Who Owns Company Policies?

It’s fun to be in charge. You get the title. You get an office. If not an office, you get some "space" and maybe a clipboard and file drawers. Maybe even business cards. You have control over your work day. You have control over others. You get an increase. You soon realize that the increase is not nearly enough. You can't control people. They have minds of their own and they break company policies. If they don't break them, they flex them. You need these people to work with you. You need them to like you. You surely can't correct them and you definitely can't say no. Can you? Do you want to? Why should you? HR will do it!

HR Wench recently joined the blogosphere. She is "bringing it, 5 days a week" as an HR Department of One. If you are an HR Department of One,  pick up a chai tea latte, sit back, relax and acknowledge the focus and perspective you bring to the madness each and everyday. If you work in a company with an HR Department of One, go to that HR person and thank them. Thank them right now. And do it again. And again.

I was an HR Department of One and it was one of the best HR growth and learning experiences I had. It was in this position that I gained a valuable perspective about the "manual." The company had a manual, it was HR's job to police. HR was caught between managers and employees who either couldn't care less and didn't see the need for policies and those who wanted equity and to see the policies enforced. It came to a head one afternoon at a weekly executive management team. 

Mgr:   HR, employee X is upset because you said he can't use his funeral leave next week. I told him he should be able to and to clear it with you.

HR:    Hmmm, I thought employee X was taking the week off to head north and fish. I was not aware he had a death in the family. He did not mention that.

Mgr:   Well he did. His grandmother passed away in April.

HR:    April? Isn't it September now?

Mgr:   Put the calendar away. The services were in out of state, he was on the road and could not get there in time. He elected not to take time off during the week and went over the long weekend.

HR:    So, who passed away this week?

Mgr:   No one.

HR:    And, why is it then that he needs to use funeral leave next week?

Mgr:   Aren't you listening? He didn't get to take it in April so he wants to use it next week.

HR:    Why? To mourn the fish they catch? I understood that they eat them, not bury and mourn them.

Mgr:   The company policies are not just yours, they are mine too you know!

You know what, red face and clinched hands aside, he was right. They were not mine. Yet, I was enforcing them. Why was I enforcing them? If they belonged to the company, to the executive team, why weren't they all enforcing them? In that moment, and in the months following, this changed. The executive team embraced (ha!) the manual as their own. We reviewed each and every policy. If it was legally necessary or provided needed direction, it stayed. If it created black and white where we wanted grey, it was shredded. In the end, the "manual" was thankfully a fraction of what it originally was. The team agreed that these were the policies the company needed and wanted. More importantly, these were the ones that they would enforce. They would enforce. That was the key. So what was HR to do?

HR was to ensure the policies were kept current, recommend changes to the manual, develop systems and processes to support policies, advise managers, bring inconsistency and concerns to the team and be the voice of reason, not compliance. My office was a revolving door initially and, at times, the transition was less than smooth. But we transitioned.

Now, when I see staff arguing over the wording of "their" policy, supervisors venting about the Master Agreement, or employees upset with decisions their managers have made, I see that one manager again. This time his face is not red and his hands are not clinched. This time he is reminding me that the policies are not personal and not all of the battles need to be mine.

Have a concern? Want to vent? The doctor is in.