Topic: Employee Rule Adherence

Author(s), Title and Publication Tyler, T. R., & Blader, S. L. (2005). Can businesses effectively regulate employee conduct? The antecedents of rule following in work setting. Academy of Management Journal, 48(6), 1143-1158.

This study identified optimal strategies to gain employees’ adherence to organizational rules and policies by comparing two approaches: a command-and-control approach and a self-regulatory approach. In the command-and-control approach, employees follow rules because of external forces such as surveillance; they do so through intrinsic desire in the self-regulatory approach. This study examined two aspects of employee rule-following behavior: 1) rule breaking, and 2) policy adherence, which includes compliance with organizational policies and voluntary deference to organizational policies.

Two studies were conducted: The first surveyed 540 employees from a U.S. division of a large multinational banking firm, and the second study surveyed 4,430 employees from nationwide organizations and their supervisors (831 people). Employees completed the same questionnaires in the two studies, which assessed their rule-following behavior, the use of the command-and-control approach (perceived likelihood of behavior being detected, and sanctions and incentives associated with behavior), and the use of self-regulatory approach (perceived legitimacy in the organization, and perceived congruence of personal values with organizational values). In the second study, supervisors were asked to evaluate their employees’ rule-following behavior.

Results of the two studies indicated that the self-regulatory approach is more effective in fostering employee rule following than the command-and-control approach. To be specific, employees are more likely to follow the rules willingly, and are less likely to break the rules, when they perceive that organizational rules are legitimate and that their personal values are congruent with organizational values. Employees are more likely to obey the rules when their behaviors are monitored and are associated with sanctions or reward. But the two approaches cannot be used at the same time because extrinsic strategies may undermine intrinsic strategies.

Implications for Practice
Managers may more effectively regulate employee behaviors if they encourage employees to act on their values, use fair procedures within the organization, and reduce or eliminate surveillance or monitoring of employee behaviors. Company values should also be clearly articulated to, and understood by employees.

Location of Article
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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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