The inmates are running wild

Did You Know continued…

Did You Know…Policies, Procedures and Handbooks — Oh My!

Too much and you’re “stuck” managing by the rule book. Too little and the “inmates” might be running the asylum. How do you decide the right amount of information to include? Heck, should you even HAVE one?! Yes, some people will argue that you shouldn’t even have a handbook because you tie your own hands and run the risk of ending up with an unintentional employment contract. (My personal opinion? You HAVE to have some kind of a guidebook for your employees so that everyone is sure they are being treated the same.)

Let’s start with this simple (yeah, right) question – What do you want to accomplish with your employee handbook? Are you using it to further your internal branding and teamwork philosophies? Is this going to be your “tool” to rid yourself of the slackers in the organization? Do you just want to have one place to collect your policies and procedures? After deciding the purpose of your handbook, you can decide the style you want to use.

Naturally, a handbook designed to reinforce your internal culture and branding will be written in more of a marketing format – more upbeat, “selling” the benefits of working for your organization. On the opposite side of the spectrum is the rule book approach to handbooks – generally, these are written in a more succinct style, spelling out what employees can and cannot do at work.

The bad news is there really is no formula for the perfect handbook – they’re all different; even if you “buy” an internet download version for $29.95, it should still end up being unique to YOUR organization. So, what to do? Keep in mind, I’m not an attorney and I can’t/won’t give you legal advice EXCEPT to say, whatever handbook you use, PLEASE have your attorney review it before you introduce it for the first time!

Generally, in my experience, there are certain items EVERY handbook should contain whether you have 5 employees or 5,000 employees:

  • Employee Acknowledgement form
  • Employment At-Will language (in LOTS of places!)
  • Frequent references to the handbook NOT being construed as an employment contract
  • Equal Employment language
  • Anti-harassment language

You can add on from these basics – the next item may include some discussion of work rules and expectations. Then, if (and only if) you plan to enforce them, some discussion of disciplinary steps that you may result in the event that work rules and expectations are NOT met. On a final note, management should review handbooks and policies on a regular basis – probably a general review once a year and a more thorough review every 3 – 5 years.


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