Tips, Videos, Handouts

How to handle rule-breaking

On location in a meeting room Craig explains some simple steps for handling someone who repeatedly breaks a rule.

Craig’s approach is non-confrontational and gives the offender the benefit of the doubt; at least to start with. This approach is good when all the parties are equals. Rule-breaking might be legitimately handled differently when the parties are not equal like parent-child or coach-player.

Here’s what Craig says in the video:

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here.

Here’s how to handle someone who is breaking a rule. Let’s say we’re having a meeting and we have all agreed at the start of the meeting on certain ground rules. Maybe one of those ground rules is “Let’s not interrupt each other,” and somebody just keeps interrupting. How would we handle a situation like that?

Well, it’s really nice to be able to handle it privately, rather than publicly. If you can call a break or if you have an opportunity at a break to talk with somebody one-on-one, that works really well. To call somebody out on breaking a rule in front of everyone else is much more dramatic and oftentimes less effective.

So let’s say you do have that opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation. What might that conversation look like? I’m a big believer in starting with a question. First, ask the person: did they realize they were breaking a rule? If so, why were they breaking a rule? Let them talk first and explain themselves. You might find right off the bat that they didn’t even know that they were breaking a rule, or maybe they were breaking it for a really good reason. You’ve established some rapport and credibility if you let them talk first and explain themselves.

Number two, if that in itself doesn’t resolve the problem, you can give the person three choices: “Look, you can stay with the group and try harder to follow the rule. Or you can leave the group, because this is what the group has decided as their rules and maybe it’s just not a good fit. Or — third option — you can try to work with the group to renegotiate and change the rule to something that you all agree with.”

This little example that I’ve given, of somebody breaking a ground rule in a meeting, is the same as big examples with a person breaking an employee policy about parking or sexual harassment or any kind of rule. You can apply these steps: Number one, start with a question and make sure the person understands what the rule is. Make sure I understand where they are coming from. Try for understanding first. If that doesn’t work, three choices: Either stay with the group and follow the rules, leave the group, or work to change the rules.

It’s okay to be firm about offering those three choices. And it works well to work with that rule breaker one-on-one outside of the public view.

All right, there’s a few thoughts on how to handle a person who is breaking the rules. Thanks for listening everybody, and I hope you can help your group make good decisions.

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