Faults of a few create punishment for all

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Have you ever thought about how many of your policies and procedures exist because a few people broke the rules? In a similar way we all have to endure travel headaches because of the actions of a few individuals. Some policies, procedures and regulations are helpful in establishing expectations. Sometimes we go too far and instead of confronting and correcting the behaviors of a few, we look towards group meetings and more restrictive policies.

Occasionally I receive a phone call or email asking if I can come in and conduct a training workshop for employees on a subject like harassment and respectful communication. With a little probing it turns out that many of these group training sessions are in response to the actions of a few misbehaving individuals.

Instead of (or in addition to) dealing with these individuals directly, the whole group has to endure training on a subject they already comply with.

Recently I was re-reading an excellent book, The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey. In the book Covey illustrates a number of examples where we pay a trust ‘tax’ – essentially extra cost and reduced speed because of a lack of trust. Many policies, procedures, regulations and compliance training add to this trust tax – slowing down the organization and adding to its cost.

This is very evident to my HR clients who often see big chunks of their training budgets allocated to compliance training with precious little left over to develop the organization in a more proactive way (think leadership training and customer service skills training).

One example that stands out in my mind was in a health care setting where staff had to endure multiple in-services (health care term for training) on patient documentation because a few staff failed to maintain complete and accurate documentation. Instead of taking those few people aside, everyone had to endure needless retraining. It took up valuable time and money in an already cash-strapped environment. The manager was avoiding the confrontation and because of her fear, everyone paid the price.

Putting Ideas into Action

  • Instead of creating a ‘rules based’ organization, consider focusing on your values and attributes. This clarifies the expectations of behavior and defines your culture.
  • Train your leaders on coaching, confronting and correcting skills so that they will talk to employees whose behavior differs from expectations.
  • Think twice after an incident before deploying additional policies and procedures. Assess severity and probability before adding this extra burden to your organization.
  • Consider reviewing your existing policies and procedures and eliminating those that cause the greatest amount of aggravation for employees and supervisors.

The vast majority of your employees want to behave consistently with your expectations. Avoid allowing the behaviors of a few to slow down your organization from focusing on the real prize – the customer.