To Policy or Not to Policy, That Is the Question

Theresa, I got stuck in a problematic place in my leadership a number of years ago. I was concerned about staff behavior that was counter to maintaining good and complementary relationships. I wanted a policy that I could use which would result in a period of discipline in order to improve that staff's behavior over a short period of time, and bring them back to compliance, or else result in termination. While California is an at-will employment state, I felt it was more in line with my desires to have a clear warning about behaviors. I felt it would be more "caring."

However, in talking with my corporate counsel, he asked me if I had such a policy, could I guarantee that it would be implemented in every situation that warranted it. I had to answer that I could guarantee no such thing. He gave me a principle then; "A policy that is not followed is worse, legally, than not having a policy." OK, I made up the quote, but it has served me well, in terms of making policies that I could not follow easily, or that would cause more problems than they solved. But, I still am left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. I sincerely thought my policy would have helped to make the workplace better. I realize that I was going about it the wrong way.

My question here is, how would you answer this conundrum from the perspective of policies and waivers? My principle may be relevant in regards to relationships, but I also know that we still must have policies.

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