Everyone struggles with understanding when compassion violates principle. For some, compassion can be very difficult in making employees accountable to the rules of an employee manual. One example would be an employee that is chronically late to work. Feeling compassionate to that individual makes it easy to overlook the rule that all the other employees are supporting by reporting to work on time. But for some the rule can be too stern and not leave any room for compassion. An example would be that employees can never be late to work and if they are they are immediately fired. There would be no 1st, 2nd or 3rd chance to correct and allow for some compassion.
The employee manual is about defining the boundaries to compassion for the entire team. The employee manual should communicate to the employee what the company is providing and what it expects. Employee manuals have become a complicated legal document that have forgotten the most important purpose of communicating to the majority, which would be all the good employees. I am not advocating to abandon the legal functions an employee manual provides. You should seek legal counsel for review and advice.
What I am suggesting is to dust off the document and sit down with your team and ask questions to expose how close the thoughts are on each policy and procedure and their compassion on holding subordinates accountable to them. As a team we should define how far compassion should go and agree to what we will allow. Most decisions need to reference this manual for consistency. When the management team supports and communicates them the same way, everyone will clearly understand the expectations and consequences.
When reviewing your manual look for verbiage that supports the traits good employees possess and how they can be better communicated. Focus on how you can incorporate some of these traits into your policies to support the limits on compassion. Below are considered the Top 10 characteristic traits of good employees;
When the above characteristics are supported and communicated in the employee manual and employees clearly know the expectations then the answer to where compassion violates principle will be defined.
As Stephen Covey said “Principles apply at all times in all places. They surface in the form of values, ideas, norms and teachings that uplift, ennoble, fulfill, empower, and inspire people.”
If you do not have an employee manual you should start developing one today. The value provided will lay the foundation to any other initiative you may consider. Remember your employee manual is a “living” document, it needs to be discussed and reviewed often. Once the employee manual is being communicated then the next step is defining roles and responsibilities in job descriptions and will be the topic of next week’s blog!
Your comments are appreciated….