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The 5 dumbest HR policies you can have

I have spent a lot of years in HR writing, amending and implementing HR policy. (Sometimes even getting rid of policies!) I have seen the full gamut of organizational policies and let me tell you, some of them really cause me to shake my head. Far too often organizations and their HR folks come up with policies that they think make sense (for some reason) but really, what they are doing is using a policy to compensate for poor management. The thinking is that employees may do something that we don’t want them to do, so we put a put a policy in place to prevent it or deal with it if/when it happens. Stupid wordsThe whole thing drives me nuts. What ever happened to managers using some common sense and talking to their people? Whatever happened to organizational trust and addressing the outliers if something occurs that shouldn’t. To that extent, I give you the 5 dumbest HR policies an organization can have:

1. Dress code – by far one of the dumbest policies ever. I am ok with a small section of an employee handbook that provides some general guidelines, but overly prescriptive dress codes are just dumb. If you have to define your organizational culture through a dress code, you have bigger issues at hand. Most employees can use common sense if you tell them your work environment is business casual, or even casual dress. For those that don’t have common sense, there is nothing that a 2 minute conversation with their manager can’t solve.

2. Banning personal use of the internet at work – this one is a complete waste of time. Not only is there a work around (smartphones), this is simply telling your employees that you don’t trust them. For many employees, a quick 5 minute diversion to check news, sports scores, etc. serves as their de facto “smoke break.” So, if you aren’t banning smoke breaks (which is a dumb policy too) than don’t ban personal internet use at work. Besides, if employees are able to take a quick break to deal with banking, etc. at work vs. leaving work to go to the bank, isn’t that a better use of their time anyway? Besides, isn’t it all about performance? So if you have a non-performer AND you have internet usage reports showing them that they spend 40% of their time surfing, than BINGO – address the issue! Which leads to:

3. No cell phones/smartphones at work – unless your office place is a locked down facility dealing in top secret government work (defense, R&D, etc.) than this policy makes no sense. Again, it is like telling staff you don’t trust them. Life happens and often the ability to make/take a quick call on a cell phone and/or send out a quick email/text to deal with a personal situation that is distracting the employee can ease their mind. Which is better – having the employee spend 3 minutes to send a text/email or have them present in body but not mind all day as they are worrying about their personal issue? (i.e. like a sick loved one)

4. Doctor’s notes for absences – you know the ones I am talking about. The attendance policy that states that any illness greater than 3 days (it is always 3, you notice that?) requires a doctor’s note. Really!? So, I get the flu on Sunday night, I can’t even get out of bed for 2-3 days, than I have to go my doctor (assuming I can even get in) to ask him/her to write me a note to say that I have been sick for the past 3 days? Huh? For those situations where you suspect abuse – pattern absenteeism or excessive, sit down with the employee and discuss with them, but don’t require all employees to provide doctor’s notes.

5. No dating of co-workers – good luck with this one. We spend most of our waking hours at work so it is only natural sometimes that relationships form. I have seen policies, and worked for companies that had them, that indicated that you are expressly forbidden from dating co-workers and that failure to adhere to the policy would result in termination. Now, if you need a policy that states that co-workers cannot be in a reporting relationship then so be it – spell it out. (Although I think this falls under most companies conflict of interest policies anyway). But other than those types of situations, to have a policy that forbids and attempts to “regulate” inter office dating is nothing short of madness.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to good management practices. Talk to your people, set the appropriate expectations and stop looking at policies to be a substitute for managing them. What about you, do you have any other stupid HR policies that should make the list? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Blogging4jobs


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