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work to rule

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Work to rule is a kind of strike that I think would be uniquely satisfying.

When workers decide to strike, rather than walk off the job, they pull out the procedural manuals that apply to their jobs and say "until you give us what we want, we are going to follow every single rule to the letter."

This can have two effects. One is that the only things that get done are those are strictly defined in the job description of a worker. Workers no longer look for unforeseen points of failure out of the corner of their eyes. The utter inadequacy of the "comprehensive guidelines" becomes clear, as does the value of trained and intelligent human presence.

The second is the strict enforcement of restrictions that can normally safely be ignored or that apply to a more limited group of cases than documentation implies that they do. Airports and hospitals would basically grind to a halt if every restriction were followed to the letter.

The "work to rule" strike is an extreme example of a kind of very low key workplace sabotage I've heard called "malicious compliance". I just love the sound of that phrase!



Dated: 07/14/2004