Your Policies Should Match Your Intentions

Yesterday in Bangkok we ran a workshop called NEW LEADERS: Managing and Leading for the First Time. Our participants came from a variety of industries, including hospitality, banking, recruitment, manufacturing, and food production. We spent the day looking at the role a leader plays in boosting their employees’ effectiveness, establishing effective relationships with your employees and with others in and out of the company, and getting the “quick wins” that are so helpful in the early days of your role.

A really good question came up at one point when we talked about work/life balance: “How do you get your employees to go home when they get paid overtime for staying later?” The answer is so simple that it sounds like it must be wrong: stop paying overtime. But ultimately, if you say you want employees to behave a certain way, then your policies need to support that behavior, or you are just going to confuse them, and the behavior that results may be the worst thing for your organization.

Think about it: if you want people to leave work earlier, then paying them to stay later is not going to encourage them to go home. Why would they? Obviously, you value putting extra time into work, so much so that you will pay extra for it, and if that’s what you are going to do (and you are willing to pay for it), then do not be surprised when your employees stick around longer. If anything, you may be encouraging inefficiency as they drag out their work so it takes more than the regular work day to get it done. People may listen to the words you say, like “go spend time with your family,” but they pay more attention to your actions (especially when those actions involve money). They will follow your policies more than they follow your words.

Consider the issue of collaboration in the workplace. Complex companies realize their employees are more valuable when they collaborate than when they operate independently. But when performance reviews come around, what kind of work gets the most attention? For most companies, the vast majority of a performance appraisal deals with an employee’s individual results. If that is what you evaluate, then that must be what is important, and so your employees will focus on their individual work, which may be exactly the opposite of what you need.

For many of us, the behaviors we want from our employees are changing as markets, technologies, and the very structure of our organizations are changing. At the same time, many of our policies and practices stay the same. If we really expect our employees to change how they work, we need to change the rules of the game. Until then, it will be business as usual, and if that goes on too long, we may end up running ourselves out of business instead.

One Response so far.

  1. […] and facilitate those new behaviors. As we wrote a year ago, your policies in the workplace should match the behaviors you are trying to get from your employees. If your stated expectations conflict with your policies, people will follow your policies no […]

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