Have you seen the commercial about a home security system that says, “If you need a guard dog then your house is dumb?” Taking a cue from that advertisement, have you ever worked for a company whose policies were “dumb”? I’m betting that you have. Here are a few HR policies that are so dumb they drive good employees right out the door.

Dress Code

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a dress code policy—just don’t have a dumb one. What does that mean? Well first of all, men should write the code for men and not for women, and vice versa. Guys, we have no idea what a woman’s wardrobe should look like, let’s stop pretending. And women, stop telling men what to wear; your coworker may hate khakis! The best thing to do is to have a focus group or a team of men and women who define the overall dress code for the office, so that any gender differences are self-determined. Stress the importance of professionalism in the office (however your company culture defines that). And another thing: your dress code policy should not be tied to bonuses or annual revenues because no one is going to keep track your outfits for 12 months.

Social Media

Can you believe there are still some companies that don’t have a social media policy? Seriously, or they mandate that employees can’t use social media at work and even sometimes caution them against using it at home. Really? Who is going to police that? Devices now have their own Internet connections and WiFi is everywhere. There is no way your employees aren’t going to use social media. Facebook has 1.3 billion users with an average age of 42, so I’m pretty sure a few of your employees are part of that number. Also, surveys show that members of Generations X, Y, Z will leave a job if the social media policy is too constricting.

Lunch Breaks

There is almost nothing worse than a 30-minute lunch break, except maybe for no lunch break. Some companies offer their employees the standard minimum meal period of 30 minutes per 8 hour shift. I’ve actually worked for a couple of companies with that policy and here’s why it stinks from an employee P.O.V. First of all, in 30 minutes you can’t do very much, so if you need to hit the restroom and then the break room to warm up your lunch, you now have less than 20 minutes to eat and digest your meal. Second, forget about eating outside, taking a walk, going to the mall, going to the bank, or even picking up something to eat–there is just not enough time. It’s a horrible policy because it really promotes unhealthy eating habits like eating at your desk, and increases stress levels. Let’s be honest: supervisors and managers always take more than 30 minutes, so it really increases resentment and causes people to go find jobs with better policies.

FMLA

For companies that have to offer FMLA, it can be difficult to try to figure out who is abusing it and who isn’t—so don’t even try. FMLA has guidelines and in many cases these guidelines can be met; however, there are some instances where the employee’s family comes before your documentation. As an HR consultant, I’ve been asked by many employees whether companies can make specific demands regarding FMLA coverage, and the answer is usually “They can, but they probably shouldn’t.” When your FMLA documentation demands infringe too much on a stressed and grieving employee, you are making an already difficult situation even more difficult. This only leads to resentment and disengagement—and a possible lawsuit. If you think an employee is abusing FMLA, you can investigate it later without adding undue stress to the situation at hand. If an employee tells you his or her spouse is in the hospital, just provide the FMLA information without any pressure or harassment.

Sick Time

One of the best things I’ve seen a company do with sick time was to eliminate it. They went with paid time off instead. And they told us all “If you are sick, just call in and say, ‘I’m sick and I won’t be in today.’ We don’t want to know the details.” Details lead to judgments, and judgments can lead to claims of insensitivity, favoritism, and even discrimination. For instance, if you call in and say, “I’m sick, my stomach hurts,” and your supervisor says, “Well, Jane has a stomach ache and she’s here. Why can’t you come in?” See, that’s a judgment, and you need to stay away from it because it can cause employees to quit. I once had a supervisor tell me “If you are sick, come on in to work and if you are really sick we will send you home.” That’s so dangerous and reckless from an HR and business standpoint–someone could come to work and infect other employees or fall on the floor and demand worker’s compensation. You are not a doctor, so don’t pretend to be one.

I quit that job, by the way.

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and expert resume writer with more than 13 years of experience as a former practitioner and current HR consultant. He is the curator of two websites: CostofWork.com and ResumeCrusade.com , and contributes HR-focused content to many others, including PerformanceICreate.com and SmartRecruiters.com . He has been listed by the Huffington Post as one of the “Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts to Follow on Twitter”, one of the “Top 40 under 40” by the HR Blogger Network, one of the “25 Must-Read HR Blogs in 2013”, and also featured on Oprah.com. He is very active with the Society of Human Resource Management, working closely with conference directors, communication chairs, and social media teams from Illinois, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to develop social strategies to engage attendees and enhance their conference experience. Chris earned his master’s degree in Labor and Human Resources from Ohio State University. In 2005, he moved back to his hometown of Memphis, TN, where he has developed a reputation for helping his clients create HR strategies, and individuals master the tough economic challenges of the South.

6 Comments

  • Avatar Susan Devers says:

    While I agree that people should wear decent clothes to work, I don`t like companies that make up a horrifying dress code with stock images found on the Internet and then distribute it through an intranet. Of course I feel more confident in a suit that flatters me, but I really don`t need a uniform. From my experience, companies that issue such guidelines tend to be more rigid and less open to new ideas and projects, so this is why I avoid them.

  • Avatar Alan Fill says:

    I think human resources policies are important to the degree that they clarify the type of employee that the company is looking for. HR people look for individuals that match a certain profile – online behavior, fashion style, etc. – in order for them to fit in. As far as FMLA and sick time go, the rules should be clearer – my company is very transparent in this respect.

  • Avatar Melissa says:

    I like working for companies that allow me to use social media during work. In my case, this doesn`t make me less productive, but more relaxed and focused – a five-minute break is amazing when you`re having writer`s block. I also think that lunch breaks should last at least an hour: it`s healthier, and it gives you time to bond and socialize with your colleagues. Fortunately for me, the HR department in my company agrees with me.

  • Avatar Chris aka new_resource says:

    Thanks for your comments. All three of you seem to understand exactly what I was trying to say in the article. We need policies but be reasonable with it and as far as the dress code, men just should stop even trying to create one for women – we are so clueless. We need to think tank of women to help us with that one. 🙂

  • Avatar marty says:

    I agree with a lot of this but as for breaks, my employees do not want an hour break, they want 30 minutes and then leave earlier. And as the supervisor, I take one long lunch break a month, otherwise I eat at my desk and get less than any employee to show I am willing to do more than I ask of them.

  • Avatar Bella says:

    I sense Marty is a good manager but I think the key is flexibility. Let the employees that only want 30 minutes have 30 and the rest an hour. I just left a company that said you had an hour but really what that meant was just eat standing up in the kitchen or at your desk. For you own health get away from your desk at least for 30 minutes.

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