Lack of Leadership? You Must Have a HUGE Handbook.

I love hearing from my friends about their organizations. Just when I think I didn”t have anything to write about this week, my favorite friend calls and asks if I”ve ever heard of a “clean office policy”. “Ummmm, please go on, ” I giggle inside wi

th glee!

She proceeds to tell me due in part to some of the company dealing with banking info (actually a valid reason not to have client info on your desk for others to see/snatch), they are talking about the need for an all employee clean office policy. So instead of the manager of these few employees simply saying, “Hey – make sure you put up client folders whenever you leave your office”, a couple of the organization”s leaders have decided EVERYONE should have a clean office all the time and therefore they need a…..POLICY.

We don”t have a handbook at hrQ. We have a couple of things written down as guidelines (i.e. we offer unlimited PTO as long as you cover your responsibilities while you”re away), but we (and I especially) don”t believe in thick handbooks managers can hide behind. In fact, if I were interviewing at a new company I”d ask to see their handbook. I think the size of an organization”s handbook has a direct correlation to leadership. The bigger the book, the crappier the leadership.

I can hear the lawyers now – but even when I worked in corporate HR I was able to produce a 5 page handbook with all the legal stuff needed to keep the GC out of my hair. How? I had an awesome team of LEADERS. We said to every employee – “We trust you to act like adults and when you don”t there will be consequences”. Then we made sure our managers knew how to consistently use common sense and actually manage their employees.

Wouldn”t common sense dictate when your employee”s desk or office looks like a hurricane hit it you”d simply say – “By Friday I”d love to see the color of your floor”, or something even more clever like, “Clean this s*&t up so I don”t look like I hired a teenager!”.

Think about the leaders you admire or those you”ve worked with who you respected. Do you remember them ever pulling out an employee handbook? Did they ever say, “It”s a HR policy so we have to deal with it”??!! I bet not. I bet they never even read your handbook.

Leaders don”t need policies to be effective – and they certainly don”t need them to know how to treat adults like adults.

A clean office policy…seriously. Have you seen my stapler? Please hand it to me so I can go staple THAT policy to your “leader”s” head.

FOT Background Check

Kathy Rapp
Kathy Rapp is the President of hrQ, where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent or HR Consultants to drive business results.  Prior to joining hrQ, Kathy booked more than 15 years of human resources leadership experience working for such companies as Morgan Stanley and First Data Corporation.  A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent issues can be addressed via the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen  (David Lee/Sammy and sadly, Gary Cherone).


  1. Heather Bussing says:

    You are my hero. (ps I’m a lawyer.)

  2. Brenda says:

    What happened to common sense? People can’t seemed to make decisions without a policy or law anymore. Do the right thing. Be honest and authentic with people. Be human.

    • Kathy Rapp says:

      Totally agree Brenda! Thanks for your comments and common sense!

  3. Katy says:

    Thought I was your fav friend?? Great post Kathy, as always.

    • Kathy Rapp says:

      Katy!!! You are a fav friend…but you never call me! 🙂 Plus, there’s a code to whenever I post about my “favorite” friend. Call me!

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  4. Jon Windust says:

    Related to this it would also be great to get rid of insane workflows and requirements put around some HR processes. The sort of thing where the employee can’t do ABC until XYZ hasn’t been completed/approved/verified/ticked/whatevered by the manager.

    • Kathy Rapp says:

      Jon – couldn’t agree more. Process for the sake of process is stupid.

  5. Lorne says:


    What was the policy? I am curious since your article rests on the “policy” being being over policy’ish.

    • Kathy Rapp says:

      @Lorne – In short it was every employee needed to have a clean desk at the end of each day – and got more detailed for those who would come & go during the day regarding files. My point – for certain employees it was necessary due to confidential info (but DO YOU NEED A FORMAL POLICY??) – but to include ALL employees for the sake of having a tidy office every night seemed excessive.

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  6. Anish says:

    Well said – you’ve made it very simple indeed

  7. Lexy says:


    How true. While I never thought about it I have asked to review policies of a potential new client, as I knew it would tell me about the culture OR at least where to start looking under rocks for solutions to problems. Policies and Laws typically speak to the 20% not the 80%. Nice post!

    • Kathy Rapp says:

      Thanks, Lexy….and yes 20/80 feels right for most organizations. Hope you are doing great and appreciate you taking time to comment! Cheers.

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