I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the value (or not) of having an employee handbook chock full of policies and procedures that lay out in great detail how an employee should act at work. If you’ve ever read any of my posts, I think you can take a wild guess on how I feel about a policy telling me what I should wear to work! I understand that certain policies are required by law and need to be in place but in my opinion once you’ve met the legal criteria that should be the end of your handbook. In its place you only need one simple sentence:
We’ll do what we believe to be best for our business and our employee community.
Rather than having policies in place that we have to stick to in every single circumstance, isn’t it better to make business decisions that are appropriate for the specific situation? I think it is. Where HR types get in trouble is when they find themselves blindly following policies in the name of treating every employee the same. Sure, it would be nice if you could treat everyone exactly the same but I have a news flash for you… not everyone necessarily deserves to be treated the same! Imagine if a senior business development executive created a set of policies outlining how they will execute a business deal that followed the process every time. You can’t imagine it because it would never happen! For years HR types have been complaining about having a seat at the table and being taken seriously by their executive teams, and I think this is one of the reasons why. They don’t think about what’s in the best interests of the business.
Let’s examine an example that might bring this idea home for you…
Say you have two employees who are under-performing. Both have been with the company for several years. Jenny has been a good solid performer in the past, and is important to the culture but recently has taken a slide. Judy has always been marginal performer and it’s gotten worse. Plus she’s a real pain in the you know what. My current HR policy book would probably tell me that I need to put both Jenny and Judy on the 12-steps to firing someone program. A verbal warning, a written warning, a note to their mother, followed by a final written warning, blah, blah, blah. Before you know it several months have passed. But if I were to act as a businessperson, I would probably come to a different conclusion than the one offered by handy handbook. In this case, I would keep Jenny and help coach her back to a solid level of performance. I’d also skip all the B.S. and fire Judy. Why? Because as a businessperson, I believe that Jenny has the ability to contribute to our business and she is also a solid contributor to the community. With Judy on the other hand, I believe it would be a poor investment to try and improve her performance since she has always been just average. I’m better off taking the risk and simply moving on. Some may feel that’s “unfair.” But my job isn’t to be fair. It’s to do what’s in the best interest of the business and the community.
When making decisions to fire, do you do what’s best for your business and the community? Hit me in the comments…
Andy Porter is Chief People Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA which means he works with some wicked smaaht people. Some days, he indeed does wear short shorts around the office(call it a morale booster) but it really just makes people uncomfortable. Other days, he spits some mad game on cheese. No really – he’s somewhat of a cheese aficionado. But more importantly? At Broad he gets to his small part to help change the world of healthcare.