Living Amongst the Rule Mongers

The 2 Types of HE Leaders and Living amongst the Rule Monger one

Six years ago, my husband and I made our biggest purchase together.  We bought our first home.  We live in a quiet, gated, subdivision community in the Oklahoma City Metro.  Greg and I were thrilled.  The house is and was great for us and great for our growing family.

Having purchased my first house by myself at the ripe age of 21, I thought I knew what to expect.  House number 1 was a small 1970’s bungalow a short commute to Manhattan, Kansas, where I was attending school.  House number 2 was a 104 year old Victorian in a beautiful small town near Columbia, Missouri.  I think I was 26 at the time.  But house number 3 offered a first, and that was subdivision living.  New construction, beautiful neighborhood, a walk in closet, and a jetted bath tub.  It was a chance to start my new life with Greg and my new growing family.

There are really two types of HR people, managers, or even organizational leaders in my mind.  There are those that follow the rules to the letter just as they enforce them.  HR Type Number 1 arrives to work on time and leaves their offices with empty yet organized email inboxes all without rocking the boat.  Many have a long career with that organization and are rewarded for their organized and adhering ways.  And then there’s the second type of human resources professionals or HR Types Number 2.  These are the keepers of policy and procedure who like to bend the rules.  They wear flip flops in the office, work a flexible schedules, and constantly challenge authority. These HR pros are restless and are either loved or hated (sometimes both) by their peers, leaders, and organizations.  These HR pros that I have found might not be a fit for the quiet picket-filled fence and gated subdivision living.

Last week I received yet another letter from our subdivision.  It seems my trash can is yet again viewable from the street, a serious and egregious violation.  Failure to comply within 10 days will result in further legal action.  Trash cans, as I must be aware have to be placed behind a screen or gate and not with the 12 foot ornamental grass plant and metal gate from which it was currently hiding.  Over the past six years in our humble abode, we’ve received an assortment of alleged violations from trash cans to satellite dishes, or claims of dead trees contained within our property.  It’s driving me crazy.

So much for picket-filled fence subdivision living because across the street from me lives a neighbor, a real rule monger inflicting his will on a would-be trouble making HR pro like myself.   Mr. Rule Monger is the silent enforcer behind every single solitary letter. Question is how do I live with this guy?  Should I merely just play by the rules?  It’s taking every ounce of my being to keep from leaving a fire-filled bag of poop upon his doorstep. But I know better especially since he has video surveillance throughout his yard after several run-ins with other neighbors.

As an HR pro, I know exactly what I would do.  Sit down and have a rational conversation.  Establish a relationship and weld my human resource knowledge and influence to gain an amount of respect and work to understand his point of view.  Maybe I’d blind cc a couple people on email or play politics.  Except this isn’t my place of employment.  There is no CEO to play nice with.  Instead it’s literally where I live; my home turf.

Living Amongst the Rule Mongers

How do you live and work among difficult people within your life?  And what should I do to make living the American dream less about looking behind my back and enjoying what my home has to offer?  I’m open to your suggestions and recommendations.  How can I live among the rule monger?

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Carrie says

    Can’t believe no one has snarkily commented with “move” yet 🙂

    Oh wait… I just did!

    Damn HR people! I like the correlation you draw about the rulemongers and there are definitely a lot of *HR Police* out there who fail to look beyond the “how” of business and dealing with employees, to see the “why” and consequentially, fail to see that there is more than just the rules that we must follow thanks to the neverending sea of employment laws (which don’t play nice together to begin with).

    This is why I’m a huge proponent of business school (regardless of most professions or as a supplement to), because so many degree programs (not all) focus so much on the tactics of said profession and fail to address much of the business and human interests that we all face, regardless of our speciality. As a result, that bio-chemist major gets out of school ready to do some major science, but isn’t prepared to be a manager, doesn’t understand basic crunch time decision-making, project management, conflict management, p&l/budget, etc… and certainly isn’t prepared to ascertain business risk and perhaps (gasp) bend or break the rules because it makes business sense to do so.

    Challenging the status quo is how things get done. It’s how innovation happens. Grown-up dialogue and asking the question of “why” to determine if there’s a reason someone broke the rules because maybe the rules are outdated or just plain stupid…. Linchpins unite… and funny thing, I posted a link to an HBR article on Twitter today about learning to think differently. Perhaps you should send it to your neighbor, in a letter…

    Learn How to Think Different(ly)

  2. Rebel Johnson says

    I wanted the picket fence wisteria lane neighborhood, I wanted trick-or-treaters, block parties and sidewalks to walk on. My husband is one of the most wonderful people and if you ask most people that know us both, they would say “He does whatever Rebel wants”…until it came down to where we would live. We live in the country, my husband said that “NO ONE” was going to tell him what color to paint the house, how to mow the lawn, where to park his boat and all the other rules they throw on you from your local “Home Owners Association”. It just seems like there are too many regulations to follow and the world of “Political Correctness” drives me nuts! But my name is Rebel 😉
    Good luck!

  3. CareySue says

    I love how your brain works. The fact that you were able to associate your “friendly” neighbor with the different types of HR professionals is so creative… and relatable. I’m thinking the guy across the street has never met you. I think you need to offer him a glass of wine and have a chat….follow your instincts, treat it like an HR encounter and I bet you’ll be surprised (fingers crossed). Let us know how it goes!

  4. jen says

    I’m with Rebel’s husband. LOL! How did I get in an historic preservation district? There must be a mistake going on.


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