Turn In Your Badge and Quit Being the Policy Police

“Just so you know I did not take the job. She was not open to me shifting my hours for a few days a week. She just felt I would be working less. She said that for her to allow (that) for me, it would probably be a pay cut. I laughed hysterically in my head.”

If you read that exchange, remember this was last week and NOT 1950.

It was said that Henry Ford said that his customers could have any color they wanted as long as it was black. His cars were all black and it took him a while to change, and then only because of competitive pressure.

Your policies as organizational risk

This so-called HR leader in the conversation I detailed is a danger to her organization. She is putting it at an organizational risk with this outdated mindset. In this century, you can’t have workplace rules grounded in the industrial revolution. Don’t have a Henry Ford mindset and only ONE rule of work.

The exchange also caused me to reflect on the bad rep HR has. If you wonder how HR’s brand arose, this is ground zero of that thinking.

As sad as this is, it is not an isolated case. As I travel the world in this HR space it is mind boggling how blinded some in our profession are. (The above discussion was from a New York area firm.)

I had a discussion with one client on a consulting project around performance management. They spent all the upfront time on how to deal and punish the NON-PERFORMERS till I just could not take it anymore. Who are we designing this system for was my question. Are we putting together a system for the clear majority of average to high performing workers or the small percentage of low performers? This brought a pause, and allowed us to get to a more fruitful discussion.

Changing workforce, changing workplace

If we think of our organization as our customer, we must react to the dynamics within and without for that matter. Workforce is skewing younger, competitive pressures abound, experimentation of new work rules, etc.

The changing workplace isn’t the office of your parents anymore. Three-piece suits ever so neatly accessorized with the perfect tie, and skirt suits coupled with the perfect pair of pumps aren’t staples of most work wardrobes anymore. Your ideal employee isn’t a “yes man,” they are the team members that question convention and will challenge the opinions of their supervisors.

The way we think of work, and the traditions that go along with it are changing. There is nothing for us to do but adapt. The command and control aspect of management has infected entire organizations. The hardened rules, no flexibility, policy and process driven is enough to cause my eyes to glaze over.

I worked for a company at one time where the mindset of the CFO was that we are not flexible, we have policies and procedures and we must follow them, regardless of the circumstances. That mindset and the constant frustration of dealing with it assured me I would be gone soon.

Listen and learn

My father’s favorite phrase was, “If you listen you just might learn something.” No business can improve unless it pays the closest possible attention to complaints and suggestions from that “most important asset.” A Complaint Is A Gift  is the perfect mindset. If your people are coming to you with issues concerning your policy, listen. If there is any roadblock in your space then that must be instantly and rigorously looked at to see what can be done.

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Try as much as you can to stay abreast of new workplace changes and the experimentation with new rules. I am amazed at how so many forward-thinking organizations are moving at warp speed to try to create a more agile workplace with more flexibility.

Police no more

The old mindset of HR as the police is done. Get rid of the uniform and begin building trust and transparency throughout. As Henry Ford learned, they may just be asking for another color.

Remember you are not the only one offering a “job.” As my colleague did, the best people will walk away laughing hysterically, as the joke is on you.

Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.