Most everyone, I imagine, is somewhat familiar with the Cabbage Patch Kids, and perhaps to a lesser degree the origin story that accompanies the dolls. This discovery legend (the quoted material is from Wikipedia) has been reproduced on every Cabbage Patch Kids product from 1983 onward.
Xavier Roberts was a ten-year-old boy who discovered the Cabbage Patch Kids by following a BunnyBee behind a waterfall into a magical Cabbage Patch, where he found the Cabbage Patch babies being born. To help them find good homes he built BabyLand General in Cleveland, Georgia, where the Cabbage Patch Kids could live and play until they were adopted.
BunnyBees are bee-like creatures with rabbit ears they use as wings. They pollinate cabbages with their magic crystals to make Cabbage Patch babies.
Colonel Casey is a large stork who oversees Babyland General Hospital. He’s the narrator of the Cabbage Patch Kids’ story.
Otis Lee is the leader of the gang of Cabbage Patch Kids that befriended Xavier.
Aw, cute! The whole mythology with the stork, the cabbage leaves and the pollinating bees (no birds?) is full of saccharine sweetness and innocent enough to appeal to both the targeted tots and their great grandmas who buy the dolls.
But not everything in this world has such a pure and virtuous evolution story. Take, for instance, the origins of company policies — HR or otherwise.
Certainly most companies have multitudinous policies; there are company policies written and disseminated by the fine folks in accounting, purchasing, safety, IT, security and even marketing (“Don’t talk to the media unless you are an authorized representative!”).
There is, however, a special place of honor (or a special place in hell) reserved for human resources policies. These are the directives everyone is referring to when they say “it’s against company policy.” Oh sure, your director of accounting may have issued a 12-page Sarbanes-Oxley compliance policy, but who, other than the rest of the accounting nerds, really knows what’s in it?
But the HR dress code policy? Policy G1-325.17? Section C, paragraph (1), subsection (a)? You can be damn sure everyone can quote it section, line and verse.
Why, I sometimes get to wondering, are HR professionals so in love with writing, revising and adding more pages to the already lengthy manuals that grace our corporate offices? (“This shall be my magnum opus,” Pam whispered breathlessly as she put the finishing touches on the 2018 revision of Acme Corp.’s Handbook for Associates).
Yes, of course, there are legitimate and necessary reasons to issue policies:
- Provide guidance.
- Outline expectations.
- Ensure consistent practices.
- Maintain legal compliance (truth is there are some items you just must issue in written or electronic form and gather acknowledgment signatures verifying dissemination) and/or CYA.
There are also really dreadful and unnecessary reasons to issue (or create new) HR policies:
- One employee did something bad, stupid or inexcusable, so an entire policy is crafted.
- A weird, once-in-a-millenium event occurs (the work week ends on Leap Day, which also coincides with Mardi Gras Day and time/payroll processing will be adjusted) so a “when this occurs” bullet point/subparagraph is added to an existing policy.
- There is an overwhelming desire to create a laundry list of every possible unforeseen employee transgression that “might” lead to termination.
- An HR practitioner/leader feels the need to prove how necessary her job is by writing policy after policy after policy, so she enters job-preservation mode and cranks them out by the bucketful.
- An HR practitioner/leader secretly enjoys the moniker “HR police” even though he regularly complains to everybody how bad he feels when everyone considers him the “HR police.”
Yes, you need policies. Good HR policies provide a foundation for you to outline behavior and expectations as well as communicate rights and responsibilities for your staff. Well-written policies educate and clarify.
But not every policy of yours has originated in a tranquil cabbage patch filled with bees and butterflies. Those bad policies, whether they’re poorly written or just plain superfluous, need to go.
author: Robin Schooling