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Thursday, January 10, 2013

15 Effective Organizational Polices

Just like numerical goals there are good and bad policies and policies affect the motivation of workers. Bad policies are demotivating just like bad goals. Good and bad policies are described and examples of each are presented in this lecture.
Organizational polices are unfortunately one of those necessary things for which doing everything right only gets you to a neutral position with respect to motivating people but bad organizational policies can destroy trust and induce fear. This means that fixing bad policies can improve the organizations effectiveness by removing the source of some of the mistrust and fear that cause ineffectiveness. However, creating the world’s best policy won’t do any more for effectiveness that an adequate policy that workers trust and believe is fair. Therefore we want to concentrate on identifying and fixing bad policies because they are a form of negativity.
How do we identify bad policies? There are a couple of easy clues. Policies written for the 5% of employees that cause problems are rarely effective with the 5% and usually alienate the 95% of employees that are excellent workers, with the result that the productivity of the 95% is reduced.  This is because the 5% that cause problems are almost professional problem causers. They ignore polices, either good ones or bad ones. They typically don’t even consider policies or treat them as if they are for others but not them. Some of these problem people treat bad policies as a challenge to be overcome.
Managers have to deal directly with the 5% that are problem causers, typically this means getting them out of the organization as they don’t usually respond well to direct oversight or corrective action. Remember the other 95% expects you, as the manager, to deal with these problem causers and they expect you to change or get rid of problem people as long as you are fair about it. This means giving them the chance to change, but firing them if they don’t. If a manager doesn’t deal directly with problem people then the manager loses the respect of the 95% and effectiveness is reduced.
Policies written for the 5% reduce effectiveness of the 95% because the 95% see such policies as written for them as well as the 5% and they reason that management has such policies because management doesn’t trust them. They resent not being trusted and question whether they should trust management. This resentment takes energy that should be directed toward productive work.
The second tip off to bad policies is that bad policies are typically long, complex and often punishing. Why? Because they are intended to thwart people that abuse simple policies, i.e. the 5%. It takes time away from more important job functions for good employees to learn and comply with long, complex and punishing policies. Such policies convey that the organization does not trust the employee. For good reason because usually such policies are written by managers who don’t trust employees. Recall that good employees feel that if the organization does not trust them then probably they should not trust the organization. If there is not an environment of trust then there is not an environment of high effectiveness.
Managers can’t fix this perception of mistrust caused by bad policies by telling the “good” workers that the policies don’t apply to them but only to “bad” workers. Policies are necessary in any organization to provide guidelines fair to all so this approach requires two sets of policies, either two formal sets or a formal set and a set applied at the managers discretion. It is far better to have a set of policies written for the 95%. The fact that policies written for the 95% won’t work for the 5% is immaterial, no policies will work for 5% except those that enable managers to remove people.
Some will argue that the bad policies are necessary; otherwise it would be impossible to control the bad employees and fire them without data in their personnel records. This is a misconception. Data in personnel files is almost never of any aid in dealing with problem employees. In my personal experience I have had to deal with numerous bad employees, typically left in place by previous ineffective managers. I don’t recall ever finding anything useful in any of these people’s personnel files. It was always necessary to build the case for dismissal from scratch and good policies were just as effective in eliminating such employees as bad policies.
At this point I must remind the student to not be hasty in judging whether an employee is a “bad” employee. Don’t make judgments on the basis of one assignment or one mistake. Be patient, if behavior is repeated over and over then the manager can be sure of making the right decision. Note that the manager must not act too hastily but must not let problem people continue to cause problems. It is better to wait a little too long than to act too hastily. People are forgiving if you take a little too long but they are not forgiving if they think you have removed a “good” person by mistake.
Now let’s examine examples of bad and good policies:
Bad Policy
If an employee is absent, arrives late or leaves early without permission of the employee’s manager more than twice then the manager must file a form 13 with the personnel department. If three form 13s are filed then the employee must be referred to the personnel department for counseling.
If an employee needs time off for personal business then the employee must notify the manager a full day ahead. The equivalent of two days per year is allowed with pay if the manager is notified at least a full day ahead. Violation of this policy will result in no pay for time away from the job.
Better Policy
Notify your manager as far in advance as you can if you need time off for personal business or know you are going to be late or absent so that the manager can plan work a rounds for your work.
Bad Policy
Employees may take off the funeral day and up to two other consecutive days off for deaths in the immediate family. An employee’s immediate family is considered, spouse, children, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, step-parents, son-in-laws, daughter-in-laws and parents, grandparents and siblings of the spouse. The personnel department may require verification of death if the employee takes time off for more than two funerals in one year.
Better Policy
Make arrangements with your manager as early as possible if you require time off to attend the funeral of a family member or close friend.
I have read that organizations that have changed from “Bad Policies” to “Better Policies” have found that time away from the job decreases. Why do you think this happens? The reason is that the better policies foster trust and trust leads to commitment so that the employees take off no more time than they need. Bad policies build distrust and undermine commitment so that employees are likely to take the maximum time off permitted.
Review your organization’s policies on bereavement, personal time off and absences from the job.
If your organization has good policies then you are fortunate because this will help you build an effective organization. If the polices are bad and you have the power to make changes then make changing the bad policies part of your personal process improvement efforts. If the policies are bad and you have no influence on them you are almost stuck. You cannot disown the bad polices as that is a form of back stabbing and disloyalty to your organization, which is a form of negativism that you must avoid. However, if your style enables people to bring their problems to you then when one of the bad policies causes one of your workers severe problems they are likely to tell you. You can work with the worker and the human relations people to see if in such a case there is a solution that helps the employee and is still fair to all. If you make a sincere attempt to understand the worker’s situation and if you make a sincere attempt to find a fair solution without badmouthing the bad policy, or the human relations people if no solution can be found, then you are building trust and your time spent is worthwhile.

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