In your organization, how many of the rules and policies are in place because of problem employees? For example, let’s say you are allowed to send personal Emails from work. You don’t take advantage of this, but you do occasionally send a personal message to a friend or relative. You also get your job done. This all works really well until Mr. Problem is hired. He takes advantage of this use of Email. Every time the boss walks by his desk, Mr. Problem is sending personal Emails. What happens next? The boss writes a strict policy controlling the use of Email for the entire company.
Do you remember the freedom you felt when you went to college? You went from having MANY rules to follow from both parents and teachers. Be home by 11:00. Clean your room every Friday. No cell phones in class. If you’re late for class, you get detention. THEN, you go off to college. If you don’t want to clean your room, you don’t. If you want to carry a cell phone, you do. If you don’t want to go to class, you don’t. HOWEVER, you ARE held accountable in that if you flunk out, you’re out. No two ways about it. That freedom college students feel, yet also being held accountable, may be one of the reasons so many people think that college was one of the best times of their lives. The students with good habits and judgment rise to the top and the students with the worst habits and judgment flunk out.
Nordstrom, the famous upscale department store, used to hand ONE rule to new employees. It was given to them on an index card. The rule was:
Rule #1: Use good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.
In recent years Nordstrom has added to those rules, most likely because problem employees took advantage of the “no rule” policy.
In most organizations, especially big business, rules are definitely needed. But the lesson here is to examine those unnecessary rules and policies. Which ones are in place because SOMEONE didn’t handle an employee problem well? Often, effective performance management practices can eliminate the need for a controlling rule or policy that zaps the joy out of work for the employees who DO have good habits and who DO use good judgment.