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Define Workplace Policy

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A workplace policy is a statement from company leaders outlining standards of behavior or limitations. Companies have policies that cover a wide array of business activities. While employees sometimes complain about certain policies, a thorough human resources manual is critical to shaping the culture and ethics of an organization.


Workplace policies provide a clear structure and framework on accepted behaviors in the organization. This benefits both managers and employees. Clear policies guide employees in situations where uncertainty or moral dilemmas exist. A sales employee can refer to a policy on reimbursable expenses to help in deciding what to claim as an expense on a business trip. Policies also provide guidelines to ensure consistent behaviors across the organization so that employee behavior is objectively evaluated. Policies improve the potential to create a collaborative workplace with all employees on the same page.


In some cases, employees find policies difficult to adhere to for personal or ethical reasons. A retail company might have a policy that all managers must work two weekends a month. This policy may conflict with a manager's efforts to balance work and life. Overly narrow policies with little flexibility can also make it difficult for a business and employees to adapt. A retail store may have a strict policy of no returns without a receipt. This puts front line serve employees in the difficult position of having to recite policy to patrons rather than assessing each given situation on its own.


The range of policies a given company has is significant. Some maintain a modest number, while others have huge binders or manuals full of them. HR policies include items on compensation, work hours, dress codes, sexual harassment, violence, bullying, absences and insubordination. Policies in customer service help guide employees in retail or service businesses. Additionally, some companies have department-specific policies related to the nature of the work. Sales organizations often have policy manuals just for sales professionals because of the huge number of ethical gray areas in selling.


Most organizations have policy manuals created by Human Resources which are distributed to workers during new hire orientation. Managers usually review key policies with their employees. Over time, policies are reinforced through company emails or memos, through manager praise to employees that follow policies successfully and through feedback or correction when employees violate policies. Policy manuals also spell out consequences for employees that violate policies which vary based on severity and number of occurrences.


Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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