Does your team know when to break the rules?

Mickey Mellen
2 min readApr 4, 2022

You’ve been there before. You’re trying to return a product to a store, but the employee isn’t able to help you. You can tell that they want to help you, but your return is one day outside of the return window, and they’ll get in trouble if they allow it.

Rules are there for a reason, but giving your employees the power to break them can lead to amazing things.

In “ Leaders Eat Last “, Simon Sinek puts it this way:

“And that’s what trust is. We don’t just trust people to obey the rules, we also trust that they know when to break them.”

If you’re not sure how to encourage people to break the rules, then make it easy for them.

At Zappos, employees are told they can do whatever is needed to make things right (free exchanges, expedited shipping, etc).

At the Ritz-Carlton, all employees are empowered to spend up to $2,000 to solve any issue that a guest has. They don’t need permission or guidelines, they can simply do what’s needed. In their case, the $2,000 isn’t about trying to go right up to the limit, but to make sure they feel free to take care of a $100 problem quickly to keep everything running smoothly.

Sticking with it

The first thought many people have when they hear these about these kinds of policies is that people will take advantage of them — and they’re right. There are undoubtedly people that will seek out this kind of treatment and wring it for all they can.

It’s a fine line between doing more and getting taken advantage of, but I’d rather err on the side of generosity.

Originally published at on April 4, 2022.



Mickey Mellen

I’m a cofounder of @GreenMellen, and I’m into WordPress, blogging and seo. Love my two girls, gadgets, Google Earth, and I try to run when I can.