Nothing says 'I don't trust you' like creating a new rule

Let's assume that you have a high degree of confidence and trust in 80% of your workforce. Deservedly so, as they're a high achieving group. You know however, that the other 20% aren't quite up to speed. 

But what happens when you aim for perfection? When you push your luck. When you want more from the 20%. Or, when you just become fed up and decide enough is enough...

If you deal with the problem en masse you may just end up with mediocrity across the board.

But en masse is easier. You don't want to call out specific people - it's both time consuming and uncomfortable. It's easier to rifle out blanket rules. 

You put up signs and posters: "Clean your dishes" "Treat your co-workers with respect", "Take off your muddy shoes".

The problem is that everyone sees those signs, not just the offenders.

The implication for those that aren't offending is they've done something wrong. Suddenly the good guys feel a bit offended, and the bad guys are oblivious to the sign anyways...Is the person that regularly treats people disrespectfully likely to change their behaviour because a poster told them to?

After the signs, come the new policies.... because some guy submitted 2 years of expenses causing an expense overload, a new policy comes into play: all expenses must be submitted within 30 days or not paid. Imagine how the person feels that spent a month on the road working 60 hour weeks only to learn it cost them money. Is that person going to work as hard next month? Not likely.

In an effort to deal with a minority situation the engagement of the good guy is sacrificed. 

Too often in an effort to 'fix' the 20% the trust of the 80% is eroded. They lose the bounce in their step. They feel a little less part of the corporate family when the implication through mass email is that they may be insensitive enough to park in the handicap spot. 

Petty rules, signs and posters meant to constrain the behaviour of the minority can be soul crushing for the majority. Don't put up a sign unless you're pretty darn sure it's aimed at the masses. And don't implement a new process to 'fix' a handful of people. 

Thinking, caring people are at the heart of organizational creativity. But nothing douses the flame of a brilliant idea like the suggestion that one will only do the right thing if a policy tells them to.