If you are like many small business owners and supervisors, you likely have not developed any written policies or standards that highlight your expectations for employee behavior or performance in the workplace. You also may subscribe to the school of thought that you don’t need any “official” standards or policies because you have a small business or because you are managing a small group of employees who are professional, productive, and problem-free. You may even feel that to have policies and procedures in place will negatively affect the sense of community that you have developed in the workplace.
Every business should have specific policies in place that clearly outlines your expectations of your staff in terms of their overall work performance. This includes your position on arriving late for work, attendance, time off, inappropriate behavior, and other workplace standards. This is a best management practice no matter how small the business.
There are numerous problems that can occur when you do not set clearly written and communicated workplace standards for your employees. Many of these problems may be brewing under the surface and not readily apparent to you. Some common workplace issues:
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Accusations of unfair or preferential treatment: It’s natural when supervising staff that you make decisions on a case by case basis depending on the circumstance. One very common workplace scenario that is likely to be perceived as unfair treatment is when you allow some employees to arrive to work later than your standard business hours, but require others to arrive on time. Although you may have given a specific employee permission to arrive late because the employee will be working later in the evening to complete a special project, your employees who arrive on time, aren’t aware that there is a specific reason that one employee has been allowed some scheduling flexibility. This can cause feelings of resentment and the perception of preferential treatment.
Taking this scenario one step further, what if you have an employee who is chronically late for work with no reasonable excuse as to why? It’s natural to reprimand the employee for being late for work under the circumstances and require that the employee arrive to work on time. When the reprimanded employee sees that there is someone else in the company who is consistently allowed to arrive to work late, you risk accusations of unfair treatment in the workplace since there are no standards in place that highlight that there may be specific exceptions to be made in terms of arriving late for work.
Poor Morale: If it appears that some of your workers are allowed to “get away” with anything in the workplace without any apparent consequences, your best workers may wonder why they should continue to work as hard. This often leads to reduced productivity and initiative. You risk losing your best employees who often become frustrated when steps aren’t taken to address poor performance or inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
Potential Loss of Revenue: It goes without saying that when you have employees who are not working up to their full potential, or who are not engaged in the work that they do, it affects the level of productivity and work quality, which in turn affects potential revenue. Dissatisfied employees are often “short” with customers, or don’t follow through on requests because they no longer feel connected to the company and its mission.
Workplace policies do not have to be long and complicated documents that no one can understand. Your standards can be easily summarized starting with the title and a brief paragraph which highlights your expectations. The policies or standards should then be communicated to your current employees and all newly hired staff via your website, email or in the form of a written document. Make sure that employees are reminded of these policies by distributing the policies once a year to staff.
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