Posts Tagged ‘managers’

How often have you heard a manager utter to his/her staff “it’s the company’s policy to dot, dot, dot, fill in the blank”?  This get-me-off-the-hook-for-now statement is quite often followed up with, “and if you have any further questions about this, you should take it up with Human Resources.”  Now that the manager has absolved him/herself of all responsibility in Scene 1, Take 1, you, as HR, have an inquiring employee sitting across from you. He/she is waiting for an explanation as to why YOU decided to treat this concern in whatever manner the policy has described.  After taking a very deep breath and tightening your lips upon realizing that yet another manager has slipped out the back door and left you standing to face another sticky matter, you begin to explain.

There are a few turns this scene could take based on the explanation you  choose to provide. We’ll start with the one you dream of giving, then move to the one that I know as a bright and savvy HR professional you will give.  You could start with, “this policy was written because, unlike you, of course, there are employees who arrive to work barely able to take care of themselves, therefore, clearly unable to think themselves out of a paper bag.  When you then combine that with individuals who have somehow acquired the title of manager because it sounds really good when introducing themselves in groups, you get me sitting here day after day writing “HR” policies so that those “managers” can continue to avoid all semblances of really managing.”  Ahhh, was that as good for you as it was for me? CUT!

Okay, back to reality!  That was definitely not the response you want to give. Although, it just might be closer reality than would make any of us comfortable. Policies developed by HR are intended to help companies manage all operations more effectively.  Company policies generally come into existence in response to or in anticipation of potential work disruptions or proactively in order to effectively facilitate change or growth. From you in Scene 1, Take 3, the inquiring employee would gain a good understanding as to why this particular policy was developed and how it either minimizes disruption or how it permits the company to perform at a higher level.  Ideally, this explanation should very easily roll off the tongue of the inquiring employee’s manager. 

Okay, now, let’s be fair-er to the manager. Managers must be equipped to handle employee inquiries. Not all are and the fault is not always completely on their shoulders. The title of manager carries significant legal weight for a company and should have a fairly significant impact on the company’s financial performance. It’s not something to be handed out along with company t-shirts. When this coveted moniker is bestowed upon someone, that someone should immediately be brought into a full understanding of the new responsibilities and expectations that are inseparably bonded to the title.  If we fail to do this effectively, as HR professionals, we get to take part in Scene 1, Take 2 in our offices more often than we want and more often than should be necessary!  We can set up our managers to succeed by helping each of them to take ownership of all the accoutrements of management especially the company’s policies.  If we do this well, we can minimize the number of times we are cast to play the role of Keeper of the Policies.


Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR is Managing Partner for Mora&Associates, an HR search and consulting firm based in the Greater Metropolitan area of Houston, TX (now the 3rd largest city in the US).   She looks forward to your comments and questions regarding “What Works at Work”.

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HR is tasked with designing systems for managing people. These systems may involve establishing company policies. Line or operations managers are, generally speaking, responsible for managing the people, right? Most managers have no problem calling an employee in to give praise for a job well done or to correct any operational issue that might undermine his or her ability to meet required numbers. Why does this same manager quake at the thought of dealing with blatant dress code violations, particularly those that deal with employees coming to work partially, if not, completely unclothed during the warmer months of the year?

You, Ms. Manager, decided it’s not that important. The cute guy on your team, Jon, is half-dressed today but you have to work on the efficiency assessment due by the end of the week. Five of the women on your team and one of the guys have just spent the last 45 minutes discussing, emailing, gawking, conducting pass-by’s (Is that a word?) of Jon’s cubicle. Will it end there? Of course not, they are going to lunch with employees from other departments and will be discussing just how “hot” Jon looked today. They will be arranging for departmental “work-related” visits from their buddies later in the day and hoping for a long extremely hot summer. The remainder of your team will be discussing how you have let things like this slide and how “management” arbitrarily enforce certain policies but not others. Suddenly, you’ve just lost a good chunk of  work hours and some small amount of respect over an issue that was “not that important”.

I’ve been told that avoidance on this issue mostly comes from not knowing exactly what to say. Try this, “I know it’s warm outside but I promise we will keep the temperature inside the office comfortably cool. Can you please keep your clothes on, dress professionally, and adhere to our company’s dress code? It’s in place to maintain not only a productive work environment but to also impart the right image to our customers who make our paychecks possible. Thank you!”

Questions: What’s the worse dress code offense you’ve witnessed? Do you think the offender was aware of the violation? What’s your opinion on office dress codes?  Do you like or dislike casual dress?

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