Establish Ground Rules With Your Employees

Brown GavelGround rules are important for personal relationships. They’re principles that you discuss with someone that help form the foundation of your relationship. It might be agreeing to rules for arguing. You can become angry with the other person, but you don’t break certain rules if you can. It’s like the rules in a sporting event. If you break them, you lose the game or are penalized.

It can also beneficial to establish ground rules with your employees. You can do the same with business partners and vendors too. And even if you are the employee it can be good to discuss ground rules with your boss. You can discuss things they want from you and also things you want from them. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit from the beginning at least you can avoid some potentially bad situations in the future by parting ways.

Here are some things to consider when setting ground rules for employees…

1. Ground Rules For Business

First consider what the ground rules are for your business. If you’re the sole founder then these rules are probably closely aligned with your personal rules. But if there are other leaders involved in the company then there are likely some differences that you’ve discussed. Or if you haven’t discussed them they have probably emerged over the time that you’ve been in business.

Sometimes we operate our business by just knowing and understanding the ground rules in our head. That can work fine. We probably informally communicate them with our team.

But it can be beneficial to document the rules for employees. Especially as the company grows and you start bringing on more team members.

2. Ground Rules For Dealing With You

It’s also good to do some thinking about yourself. Consider your values. Consider the actions that make you most upset. These are likely going to be your ground rules with employees. It’s important to understand yourself because you can better prepare to deal with people that push your buttons.

And when it comes to your employees you can use it during the hiring process or during the onboarding process. You can be upfront about the ground rules. Even if the person is a great employee, but kind of a personality clash you can still work out some ground rules between the two of you. This way you can keep things civil even if they sometimes reach points of anger and frustration.

For example, a ground rule could be that you don’t vent frustration via email. Or that if you have an issue you come right to the person instead of confiding in other coworkers.

3. Ground Rules They Want To Consider

Now it’s also important to discuss any ground rules the employee may have. For example, they may prefer that you don’t only use criticism when providing feedback. They may be fine with it, but they may also need a certain amount of positive feedback to keep their motivation and to perform their best for themselves, you and the company.

Every employee is a little different. It’s good to know what will make them upset. Both in good and not good ways. You can see how they align with you and the business and make sure you’re all working for the same goals and in the best ways possible.


Ground rules are basically aimed at keeping things moving in the right direction. It’s about getting the most out of each person. That can be true if it’s a marriage, a friendship, a parent-child situation and even in the workplace. First start considering what the internal rules are for you and the business. Then start working with employees to figure out what makes them work to the best of their abilities.

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