No bananas! We're working

KATE JONES
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2014

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From an office lucky stone to a ban on bananas, bizarre office rules sound like the stuff of urban legend. But believe it or not, wacky workplace rules are enforced at seemingly ordinary offices.

Matt Barker and Tom Bull, owners of Melbourne construction company Texco Construction, say their "no tuna" rule was inspired by BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers' zero-tolerance policies.

Under Kloppers' notorious office rules, BHP employees are banned from eating soup and snacks at their desks, must not bring pot-plants from home and as part of the company's clear-desk policy, must keep their desks tidy with only a handful of prescribed items including one A5 sized photograph on their desk.

Although strict, Barker says these rules formalise commonsense needed to keep the peace and foster a respectful working environment.

"The main thing we push here is perfect presentation which includes our low-odour food and clean desk policies, but above all no tuna!" he says.

"Basically we've got a small kitchenette, so we make a bit of a song and dance if people heat up things that are particularly intrusive, like tuna or curry."

Barker admits his rules are "unusual and anally retentive", but were made in the best interests of the business.

"We have a lot of clients walking through our office and we don't want to have horrid smells or unsightly desks when that happens," he says.

"We have high standards when it comes to office cleanliness."

A ban on bananas is among the more bizarre workplace rules bothering employees at one public relations and marketing office.

A staffer, who did not want to be identified, said the smell of the fruit drives her boss bananas and all new employees are introduced to the no-banana rule on their first day in the job.

"She tends to dramatise the fruit's offensiveness when they're within proximity; she will fling open the office windows and any banana evidence has to be disposed of in a street bin outside our workplace," the employee says.

"I think it's a bizarre rule, I like bananas. Never met someone so against a fruit before."

Corporate crackdowns are not limited to desks and kitchenettes - one boss went so far as banning a particular word he didn't want his employees saying.

Shaun Jones, a former salesman at an upmarket golf and country club, was told to never use the word "mate" while addressing members and their guests.

"He said it was too familiar and informal, and that I should address customers as sir or ma'am," he says.

"After that I was at a loss for what to call them. Not being able to say 'mate' was un-Australian!"

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Jones says he kept using the word "mate" when the boss was not in earshot because he felt stupid addressing customers as "sir" or "ma'am".

Power-hungry bosses looking to exert control over their staff do so at their own peril. Word travels fast and social media travels even faster.

French ecology and energy minister Ségolène Royal was left red-faced when a list of rules for her staff was leaked to the media.

These included an order for employees to stand when she passed, with an usher announcing her presence so employees could get to their feet by the time she arrived. Royal also forbids staff using corridors near her rooms while she eats to avoid "noise disturbance".

Online retail giant Amazon is another corporation known for its reportedly tough rules, particularly for warehouse staff. These employees can only drink water that must be stored in clear bottles and are not permitted to wear anything that Amazon sells, including lipstick and watches.

And employees at the City of Detroit are urged not to wear fragrances after a former worker successfully sued the city for violating disability laws for allowing co-workers to use perfumes that aggravated her perfume allergy.

On a lighter note, sales staff at online business beautydirectory follow a strange ritual for good luck.

Employees are encouraged to kiss a lucky stone to bring good energy, managing director Janet Hayward says.

"If someone wants luck they stroke the stone and or go a step further to kiss the stone," she says.

"It gives people an extra pep in their step."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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