Does Your HR Policy Really Matter?

 

 

It was in August 25 years ago – give or take – when the whole family was preparing to attend the Michigan Renaissance Festival. August in Michigan is pretty hot, and usually pretty humid, so summer clothing was the choice I expected my kids to make when they were getting dressed.

My oldest daughter Amy, about 4 at the time, showed up at the station wagon wearing a typical summer shorts outfit but with a strange footwear choice. She was wearing winter boots.

Not those cute little suede Uggs that celebs and other fashionistas wear today, but kid’s Michigan winter boots – rubber with fake fur linings and toppers, suitable for snow and slush. I think they were pink.

My husband told her to take off the boots and put on more appropriate footwear, like sandals or tennies. She refused. I chimed in and said I didn’t give a damn what she wore on her feet and let’s just leave already, which, of course, caused a massive argument between me and the hubby.

We went to the Festival with my daughter in her winter boots, my husband and I barely speaking.

It didn’t really matter to anyone but my daughter what she wore on her feet, did it?  She wasn’t in danger of injury or illness or inability to perform her duty to enjoy herself. If her feet got too hot or she was embarrassed – it was her problem to learn from, not mine or my husband’s. And she was old enough to learn that lesson if necessary. And having our family “firm” slowed down over the footwear of a 4 year old was, in my opinion, unnecessary and counter-productive.

But many employers  have decided that their business somehow cannot function properly if they don’t tell you what to wear, how to behave, or what kind of pictures you can have on your wall. I once interviewed at a law firm where the lawyer hid his child’s colorful crayon drawings behind a door, so they wouldn’t “offend his partners”. (I didn’t go to work at that law office!)

In other words, employers treat their employees like 4-year-olds – or in ways that parents can treat a 4-year-old, even if they shouldn’t.  And HR is forced to write endless policies trying to control behavior that doesn’t really matter to the successful operation of the business.

Remember the Serenity Prayer?  It was plastered all over dorm walls and offices when I was young:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

HR should go through every single policy and ask, “Does it really matter if employees do or don’t do this?” Then they should look on their wall or divider and recite my version:

God (or whatever works for you) grant me the serenity to accept the behavior that doesn’t matter
The courage to write a simple policy only when it does
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Do you still think I should have made my daughter change her boots?

All of the footpaths at that Festival were wet and muddy, and it turned out that, despite the fine summer weather, she was the only one who came home with clean, dry feet.

Think of that when you analyze whether your policy really matters to the bottom line of your company.

 

 

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