All too often we see both new and experienced managers end up in situations where they start negotiating policy instead of enforcing it. Maybe it happens because they feel unsure in their role as a manager or maybe they’re concerned about damaging a work friendship. Whatever the reason, it’s a dangerous precedent for your company.
When an employee violates policy, it becomes a disciplinary matter. As the manager, you’re talking to the employee about the policy they violated and what will happen as a result. In most cases, the employee will have their side of the story, and they’re going to want to talk about it, which is understandable. But it’s not a negotiation.
As the manager, you must be confident when you start the conversation. Take a deep breath, tell yourself you have this under control, and hold the line. You need to know the policy and be able to articulate how the employee has violated it.
Some employees will respond with excuses that either try to make it someone else’s fault or the company’s fault. But you can’t give in to those excuses. If you do, you’re basically creating a policy around that individual and then holding everyone else to a different policy. And that’s never good.
If you negotiate on policy issues, it creates one exception after another and eventually erodes your business. The trolls in your company are watching and waiting to exploit those opportunities. Your best employees are watching too, an there’s a good chance they’ll get fed up and leave.
One day my wife and I were having coffee at a local coffee shop near our home, and I saw this scenario play out. An employee who wasn’t in an official management role from what I could tell, was trying to keep things on task and stay positive while openly telling her co-worker how no one ever gets in trouble for calling in and no showing to work. You could tell she had had enough, and she had lost faith in the business to do anything about it. The trolls won, and the best employee that coffee shop was on their way out the door.
Another example is the business owner who told me that if he enforced his attendance policy, he wouldn’t have any employees. So, he gave in to the trolls, and they were running the show. Lack of enforcement creates a sub-business within your business where trolls create policy. And that’s never a good thing.
Now, let’s be clear that I’m not saying employees shouldn’t have the opportunity to talk about issues. Yes, your business should have an open-door policy that creates a culture of conversation and communication. If there’s truly a misunderstanding about a policy or something that needs to be revised, then you need to address it.
But don’t let the trolls negotiate policy and create a secondary set of policies for themselves! Be confident in the way you do business, don’t let emotion drive your decisions, and hold people accountable.
Need help equipping your managers to understand and enforce policy in a clear, consistent manner? Reach out to us to talk about management training.