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Playing With / Bothering by the Book

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Basic Trope: A character's scrupulous adherence to the rule book aggravates another character, intentionally.

  • Straight: Officially, checking out equipment at the Ministry of Troping requires completing three separate forms. This process is normally reduced to just writing one's name on a sign-out list because the official process is too long and inconvenient for normal purposes. Alice insists that Bob fill out all three forms because she's upset with him for some reason.
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  • Exaggerated: Alice refuses to let Bob check out the equipment because he made a very minor error on one form.
  • Downplayed: Visitors to the Ministry head office are officially required to sign a sign-in sheet, but for a practical matter no one ever does and no one cares.
  • Justified:
    • The Ministry workers can't legally strike, so they decide to Work to Rule to force management to the negotiating table.
    • The new boss at the Ministry is an unpleasant Control Freak who insists on doing everything by the rules, so his subordinates do so in order to show him just how unreasonable he's being.
  • Inverted:
    • Officially, there are no rules about checking out equipment. The Supplies and Inventory staff implement a sign-out sheet without official approval in order to keep better track of their equipment.
    • Officially, the equipment check-out procedure is very simple, but Supplies and Inventory intentionally adds more required forms because they're sick and tired of being overworked and underpaid.
  • Subverted:
    • Bob fills out the forms and hands them to Alice, who simply chucks them in the trash and hands him the sign-out sheet.
    • Bob wishes to do a "rule-to-book" protest. Charlie makes clear that he will fire him or worse if he does.
  • Double Subverted:
    • Just as Bob breathes a sigh of relief, Charlie fishes the forms out of the trash and overrides Alice because the forms weren't properly filled out.
    • Bob breaks out a rule that forces Charlie to go through a very long and complicated review of Bob's performance of the last three years (minimum) in order to fire him, which buys him another week, at least.
  • Parodied: It's quite literally impossible to check out equipment according to official procedures because they require forms that are no longer printed, approval from offices long since absorbed, renamed, or closed, and signatures from people who have long since died or retired.
  • Zig Zagged:
    • Alice and Bob's adherence to proper procedures changes by the day. Management is stumped.
    • Alice and Bob use Work To Rule as a weapon to make each other's lives hell. Which one thinks rules are stupid and which one uses them to rule with an iron fist changes from episode to episode.
  • Averted:
    • The procedures aren't complicated enough for following them to the letter to become an issue.
    • No one ever insists on such strict adherence to procedure.
  • Enforced: Executives either hate the Obstructive Bureaucrat or believe he's "unsung hero" material, so they ask for an episode that will either focus on people's plight to deal with bureaucracy or will have someone buy time for the Big Damn Heroes using paperwork.
  • Lampshaded: ???
  • Invoked: ???
  • Exploited: ???
  • Defied:
    • Alice says to Bob "Well, officially you're supposed to fill out all these forms, get them countersigned, stamped, and approved...but I can see it's urgent, so let's forget about all that."
    • Alice's boss Jeff points out that the forms she wants to fill out are from an outdated version of the rules and the new version allows Bob to not use them.
    • Alice was trying to invoke a "rule-to-book" protest, but there's so many rules that she sees the hassle would end up making things worse for her, so she decides not to do it.
  • Discussed: Alice is teaching new recruit Diane about proper procedure. Every one of her explanations on how things are officially supposed to be done is appended with "but that's too complicated, so normally we just use a sign-out sheet".
  • Conversed: ???

If you want to go back to the main trope, normally you'd just click the link, but just to spite you I'm going to insist that you fill out forms TR-0 and P-35 in triplicate, get them approved and paw-printed by Tropey the Wonder Dog, and have Trope-tan complete, sign, and attach a supplementary ID-10-T form.

Ah, screw it, here's the link.


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