Retire Demotivating Policies So Your Employees Can Excel Again

Have you noticed how raw you feel when the opposing team cheats — when they play by a different set of rules? That’s when the greatest disharmony occurs. The same disharmony can happen when well-meaning people play by different rules.

Conversely, when like-minded people team up under an invisible bond, an unwritten code, great results can be achieved. The bond between soldiers in a military unit is a great example. Written policies or even laws almost become unnecessary.

This part is about considering adopting a code of honor, a set of rules that brings out the best in every person who subscribes to it. Then simultaneously, suggesting you identify and retire demotivating policies so your staff can be productive again.

How A Code Of Honor Can Make Policy Enforcement Easier

A code of honor is best developed with the team to ensure buy-in. Otherwise, you might just be forcing values on your staff that they simply can’t follow — it’s not part of their character. Once the team makes the code of honor part of the company culture, then all new hires become easier. Hire those who match your values. Set free those who do not.

Here is our Code of Honor every employee signs and agrees to follow upon being hired. Just in case, we include a signature line for those who don’t agree to the Code of Honor and choose not to be hired. No one has ever signed the second line but it reinforces that we are serious.

Sample Code of Honor

In the absence of rules, people make up their own rules. Some of the biggest upsets, collisions, and disharmony occur because well-meaning people are simply playing by different sets of rules. By the same token, the most miraculous results come from like-minded people who team up under an invisible bond to achieve greatness. Sometimes the easiest and best way to avoid upset, collisions, and disharmony in a team is to make sure everyone is playing by the same rules. A Code of Honor is that set of rules and brings out the best in every person who subscribes to it. The following is our Code of Honor:

· Never Abandon A Teammate in Need

· Be Willing to Call and Be Called

· Keep All Agreements and Clean Up Any Broken Agreement Immediately

· Deal Directly with the Person You Have a Problem with or Let It Go

· Be Responsible — No Laying Blame, No Justifications

· Be Resourceful — Find Solutions before Dumping on Others

· Never Let Personal Matters Get in the Way of Your Mission

· Be Loyal to the Team

· Commit to Personal Development

· Don’t Seek or Ask for Sympathy or Acknowledgment

· Everyone Must Sell

· Celebrate Wins

___ I accept and subscribe to this Code of Honor. I will uphold this Code for myself and help other team members to do the same.

___ I can NOT accept and subscribe to this Code of Honor. I hereby submit my resignation.

The Code of Honor sets expectations. Maybe instead of doing annual employee evaluations, you whip out the employee’s signed Code of Honor and review it with them. Ask them to reaffirm your Code of Honor to reset and reestablish their responsibility to the team. The right core values, or code of honor, make most policies unnecessary because the team is cohesive and plays by the same rules.

Why Your Policies Kill Productivity, Add Expense, and Drive Away Talent

Legal Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, I don’t even play one on TV. This is not legal advice, you should not consider this advice without consulting your attorney.

I hate to give you the bad news, but your employees only agree with about 52% of your policies based on a survey of seven different policy areas. That means 48% of your policies have a demotivating effect on your staff.

If this were Major League Baseball you’d be batting .520 which would make you better than Ty Cobb who is the all-time leader in career batting average at .366. In business, missing the ball 48% of the time is losing you a lot of employees, money, and productivity.

You cannot train for a lazy unmotivated character trait. You can momentarily motivate an individual with a carrot or a stick. However, you cannot maintain a state of perpetual motivation in another person through your training or policies. You can completely and totally demotivate your staff with bad policies.

You must seek out those demotivating policies and purge them root and stem.

I was conducting a training on this subject when a student asked me, “How do we know which policies are demotivating?” At the time I was stymied. I could give the student examples, but I didn’t have a way to clearly identify them until now.

I gathered all the demotivating policies we changed or retired and came up with these common denominators:

1. The policy is unenforceable. Remember Prohibition? It was a colossal failure. The law was created because the supporters believed alcohol was the root of almost all of society’s problems. Alcohol consumption did go down but crime, especially violent crime, went up.

We had a “no cell phone” policy. I know, funny right? We were spending all of our reprimand capital writing up employees for violating the “no cell phone” policy. And what was worse, we allowed managers to have cell phones because on occasion the salon landline phones would be left off the hook and we needed a way to communicate with the salons. The solution was a policy that outlined the appropriate use of a personal cell phone during a work shift. Everyone was happier.

2. The policy is frequently being waived. If you find yourself constantly allowing staff to ignore a policy then you should consider retiring it or modifying it. We had a policy that staff could not use the salon’s services (free to staff as a perk) outside of business hours. We found ourselves granting exemptions because of scheduling conflicts to avoid making the staff upset about not getting to use one of their benefits.

3. The policy makes the job harder. I sometimes call this the 5% policy. You create a policy because if you didn’t 5% of your staff or customers would be jerks and take advantage of your good graces. We used to have the policy of attaching a digital picture of every guest to their account. This was to prevent guests from sharing memberships.

The problem is that the process adds time and hassle to signing up the member, guests do not come to us camera-ready (sometimes they arrive in pajamas), so they are salty about getting a picture taken, and when we are too busy, staff would not take the picture anyway. We decided to drop the policy and accept the handful of jerks who will take advantage of our good graces. We are much happier as a result.

Today, not tomorrow, analyze your existing policies for demotivating potential. I’m sorry, but 48% of your policies have the potential to demotivate. When you seek you shall find bad policies. Retire or change them before they cost you more money and talent.

While you are conducting this company self-awareness analysis, get your team together to figure out what your core values are. Once you have consensus, codify those values into a Code of Honor that gets the whole team playing with the same set of rules to create harmony. Your superstars will stay for the long haul and be productive again which will improve your bottom line.



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Don Kermath

Don Kermath


Don Kermath transforms your workforce into productive, cohesive, team-players who stay for the long haul and contribute to innovation and excellence on the job.