A rule is a very specific and detailed guide to action. It is established to direct or rest1ict action in a fairly narrow manner. There is no scope for discretion or judgment. Rules must be followed precisely and observed strictly. Some rules are couched in positive terminology like: Hard hats must be worn in the plant at all times; welding machines should be operated by wearing safety glasses only. Others may be expressed in a negative way: employees are not permitted to leave before five o’clock; passengers are not allowed on lift equipment. Some rules re rather complex and detailed in content: ‘Horse play, practical joker, wrestling, throwing things, running in the plant strictly prohibited’. Others may be posted in simple terms such as ‘No smoking’, ‘Stop when the red light is on’. One important advantage with rules is that they permit managers to simplify the decision-making process. For example, rules about absenteeism, late reporting, in-fighting, permit managers to resort to disciplinary measures quickly. Rules help in regulating behavior in a fairly consistent manner.
However, as rightly pointed out by Davis, letter perfect obedience to organizational rules may be organizational sabotage. If rules are followed blindly, the organization loses direction. Rules are often followed by penalties for non-compliance. To avoid the unpleasantness, members would follow the rules and do what only ‘the book’ requires instead of resorting to more fruitful ways. Rules tend to limit flexibility and initiative. They introduce rigidity, ingrained attitudes and habitual behavior. Spontaneity disappears. People fail to recognize the importance of avoiding mistakes. They are only interested in meeting the rules rather than achieving goals. Rules tend to become an end in themselves. And when members do not demonstrate spontaneity, apathy would be the result. “People may conform to rules without thought as to their contribution to goals so that the firm loses direction.”