When Policies Go Wrong. A corporate example inspired by #YesAllWomen

Policies and procedures are created to make sure things get done safely, consistently and correctly. When a problem occurs companies are quick to show they are correcting it by saying “we are reviewing and updating our policies.”  What if your carefully honed policies are actually creating a problem? How would you know?

Let me share a personal example:

Early in my corporate career I worked “the late shift” supporting a Fed Funds trader. I was almost always the last person to leave the office building when I finished between seven and eight at night. I worked downtown in the banking district and I had to park about two blocks from the building. If it was dark when I left it was departmental policy that I have building security escort me to my car.

On the surface it seemed like a perfectly reasonable policy. The company wanted to make sure I made it to my car safely. The problem with the policy was the security guard was a bigger threat than any random stranger was. When I told my supervisor that the security guard was making me uncomfortable with his sexual comments and insisting we should “go for drink” I was told that he was “just being overly friendly.”  And that I was “safer with him than without him.” That didn’t prove to be the case the night he shoved me against my car and aggressively kissed and groped me.

Despite their intentions, the company put me in a dangerous situation.


Consider these ideas as you review your policies for unintended consequences:

What are the people who use them saying? As leaders we are often not on the front lines where our policies and procedures are being implemented. Ask the “peon-who-knows” what’s working and what’s not and actually listen to their response. I could fill a book with the number of times I have waved a red flag and was ignored.

How might the policy be twisted? In my example it was a case of the fox guarding the hen house. If you wanted to abuse the system, how could you? Ask someone who knows nothing about your business or your team and won’t make the assumptions that you do to look for loopholes.

Who you are trusting? There are A LOT of amazingly trustworthy and wonderful people in the world and I hope all of the people you trust are those people. But, how often do we hear money being embezzled? Are your checks and balances working as you intended?

Is the policy doing what it is meant to? Sometimes we put rules in place to solve a problem and instead it creates a bigger issue somewhere else. Look at the decision making point for the policy and ask yourself if there is a better option.

Policies have their place in all organizations. When they are implemented or used blindly they can become part of the problem. Revisit them at least once a year to make sure they are still serving you well. And if someone points out a flaw in the system, step up to the plate and fix it.

Have you ever had a run-in with a policy that wasn’t working?

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential,

Doc Robyn

Note – This post was inspired by the conversation happening on Twitter under #YesAllWomen

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Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence in all aspects of life through active leadership, powerful teamwork, effective communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com.

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