Don’t Be a Policy Thumper!

Policies are not meant to manage your organization, you are!

Have you ever received a request from an employee, and deferred to policy? While this may not necessarily be the wrong thing to do…I wouldn’t call it the right thing to do either.

As a manager, you’re tasked with making decisions that will benefit your organization, project, team, etc. Policies are meant to be guidelines…not dogma. Yes, there are those policies that you should probably follow down to the letter (i.e. policies that involve employment laws such as FMLA, EEO, etc.), but for your everyday decisions…guess what? You’re the one in a position to make the best possible determination.

I’ll share a personal anecdote that highlights the importance of strategic thinking in your day-to-day management. Last year I was scheduled for training on a short week (I was working a compressed schedule at the time). The training itself would not have interfered with my normal schedule, but my manager had me change to a regular schedule (straight 8’s) during the pay-period my training was scheduled for. I tried to make the case for staying on the same schedule, but was denied. The reason: policy.

Needless to say, I get irked by managers and supervisors who hide behind policy. -_-

In my particular example, the manager would have been better suited by keeping me on my compressed schedule (per my manager’s suggestion, I ended up taking leave for what would have been a regularly scheduled day off). I would have been able to offer my agency an additional half day worth of work that pay-period, and would have saved myself the need to use my personal leave. In this situation, both the agency and I lost out.

Many of my HR colleagues would argue that making decisions that are different for different employees can be risky, and they’re right…it can be risky. However, in many cases; if there is a legitimate business reason for supporting different actions for different employees with similar situations, you will be able to weather inquires from applicable third parties.

For my policy writers: policies should be as clear and concise as possible, but should be flexible enough for managers and supervisors to determine how to implement such policies within their sections in order to meet their business needs as efficiently as practicable. Their is a fine line between a well written policy and a poorly written one. A poorly written policy with inhibit organizational efficiency, while a well-written policy will encourage efficient operations, and still maintains fairness when applied appropriately (i.e. in order to avoid an EEO complaints).

Looking forward to your thoughts in the comments section!


Categories: Human Resources

Tags: , ,

4 replies

  1. A while ago I got caught up in a conversation on LinkedIn which essentially said if you have a great culture you don’t need policies.

    I sit on the opposite camp where I believe that polarised and doesn’t work at scale. Growing quickly? Managing risk? Needing clarity? They have a place.

    When managers call me and ask me what to do, I ask them what they thing the right thing to do is. Not just right legally but morally, that’s where we start, the rule book just sits in the corner for the “just in case we need it” – good post btw!

    Liked by 1 person

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