Workplace Exceptions Are Sometimes a Trap

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Workplace exceptions

Workplace Exceptions Are Sometimes a Trap

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Do workplace exceptions bring down the momentum or integrity of the team? What exceptions are lurking around your workplace?

People and businesses alike often target to serve the masses. In other words, guidelines are in place to cover most, but not all.

It is true with policies and procedures. It’s true with work schedules, breaks, and even the depth of benefits.

Targeting the Masses

If an automaker wants to sell a lot of vehicles, they’ll target features and pricing to align with most of their prospective buyers in a segment.

Businesses have business hours that align with generally accepted societal hours. Nine to five is more than just a Dolly Parton song.

Organizations adjust to cultural norms.

When employees take breaks. How lunch hours are managed. Even themes around vacations, childcare, and dress codes.

All of these things are targeted at hitting the middle, the norm, not necessarily accommodating the extremes or the exceptions.

Standards for People

The work of people management, human resources, or the basis of organizational culture sets out with the intent to create a better work environment.

The goal in mind is often one of service. Show that the organization cares and that consideration is being given to each individual’s wants and needs. Most importantly, all while building an organization that is successful and well respected.

A real struggle sets in because most attempts to do this are only able to structure it around mass appeal. Some segments are almost always excluded.

I remember when ashtrays were common in business offices. Before smokers took it outside and before smoking was getting banned in restaurants or on public properties.

I fielded a lot of complaints about the number of breaks smokers were allowed (or simply took) especially when the movement to get smoking outdoors developed.

Who did this accommodate? The few or the many? Was it fair? Was it an exception?

Workplace Exceptions

Nearly every people-based decision in every business is designed to adjust to, or accommodate group norms. It is a practice intended to create peace and happiness. Yet it often alienates those who are outside of the norms.

On the flip side, too much attention applied to those outside of the norms is also problematic. In some cases, especially across time, it appears almost as a type of reverse discrimination.

There is seldom an easy answer.

Navigating the exceptions is just as challenging as serving the masses. Often it is the first step towards a trap.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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