Enforcing Office Guidelines

As a business owner, you're deeply invested in your company and its success. You want your employees to have the same level of passion for and commitment to your enterprise as you do. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Employees may stray in their work ethic, take liberties with certain rules, or make their own choices when it comes to certain key (or day-to-day) decision. As the boss, it is up to you to design and enforce the guidelines by which your employees should conduct themselves.

In today's business world, employers must implement consistent and fair office procedures or risk an increase in unemployment costs and discrimination claims. Here are 10 suggestions for enforcing office guidelines and handling employee misconduct:

  1. Document office policies. It is crucial that your employees know the company's official policies. Detail all office policies, rules, procedures, and regulations in an employee handbook. Each employee must receive and read a copy of the handbook at the start of his or her employment.
  2. Set clear guidelines. Understand the difference between performance deficiencies — such as poor work quality or the inability to delegate — and actual misconduct. If the problem is poor performance, make sure your employees fully understand their job description and the tasks that they're expected to perform. If the problem is improper behavior, enforce your expectations with disciplinary measures. Remember: if your employees are not responding appropriately to the company guidelines and to their own job descriptions, your business's core values may be at stake.
  3. Keep your cool. Start with a gentle but firm approach. Initially, you can address the problem with performance management, coaching, and counseling. Ask the employee how he or she can better meet office guidelines. Sit down with the employee and outline specific objectives and deadlines to correct the situation. Set dates and times for follow-up meetings, and continue to meet until the issue has been resolved.
  4. Go with your gut. When in doubt, listen to your intuition; more often than not it will tip the balance toward the right choice.
  5. Establish policies. If you don't have policies already in place for enforcing office guidelines, develop them now. Dig through your files, or ask your mentor or a respected colleague about any applicable practices that may help your company.
  6. Bring in an HR consultant. To fairly and equally enforce a disciplinary policy, try your best to act without emotion. If it's a difficult situation, consider bringing in a human resource professional. Having this professional mediator can defuse emotional problems and increase office morale. Also read Should Your Office Manager Also Handle HR Duties? for some further insight on this topic.
  7. Take bold action. Once you have elected and identified courses of action to address performance deficiencies and misconduct, follow through. If you hesitate and start running through the "what ifs," you'll become prone to letting problems slide and multiply.
  8. Treat everyone fairly. Each employee needs to be aware of your office guidelines: document the policies, post them in public employee areas, and distribute written copies (in the form of employee handbooks) to your entire staff. Then be efficient and consistent when enforcing those guidelines.
  9. Express your gratitude. Motivation and appreciation are important goals in establishing office procedure. You want to create an atmosphere that will encourage your employees to follow the office guidelines. Express your gratitude for a job well done and congratulate progress.
  10. Be loyal. If you expect loyalty from your employees, you have to be loyal to them. This means backing up your personnel when they need help with customers, clients, or suppliers; and understanding when they make an honest mistake. Make it clear to employees from the start that you will not ridicule or punish them for well-intended actions.

For more reading on this topic, check out Three Effective Management Styles and Nine Effective Management Techniques. For specific information on attendance, read Handling Employee Absenteeism.


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