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4 company policies employees can’t stand

What happens when your rules and policies—created to protect your business—start to push away top talent? In his book Predictable Success, author Les McKeown called this the “treadmill phase”—when your business starts to decline due to a stifling of creativity and innovation.

The rules, policies, and approaches below can be cause for employee frustration—but that doesn’t mean you need to do away with them immediately. Instead, take time to consider the impact policy changes would cause within the organization, then strategically determine which rules are worth keeping and which can be dissolved.

One-size-fits-all performance management

What works for one doesn’t work for all. While some believe performance reviews are a waste of time, others value them. Some will even ask their manager to provide a formal review.

Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to how you manage your team and provide feedback, take a personalized approach. Get to know your employees and their preferences. 

Do they feel more comfortable with a formal approach to reviews or ad hoc feedback? 

Do they want specific feedback related to a particular incident and what they could have done better? Or are they looking for more general suggestions for improvement? 

What cadence of feedback works best for them? The 2018 People Management Study found employees would prefer their managers err on the side of more feedback than less.

Regardless of when and how you offer feedback, be sure to follow up in writing. This provides a reference point for both you and your direct reports to refer to in the future.

Per diem spending policies

Many organizations still use per diem spending policies when it comes to travel, accommodations, and meals for their employees. While this can certainly help with budgeting, this type of policy can denote distrust and cause employees to feel underappreciated.

Bemis Associates Inc., a manufacturing company, takes a drastically different approach to spending. They simply ask employees to spend the company’s money as if it was their own. Their rationale? “They’re leaving their family, friends, and schedules behind to be on the road for us, so we want them to be comfortable,” said Bemis’ EVP and COO, Roseann Zelny in a recent conversation with us

While this type of spending policy may not be feasible in every organization, it’s a policy worth aspiring to. In many organizations, policies are made off the lowest common denominator: the type of person who would abuse a company’s generosity if given the chance. Instead of basing decisions on these employees, what if organizations hired better, resulting in more trustworthy employees and trust-based policies?

4 company policies employees can't stand

No working from home

Telecommuting is a hot topic when it comes to the future of work. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, 99% of employees surveyed would like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers. 

Remote work comes with many perks, including improved morale and reduced employee turnover, greater work-life balance, reduced absenteeism, decreased overhead, and more.

It’s clear creating remote work opportunities can be beneficial to your workforce. That said, working from home isn’t for everyone or for every company. It’s a decision that needs to be made based on your organization’s unique needs, technological capabilities of supporting remote employees, and the demands of individual roles. 

However, if your “no working from home” policy is based off your underperformers, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and consider if offering flexible work privileges can benefit your business. 

Restrictive time off policies

Not every company needs to offer unlimited paid time off. In fact, some studies have shown that employees with unlimited PTO actually take less vacation.

But companies that require employees to jump through hoops and ladders to take time off—especially sick leave—are doing their employees a disservice. Everyone needs time off to recharge, and the benefits of time off are plentiful: increased productivity, more creativity, decreased stress, and immunity, to name a few.

Much like with spending policies, these strict time off policies tend to be created around employees who take excessive time off. Instead of creating your policies around underperforming employees, focus on improving the quality of your hires and create policies that are respected by—and respectful of—your new, responsible adult employees. 

It’s all subjective.

At the end of the day, policies will vary from company to company. Aside from anything you’re legally required to do as a business, there are no policies that should or should not apply across the board. The important question to ask yourself is: Am I creating these policies to accommodate low performers or to reward high performers? Because if it’s the former, there’s a chance your policies are stifling your top performers—ultimately causing them to be one foot out the door.

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Shannon is a product manager at PI. She has a mirror-image twin sister—but they didn't discover this until they were 26.

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