3 Tiny Company Policies with Huge Cultural Influence


This morning, I read an article about the strange excuses employees have used to get the day off work. And yes, some of them are so completely unbelievable that the dishonesty level should be a red flag.

But what struck me most was the amount of time and money companies admitted to using to try to catch these employees in a lie. It reminded me of a boss I had once who loved for his employees to live in constant fear over their job security. I was in a car accident on my way to work one day, and after yelling at me on the phone, he sent a coworker to the scene to verify my story. If he had taken the time to develop a better culture, he would have found that a team motivated by loyalty is more efficient than one motivated by fear.

For the most part, though, I believe the “culture of fear” comes about by accident, accumulated over time with out-of-date rules, arbitrary policies, and regulations devised by out of touch higher-ups. A born rebel myself, I encourage managers to challenge the rules. An overabundance of rules can feel oppressive and discourage creativity and loyalty.

Let’s look at three small examples:

PTO Requirements: Lots of companies have switched from regulating a certain number of sick days vs. vacation days to allowing employees to choose how to spend their days off. Does this mean employees are coming to work sick in order to save days for vacations? Probably. But my guess is that they’re doing that anyway, and if they are calling in sick, you can be reasonably assured that it’s real. (This would have saved my old boss lots of money on spy salaries.) And it means that employees aren’t scared to take their rightfully earned days off.

Flexible scheduling: I’m a realist, and I know that flex-scheduling does not work for every company. But I still think it’s worth a look because I believe work schedules are a very large chunk of employee satisfaction. Would coming in a few hours earlier or later be an issue? Or working four ten-hour shifts? If so, what about letting two part-time employees share a full-time position, or discovering if you have people who prefer working weekends to allow some of the others to have the weekend off? Even a small give on scheduling can have a big impact on the loyalty of your staff.

Letting Go:  Oftentimes, rules are kept around just because they’ve always been there. It’s a good idea to rethink your policies on a regular basis to pinpoint which ones are out of date or need sprucing up. For instance, lots of companies banned mobile phones and social media when they first came about, but now use them in day to day operations.

So what’s happening in your employee handbook? Do you see any rules begging to be broken?