Policies, Procedures, Patrols and Power

brk rulsWEBEvery organization has its own set of policies and procedures. Many organizations have orientation programs, some of which are quite elaborate. Therefore, everyone is on board with that particular organization’s own set of rules. So everyone follows them right? Wrong!

In fact, in some organizations, everyone except the managers and others higher up the ladder must attend orientation. Some may take the attitude, well they are managers and wouldn’t be where they are if they hadn’t been ethical, especially the officers. Really, Bunkie? Can you say Enron? On the other hand, you might say, so what’s the big deal? Managers and executives don’t have time for such base programs. Here’s the big deal. This type of behavior sends messages that leave much to be desired.  For example, at this organization, there are different rules for different people. Not everyone here is equal. Here, everyone is not treated the same. Here, at your level, you are an underling and must do as we say, not as we do. This type of culture will only lead to chaos, disengagement, poor productivity and low trust. But where is HR you ask?

Human Resources acts as the patrol on such matters. Isn’t HR supposed to patrol this kind of behavior and hold people accountable; after all, they wrote the employee handbook and probably conducted the Orientation. Didn’t they make it clear? Didn’t these people sign off on a form that they would comply with the handbook and others polices? Did HR forget to provide the managers and executives a copy of the company handbook?

Are you kidding? People don’t even obey laws. Codes are broken every day. Even in the banking industry. Gasp! Yes, Virginia, it’s true. Why do people do things they know will break a company policy, a state code, or even a law? Every company has at least, if not several, of these employees. In these employees’ minds, the rules apply to everyone except them. They think that rules are just guidelines and one can operate on either side of the guideline. The reason these people don’t comply is for the fourth “p” in the title – power.

Some people think that this mindset only applies to the rich and truly powerful. This may be true in many cases. However, others are far from rich who feel they have fewer rules to follow than everyone else does. They feel more powerful when they break the rules. The sad thing is that when these people break the rules other people think they are powerful too! A study by a team headed by Gerben Van Kleef in Amsterdam served to illustrate this point. The study indicates that people who came into a room of and obeyed the rules were seen as less powerful than those who came in slammed down their belongings, took a cup of coffee without asking permission and put their feet up were perceived as being more powerful. Who knew?

Here’s another question, why do supervisors allow this type of power grabbing to occur? Why does HR turn the other eye? How many times have you heard, Oh that’s just Harry or that’s just Mary being Mary. Well Harry and Mary are no better – or powerful – than anyone else on the team is. Recently an executive relayed a story whereby a supervisor and an employee in the financial sector both knew about a particular code.  Yet, when the employee approached the supervisor and asked to do something for another employee in violation of this code, the supervisor advised the employee, “Ummm yes, that’s the code, but go ask an officer of the institution.” When the employee asked the officer who also knows the code, he replied, “Yes, go ahead and do it.” Seriously?  Now, because of this lack of accountability, there may be a lawsuit against this organization. An example of another infraction is the employee who is denied the purchase of an item because it is not in the budget. This employee jumps over the supervisor’s head, goes to the supervisor’s boss and the supervisor’s boss grants the request. While this appears to be less of an infraction as there is no danger of a lawsuit, it creates mistrust, a culture with no accountability, a lack of respect and low employee morale. This is the stuff that when left unchecked can bring a business to its knees. Then there will be no polices or procedures to patrol, no one has any power and that is indeed a big deal.

 Graphic: Big Stock


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