Policies are There for a Reason

Following the rules is a strategy for career success

Things happen fast in a global world. In Malaysia, two Saskatchewan siblings ended up in court and were eventually deported after they -- along with others -- stripped naked on a mountain that's considered sacred and posted photos on social media. Not only did the photos go viral, they coincided with a terrible earthquake. Unfortunately, the social-media stunt was linked by the government to the natural disaster and the subsequent loss of life.

While this situation may seem unbelievable to many Canadians, the issue boils down to a lack of respect for local tradition, which is the same as lacking respect for a country's policies.

On the other hand, right here on Canadian soil, well-known CBC political commentator Evan Solomon was recently terminated from his job as host of Power and Politics. It was alleged he referred high-profile guests to an art broker and in turn collected huge referral fees. Actions such as these are an example of a lack of respect for policy.

I've highlighted the scenarios as examples of why societal and workplace rules or policies are implemented in the first place. They are examples of the importance of individuals knowing and understanding the rules no matter what environment you are in. So, let's delve into why we have policies and why people need to follow them.

It doesn't matter whether you are at work or are travelling to another city or country, there are specified ways of going about your day that must be known and considered. In other words, policies are in place for a reason.

From a corporate perspective, policies link an organization's vision and goals and create guidelines for internal operations. They help individuals understand how to "get along" within the organization, while at the same time helping managers and supervisors understand how to respond to behavioural issues.

Policies promote consistency throughout an organization. This helps ensure employees are treated respectfully. For example, when a breach of policy occurs, the guidelines for disciplinary action ensure employees are treated fairly when the systematic procedures are applied.

Policies also ensure corporations comply with provincial and federal legislation. In addition, social media has resulted in increased attention to the public image of corporations. Mistreating employees is simply not good for business.

Policies also serve to create a corporate culture that is both formal and informal, and includes elements ranging from the assignment of office space to parking assignments.

At the same time, corporations, not-for-profit agencies and governments all over Canada have their own cultures. Individuals must become aware of these cultural elements, respect them and adhere to them. Ignoring a policy or failing to consult with your employer regarding a potential breach can result in job loss, tarnishing of a high-profile reputation and challenges in finding new employment.

In today's world, more and more Canadians are choosing to work in a foreign country. The key to success is to keep in mind there are many rules and policies that are substantially different from what you might be accustomed to. It is critical you research and understand what you are getting into. Ignorance is no excuse.

The issue of breaching organizational policy is being highlighted these days because it is also involves professional ethics. And it puts employees (or travelers) and the employer in jeopardy.

The following outlines some of the common policy issues arising in many organizations today:

Disregarding standard work hours

Many employees disregard their work schedule by consistently arriving late and leaving early. They abuse break times by staying an extra five to 10 minutes. This behaviour can be considered "stealing time," because they are being paid for time they aren't working. It also disrespects employees who are waiting their turn for coffee breaks.

Time mismanagement

Some employees are spending too much work time on personal matters. This behaviour ranges from shopping online to constantly texting or talking on their phones instead of working. Once again, this is nothing short of stealing time from an employer. It creates particular concern when an employee requests overtime because they cannot get their regular work done during their workday.

Personal business

Many people operate a sideline businesses in addition to the employment. For example, cosmetic and health-food sales or the management of apartment blocks. Using work time to conduct this business is also a breach of policy. You are stealing company time.

Social media

Social-media issues in the workplace are growing by leaps and bounds. These include inappropriate sharing of internal communications, making malicious comments about fellow workers, managers, competitors or the organization itself, and the release of confidential information. Other examples include trying to represent the views of an employer or misrepresenting an organization's views online. As well, off-work behaviour posted on social media has caused more than a few employees to lose their jobs.

Sick-leave abuse

Unscheduled absences are creating significant direct and indirect costs for organizations through loss of productivity, increased overtime, missed deadlines, lost sales and reduced morale. Typically, patterns of sick-leave abuse can be traced back to just a few employees. Many employees also fail to give appropriate notice or fail to get a medical certification when requested.

Managers and supervisors are not psychologists and cannot be expected to explore the underlying psychological rationales for an employee failing to adhere to a policy. Instead, they must apply the policies and procedures laid out for them. That leaves responsibility for employee behaviour in the hands of the employee. Only you make choices at work, at play or while travelling.

Taking personal responsibility to learn, understand and abide by your organization's policies and practices is actually a career-success strategy. For those who travel for work or play, it is a safety strategy.

The excuses of "I didn't know," or "Other people are doing it" just don't stand up to today's scrutiny.

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