There is a long-held belief that there are two types of people in the world: rule followers and rule breakers. I’m not sure whether people actually fit neatly into these categories. But I do think that people have a tendency to lean one way or the other.

One type isn’t better than the other. They can both have good and bad qualities:

Rule followers

  • The Good – They tend to be careful, detail-oriented, committed, and diligent.
  • The Bad – They can also be stubborn, unimaginative, and inflexible.

Rule breakers

  • The Good – They tend to be adaptable, independent, and good at looking things from different angles.
  • The Bad – They can also be disorganized, rebellious, and bad with details.

I’m definitely a rule follower. My parents are rule breakers. So when I was a kid, this would occasionally lead to conflict – especially on family vacations. When we went to the ocean, my parents always seemed weirdly determined to walk down piers and across beaches marked “Private. No Trespassing.” And they always seemed equally determined to drag me along with them, even though I didn’t want to go.

So yes – there can be conflict between rule followers and rule breakers. And this can be especially true in the workplace. Rule followers and rule breakers have different ways of doing things and getting things done. Occasionally, this can lead to annoyance and frustration.

In order to achieve workplace harmony, it might seem logical to only hire rule followers or rule breakers. But actually, this would be a terrible idea. You need both types of people on staff to have a successful, productive workplace. Both rule followers and rule breakers possess valuable, unique, and necessary skills.

  • Rule followers are great at keeping people on track. They can be counted on to complete their tasks correctly, work diligently, and get things done on time.
  • Rule breakers are essential when, for some reason, normal processes cannot be followed. When an unexpected change occurs, they can figure out new ways of getting things done. They can also help to modify or eliminate rules that are detrimental or no longer make sense.

So whatever category you fall into, remember that you’re an essential part of the team. Be proud of what you are, and try to understand and adapt to your coworkers’ ways of doing things – even if they don’t follow or break the rules like you do.

Bartlettcc. (2014, November 10). Breaking the rules. Bartlett Consulting, Inc. Retrieved from