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How to Write Policy

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When it comes managing, there’s a fine line to walk when it comes to policy creation. On the one hand, you need rules and procedures for handling various legal and behavioral issues that come up in the workplace. On the other hand, you don’t want to have so many rules and regulations that your hands tied by red tape in a situation that could be resolved with a simple conversation.

Workplace policies are supposed to ensure that everyone is on a level playing field, that everyone knows the appropriate way to behave and that nobody is being discriminated against. If a common behavioral or compliance problem is limited to a select few bad apples, the appropriate response is to deal with those exceptions to the rule, not create a rule for the exception.

When the same problems keep arising with your reporting staff, it’s important to take an objective look at the conflict to see what sort of policy should be written or if a new policy is needed in the first place. In order for a policy to be written, the problem behavior needs to be both present in a significant percentage of your staff and not subject to discriminatory interpretations.

For instance, if many of your staff members have started showing up to work in wrinkled suits or start skipping the suit all together, then a dress code policy will help remind everyone to maintain a professional appearance. If, however, the only problem is Paul from Accounting wearing cut off jean shorts and tank tops every day, then you should talk to Paul, not make a rule that singles him out.

According to Susan M. Heathfield, here’s the rule of thumb for policy creation: “You want to have the necessary policies and procedures to ensure a safe, organized, convivial, empowering, nondiscriminatory work place. Yet, you do not want to write a policy for every exception to accepted and expected behavior. Policy development is for the many employees not for the few exceptions.”

Besides behavioral problems in the workplace, policies are most commonly used to ensure that a company is following federal employment and hiring practices. When there are clear procedures for dealing with employee grievances, employees are protected from discrimination and favoritism and the business is insulated from the legal trouble that come with violating federal standards. While policies might not stop people from breaking the rules, they give us a clear plan of action when things do go wrong. When you decide to write a new policy, you must make sure that it follows government employment and hiring standards to protect your business from legal recourse.

To help get things rolling, here’s a quick little writing guide from Boise State University that should give you a better idea how to get started on writing your own policies for work.

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