To Thine Own Self Be True

Every month, I ask our Empty Hourglass Clients to meet with me, free of charge, so that I can keep a better handle on their businesses and answer any questions they may have. You see, many business owners have questions that arise in the day-to-day operation of their companies which, while important, do not seem to rise to the level of immediacy required for the payment of legal fees. So the questions sit…unanswered. The issues remain unaddressed. And frequently, though not always, large problems grow out of what could have been minor inquiries.

I have noticed a trend in these meetings. In more than half of them, my clients ask me if I would review their Personnel Manual/Employee Handbook.

In view of this trend, I thought it might be beneficial to list and comment on one of the most common issues I have found in company after company … industry after industry:

The Manual Should Reflect Policies, Not Aspirations

The purpose of the Manual is to describe the rules by which the company operates. Time and time again, after reading a company’s Manual, I find myself asking clients “is that really what happens in your company?” Often, the answer is “no.” Maybe there is no formal procedure such as that described in the Manual.  Many there are no written forms or step-by-step investigatory approach.

That’s OK. Many companies have not formalized their processes. My recommendation, however, is that management take the time to figure out small, doable steps to put into place and describe Personnel Manual needs an overhaul…or even if you’re thinking of writing one for the first time, take a look at any sections which detail company procedures – from requesting Paid Time Off to describing disciplinary procedures – and ask whether the words on the page reflect what happens in reality.  If not, change one or the other.

Because when it comes to Personnel Manuals, Shakespeare was right:

To thine own self be true.


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