This is a joke based on something I once wrote on my website:
- “I don’t write fiction,”
- “No, you lie - you wrote half a romance novel & posted it online, of course you write fiction.”
- “Oh, yeah, my bad.”
Try, try again, that’s my motto:
- “I don’t write fiction by choice,"
- "I don’t write fiction well,"
- "I don’t prefer to write fiction,” etc.
The point - it’s a joke based on the truth - all policy is an ideal that an employer or government can only hope is met. In the real world life gets busy, customers are in a rush, things get forgotten. The only place I expect a policy manual to accurately represent exactly what is happening throughout the day is somewhere like on a submarine where everyone knows it is life and death for all of them on the line.
As a dietitian it was made clear during training that a glass of orange juice for the wrong patient (with diabetes) could be lethal. You’re more careful when you have been trained on the risks involved.
Policy manuals can set consistent standards and be shared quickly. My own role as an administrator included many of them because I worked in a rural area with a small caseload and small budget for staff. As the main Program Coordinator I was responsible for several policy manuals and then I also had the roles of "Nutrition Education Coordinator," "Breastfeeding Coordinator," and "Outreach Coordinator" - it doesn't fit on a resume line let alone look good in a Human Resources interview. Each role had manuals to keep up to date, and it being a large rural area, I had four sets to keep up to date, one for each of four locations that we same few staff traveled too.
Seven years later can I remember them? The names aren't right, but, 1. the main State/Federal Policy Manual; 2. the Local Agency Policy and Procedures Manual (I had to write that one with our local methods for required policies and procedures); 3. Anthropometric, Lab & Clinic Standards Manual; 4. Civil Rights Training Manual; 5. Outreach Manual; 6. Nutrition Education Lesson Plan Manual with examples of all the handouts used, this was mostly original writing also, with some lessons and handouts from the state or other local agencies; 7. the Breastfeeding Manual, local policy and inventory material; 8. the Coupon Inventory Log; and 9. the Equipment Inventory.
I loved my job - what I really did was measure babies and children, poke fingers for iron lab tests, assess nutrition, and income and social needs as well, and provide education and counseling guidance as needed and often, enter it all in the computer and print out food coupons too, With few staff available I worked clinics by myself sometimes or with one other person to help. Updating policy manuals or even reading them was spare time work for at home in the evening, unpaid, or occasionally approved overtime on a weekend for an end of the year report or audit. With few staff it was difficult to make time during a workweek for much besides the ten to forty clients I might have seen in a day.
It’s nice to have the time now to put together some of what I learned with what is now so easily available online. I used a gluestick to copy and paste when I was writing client handouts.
Times change and policies have to be reviewed and updated to match the changed procedures that are a little closer to what people actually do. A policy is the general rule or guidance - for example: “Employees will maintain a biohazard free environment for staff and customer safety,” while a procedure is the plan and steps that were developed in the hope that they will achieve the policy’s goal. Ideally procedures and policies are based on research that suggests that the policy’s goal is worth working towards achieving for some purpose and that the procedure’s steps will be effective at meeting the goal. The procedure for the example policy would likely include: “Employees will wash their hands before leaving the restroom and returning to their work station.”
The best policy and procedure is effective at achieving its goal without “costing” much in time or effort to fulfill - fairly natural; humans generally do wash their hands before leaving the restroom, a reminder sign can help just in case they forget. Bad policy is less effective - a reminder sign that belittles the employees might cause some hurt feelings and lead to irritation and crumpled paper towels being left all over the restroom in retaliation. The worst policy is physically or biologically impossible: “Employees will not leave their workstation for any reason except at the stated breaktime (so just stay home if you have a weak bladder or irritable bowel syndrome).”
A good policy and procedure manual will be so full of mind-numbingly boring detail that it will put you to sleep - and bedtime is likely when there is time in the day for a manager to read new policies issued from higher up the administration chain of command. What makes detail helpful is that it adds clarity and a step by step flow that the new employee can learn as easily as the experienced staff. A written guide can be left out during early weeks of training and then referred to when needed later. The policy for maintaining a biohazard free environment would need a section for cleaning different areas - which would need to include details on:
- how often,
- by whom,
- with what products,
- which are stored where,
- and where are the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, (12.44.OSHA), biohazard chemical safety data sheets stored, (an example: Substance data sheet for occupational exposure to lead,12.45.OSHA.lead)
- and how often are the staff trained on OSHA safety standards, etc.
The point is - policy is important and it can make life easier for training new staff and keeping staff happy and safe and a happy, safe employee is more likely to be a retained employee. So the main point is that effective policies and procedures can make employees find work easy to do and so they enjoy and continue doing it and share their enthusiasm with others - an experienced staff member showing the new person might give two impressions about work policy, boring, but easy: “just follow the list in that boring old manual that everyone hates (but it works, so just do it, it’s easy!).”
So while you may not be the CEO - the Chief Executive Officer of your place of work, you are your own CEO. Everyone is their own chief executive in charge of their health and daily choices.