Thursday, June 01, 2006

June 5, 2006


In today's litigious society, a Policy Manual (sometimes referred to as an Employee Handbook) is a wise investment for any company, large or small. Let me give you an example, back when we were developing products for the mainframe, our staff blossomed to 25 employees, a small company no matter how you look at it. Like any startup company, our interests in the early days were on product development, marketing, and servicing our customers. As our company grew, we began to take on additional consultants, developers and clerical personnel. We then began to notice people taking advantage of our work environment, e.g., sick days, excessive doctor visits, people began to dress sloppily, they were spending too much time attending to personal affairs at the office, etc. It finally became obvious to us that we needed a well written policy manual to bring conformity to our operations and protect the company from abuse. We thereby devised a formal Policy Manual, and had all of our employees read it and sign a statement they understood its contents.

Policy Manuals may be common practice in large corporations but it is also a shrewd investment for small companies. I am still amazed that a small business such as ours needed to develop a Policy Manual but I am certainly glad we implemented it for it has saved us on more than one occasion from frivolous lawsuits brought on by former employees.

From the outset, understand this, a policy is written to protect a company from those who break the rules, not from those who follow them. In our early days, when there were just a handful of employees, it was easy to monitor what everyone was doing and communicate our corporate position to them. But as the company grew, it added a new level of complexity to our communications making it harder to assure consistency in the conformance of our rules. An employer would like to believe its employees will maintain the best interests of the company. Regrettably, this is a naive concept as employees normally put their own personal interests before the company's. If it was true, there would not be a need for a Policy Manual. A Policy Manual, therefore, is needed for those people who break the rules; for those who do not, it is a trivial concern.

The manual should provide tightly worded descriptions of corporate positions. The following is a sampling of sections that should be included. Additional sections may be required due to the nature of your business.


  • Introductory comments from a senior officer (e.g., President) specifying the purpose and organization of the manual.

  • Code of Employer-Employee Relations - specifying the basic rights of both the employee and the employer.

  • Optional - organization charts, business function charts, a definition of the corporate culture.


  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Hiring
  • Employment Agreement
  • Orientation and Training
  • Medical Procedures
  • Probation
  • Transfer
  • Promotion
  • Hours of Work
  • Reporting of Time and adherance to defined methodologies.
  • Temporary and Part-time Employees
  • Termination of Employment
  • Retirement
  • Safety

Pay Practices:

  • Salary Administration
  • Performance Appraisals
  • Bonuses and Pension
  • Severance Pay

Reimbursement of Employee Expenses

  • Travel
  • Automobile Usage/Vehicle Care
  • Customer Entertainment
  • Meal Reimbursement
  • Expense Account Guidelines
  • Participation in Trade and Professional Associations

Employee Benefits:

  • Vacations
  • Holidays
  • Lunch
  • Health Services

Company Premises and Work Areas:

  • Maintenance of Work Area
  • Personal Property
  • Solicitation
  • Parking
  • Security

Absence from Work:

  • Attendance and Punctuality
  • Short-term Absences
  • Leaves of Absence

Personal Conduct:

  • Behavior of Employee
  • Personal Appearance of Employees
  • Personal Finances of Employees
  • Customer Relations
  • Vendor Relations
  • Personal Telephone Calls, Mail, and use of Internet (incl. E-Mail)
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Confidential Nature of Company Affairs
  • Intellectual Property
  • Disciplinary Affairs
  • Drugs and Narcotics
  • Smoking


  • Maintenance of Personnel Records
  • Updates (Log)
  • Forms

It is not uncommon to structure the policies in accordance with a numbering scheme somewhat similar to a financial chart of accounts. Further, the Policy Manual should be prefaced with a Table of Contents which reference the section numbers. An index is also helpful.

When writing policies, keep the language simple, clear, and to the point. Your objective is to write policies in such a way as they may not be misinterpreted or leave anything to someone's imagination. After policies have been written, they should be carefully reviewed by management and modified accordingly.

It is important to recognize that the policy manual is a legal document and ultimately represents a contract with your employees. As such, it should be reviewed by your corporate attorney.


Policy Manuals are normally printed and bound and distributed to managers to review with employees. It is not unusual for companies not to allow such manuals off of corporate premises. Further, manuals are often numbered and assigned to individuals. The reasons for this are twofold: to control the whereabouts of the manuals and to assure employees have reviewed it.

Regardless of how the manuals are distributed, it is important to obtain a signed statement from each employee that they have reviewed and understood the policies contained in the manual. This statement should then be filed in the employee's employment jacket for maintenance. In the event of modifications or additions to the policy manual, updates should be issued and employees acknowledge they have read it as well.

Although companies will typically print Policy Manuals, there is a movement underfoot whereby the Policy Manual is made available to employees via a secure corporate intranet. In this instance, there should be concern over unauthorized printing and distribution of the policies.

For more information on developing a Policy Manual, see:

Kits are also available at office supply stores or on the Internet; for a sampling see:


If you are going to the trouble of writing a Policy Manual, make sure that it is effectively implemented and enforced. There is little point in enacting legislation if you are not going to enforce it.

I have always found the necessity of a Policy Manual to be interesting. There are those employees who can conceptualize, take initiative, and lead moral and ethical lives. But there are also those who need to be told what to do. It is for this latter group that Policy Manuals were devised, not the former.

Today, the younger generation needs such structure. They have grown up under a rigorous set of rules and regulations and cannot image life without such formality. Let me give you an example, as a child, I lived and breathed baseball. In addition to playing little league, we would have pickup games before school, after school, and during recess. We probably played more baseball on our own as opposed to under the rules of the little league. But today's kids are not like this anymore. Having coached for ten years I have observed that kids rarely, if ever, have pickup games. Instead, they feel more comfortable operating under the rules of a league. I knew of a large group of kids who wanted to play recreational slow-pitch softball during the summer. The fields were available for such play, but this never happened. It wasn't until I devised a local league with teams, uniforms, and rules that they all signed up to play. This taught me how structured our younger people have to be; they actually prefer being told what to do as opposed to exercising personal initiative. I find this very odd and somewhat disturbing. Nonetheless, these are the people who are now entering the workforce.

So, if you are a small company, should you develop a Policy Manual? If you find your employees require structure in their lives or if there is a possibility the company might be sued by an employee, the answer, sadly, is Yes. I cannot imagine operating a company in today's litigious world without one.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...
"A policy is written to protect a company from those who break the rules, not from those who follow them."


We're pleased to announce the release of a new book on our "PRIDE" Methodologies for IRM. Actually, we've created two versions of the same book, an eBook version (in PDF format), and an Audio Book (in MP3 format). Both compliment the Internet version available through our corporate web site. The eBook version is 363 pages in length and includes full tutorials on Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, and Project Management, complete with examples and a quick navigation to guide you through the book. The Audio Book is an abridged version which includes over nine hours of audio. The eBook version is priced at $49 plus tax, the Audio Book is priced at $54 plus tax, and a discounted packaged price for both is $93 plus tax. The book is excellent for both corporate developers as well as at the university level where it complements a college curriculum. Check it out at:


MIT's Center for Information Systems Research will hold its annual conference from June 12-16, 2006 on the MIT campus. For information, contact MIT at 617/253-2348

The Society for Information Management will be holding their SIMposium 2006 on September 17-20 at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, Texas. For information, contact SIM headquarters in Chicago at 312/527-6734

If you have got an upcoming IRM related event you want mentioned, please e-mail the date, time and location of the event to


Friends, I don't know if you've seen it yet, but we've added a Frapper map to the "Management Visions" web site. Frapper is a free mapping service offered by the folks at Rising Concepts, LLC, and allows you to plot yourself on a worldwide map. This is a great way to keep track of our listeners and I encourage you to try it out through our web page or by clicking HERE.


Like many of you, I belong to several civic and industrial nonprofit organizations. I always find it amusing to see the elders of such organizations criticize the current slate of officers. Inevitably, you hear, "That's not how we did things in my day." They then go on to berate the officers on their performance. Well, sometimes they're right, but most of the time they are wrong. Dead wrong. If left unchecked, their negativity can consume an organization like a plague of locusts, to the point where the officers get frustrated and ultimately do nothing.

I can't remember ever attending a nonprofit group where everybody was happy with everything and everybody. In fact, I think its a myth. If such an organization exists, I sure would like to see it. Look, these nonprofit organizations are typically run by well meaning people with some time on their hands; and let us also not forget it is a VOLUNTEER type of organization. Rarely, if ever, are the officers paid for their services. True, people will make mistakes and need guidance, but not at the price of having their name besmirched. As Winston Churchill wisely observed, "Any idiot can see what is wrong with something, but can you see what's right?"

At a recent meeting of a nonprofit group I belong to, I heard one of the elder's grouse, "Well, this is a rotten year and next year will be worse." I looked at him and said, "No, it has been a good year and next year will be better." I reminded him that the group had plenty of money in the bank and membership was on the rise. This caught him off guard and he recognized that I had the right attitude; that the glass was half-full, not half-empty.

No, the officers of such groups will not always be perfect, but then again, Who is? Its up to the group overall to pull things together, not just one or two officers.

For those who insist on whining about everything, I say, "Get over it." I learned a long time ago in business not to complain unless I was prepared to suggest an alternative. But to bitch simply for the sake of bitching is counterproductive and disrupts the harmony of such groups. If I have any suggestion in this regard, I would ask the members of such groups to turn something negative into something positive.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


I received an e-mail from a Mike Jones in Wyoming who wrote me regarding last week's essay entitled, "How Productive are Your Meetings?"
Mike writes:

"I enjoyed last week's broadcast. I know what you mean about bosses chewing the fat during a meeting. I remember one time when my group was developing a major highway system for the state and we were under the gun to make a key deadline. My boss had just come back from his vacation in Hawaii and called a meeting just to show us pictures and talk about his trip. The staff had to agonize through two hours of listening to him pontificate while the clock kept ticking on our project. Boy, what a pain!"

Thanks Mike for your note,

Yep. I've been there and seen that on more than one occasion. Many times there is not much you can do about it other than to try and distract him. But if push comes to shove, you have to simply excuse yourself from the table and just go about your business. But if you want to throw him off, leave something on the table like a notepad and pencil which hints that you will be back.

Again, Thanks for your e-mail. Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567. For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

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This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."



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