest procedure or the guideline that makes the least possible sense.

Here we go:

4. The Broken Break

I worked as a manager for a fast-fashion clothing chain that required employees to clock out for a 30-minute break if they worked over four hours.

The policy was very strict; corporate leadership required store managers to write-up employees who took 29-minute breaks or clocked out one minute after the four-hour mark.

Many of our best employees were fired because they helped a customer for a minute too long or waited to finish a project before going on break.—Chris

3. The Fractional Vacation

Here is our vacation policy:

If an employee takes a vacation day between October 15 and April 15, they only have to use .75 vacation days for a full day off. The only exception is from January 10 to February 10: If you take off a day during that time period you only have to use .5 vacation days. (We call that a two-fer, since if you take two days off it only costs you one day.)

If an employee takes a vacation day between April 16 and October 14, they use one vacation day to get a full day off.

Except: If an employee takes a vacation day between June 15 and August 15, they use 1.5 days for each day off. (We call that a triple threat, since it costs three days of vacation to get two days off.)

An employee once asked the owner, "Aren't you basically just telling us when we should take our vacations?"

The owner replied, "Absolutely not! We're just giving you plenty of options. You have the freedom to choose what is best for you."

People who don't have kids or like to go skiing think its great. The rest of us, the ones living in the real world, think it sucks. Who wants to be off in January?—Chaz

2. The Skirted Skirt Length

At my current job we have a fairly strict dress code that has become like the Constitution because it's always getting amended. For awhile it defined women's skirts as needing to be "professional." Then, when professional got too hard to define, it was changed to "reasonably short distance above the knee." Of course what is reasonable to me is unreasonable to you, so then it was changed to "no less than one inch below the wearer's fingertips when her hands are held straight down at her sides."

It's funny how we all got really good at geometry. A twist here and an angle there and everyone's arms suddenly got shorter. Plus it's funny when the skirt police have to actually do the measuring.—Mariah

1. The CEO Censor

Every year the CEO comes to the plant for a "state of the company" address. Those of us lucky enough (or unlucky enough depending on your perspective) to get to attend are allowed to ask questions after he reads his speech verbatim from his notes.

A few years ago an employee asked this question: "I understand the company is expanding into (a Central American country). Are you doing that just because they don't have strict environmental laws and you can rape and pillage the landscape?"

Everyone laughed but the CEO. He turned red and said something I don't remember.

Within a few weeks we were all asked to sign a form saying we had read and understood recent changes to the employee manual. The main change: "Any employee who asks a rude, offensive, or disrespectful question of any member of management will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment."

We decided we wouldn't ask if that policy was fair since that might be rude or disrespectful.—Vicki

Next week's Friday Fail Topic: Best Customer Excuse for Non-Payment. (I don't need to explain this one, do I?)

Send your stories to fridayfail (at) blackbirdinc.com. If you want to remain anonymous, let me know.

Then tune in next Friday!

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Apr 20, 2012

JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.
@jeff_haden




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