From Adrian C. Ott on the HBR Blog Network, a great post on rigid rules-based management practices and how they can dis-engage employees and, as her example from Delta Airlines shows, sometimes seriously damage your customer relationships.
Rules are comfort food for management. When something goes terribly wrong, the first response is to add more rules and policy. Of course, managers have good intentions: protecting the company from bad choices and creating accountability. That's what everyone learns in Management 101. Yet the net effect often shifts accountability to the wrong places. Unassailable rules and metrics shifts accountability away from management and down the chain to the front-line employee. Rules allow managers a surefire way to dodge their responsibility and protect their career.
Don’t think that front-line employees fail to understand this. If they feel that their only job is to be the enforcers of management’s “CYA” rules, it’s not that big a stretch to see how easily they can “check out” on the job.