“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” -Chinese Proverb
We can't change human nature, however the better we understand ourselves as individuals and groups, the better we can develop policies that enhance our strengths and work around our weaknesses. Policies help guide us to more effective ways to accomplish tasks and interact with each other. Good policies reflect what works for the job and for human nature. An effective policy is likely one that isn't too annoying for workers to accomplish, isn't too implausible to ask of them or worse, impossible to ask or demand of them. Impossible demands are the worse kind of stress, difficult to feel any sense of control, pride or purpose - shovel sand from one hole on the beach to fill another? No thanks, I'm calling in sick.
It is the experienced workers who are likely to know the most effective ways to get a task accomplished. Good managers and leaders ask the worker at the bottom of the hierarchy of command who is actually doing a job on a day to day basis for feedback about the task or equipment before making changes that will be most helpful and cost effective.
A positive work atmosphere is less stressful for employees which can help protect their health and reduce lost time due to sick days. A positive work atmosphere also may help build a more trusting customer base.
Customers, at least some of them, likely are able to see and feel when staff and management are in a tense or hostile relationship with each other or when promotional materials seem to target some groups of people differently or negatively from other types of people. Customers trust in the company may even be negatively affected. (12.1, 12.2)
A policy manual can be written about nondiscriminatory guidelines for advertisements or for treatment of employees and customers. This is a discussion of policies and procedures and how they can be used to promote daily work procedures that support a safe and diverse work environment for staff and management, and for customers. It is not likely to be useful for all situations or people but might be helpful as an example or template for someone to start thinking about their own company’s values and areas where improvement might be needed.
Working as a public servant in a government agency taught me to both value and dislike Policy Manuals.
Over the years I learned that policies and the annual review was tedious but that the system truly was effective at quickly sharing the best practices that had been learned through experience or planned experiments, testing new experimental procedures.
A policy is a general rule and a procedure describes the specific steps that might be followed in an attempt to follow the rule set by a stated policy. (12.3)
Readers who aren’t familiar with policy manuals may think that this discussion of them is too long. Readers who are familiar with policy manuals will know that the following is not a policy manual and that it isn’t very long. However, modern readers may not recognize the phrase “policy manuals” as something that even exist as physical books that might be found on a shelf in the manager’s office.
Policy guidance in modern businesses is now more likely to be found in virtual format available on each employee’s computer than in a heavy three-ring binder in the manager's office. But while a virtual policy manual might be more than 600 pages long but you wouldn’t be able to prop your office door open with it. And more typically in the past, there would have been a whole shelf of policy manuals available that could all be piled up if the door was very heavy.
Policies can save lives, especially in the healthcare industry. Policies and common knowledge of procedures can also save lives by helping prevent accidents or by helping people cope better in emergency situations.
Having stated office policies regarding NSFW material can help give employees and managers consistent guidelines to follow so that all infractions or complaints can be treated equally. Clear written guidelines about what material might be thought of as sexually offensive or offensive to other groups can help provide consistency for managers to enforce and for employees to follow, but the list likely would need to be fairly general rather than an itemized list - that would be a long list.
Try anything once, if you choose, but just don't write about it online if you're sensible.
But a long and itemized list of things that are clearly NSFW would be helpful for people with less social skills or with less knowledge of pop culture and cultural sensitivities.
A good general rule is to keep personal “none-of-your-business" topics out of the business day; a quote on that theme:
Setting some new rules about goals for change can help groups succeed at changing old routines and establishing new habits.
Research on how to successfully promote a more civil business environment has been summarized into four steps, (12.16):
When everyone already is familiar with a routine it can make things go smoother in an emergency, as observed in the case of a traffic accident in a narrow tunnel in South Korea - business as usual for experienced motorists: (12.17)
The computer image in the link shows two lanes of traffic that were going the same direction in a narrow tunnel but who have all been brought to a halt by a traffic accident ahead of them in the tunnel. Then, without direction from any emergency personnel, all the drivers quickly move their cars as close to their side of the tunnel as possible which is enough room to leave an open passage down the center through which an emergency vehicle could now easily reach the motorists who were involved in the traffic accident.
A driver safety training class might cover the safety procedures that are recommended for motorists to follow in different types of driving situations. A policy for receiving a driver’s license might require a text book or video instruction session followed by a written test of the applicant's knowledge and driving test to check their safety skills.
Reporting problems can help protect other people in the future from a having a similar bad experience or it might save others from being expected to take part in a criminal act by their manager. Reporting problems that occur at work could be helping protect the place of business from continuing to employ a person who breaks company rules or state or federal laws.
Or reporting problems might reveal that the team or management as a whole is not adhering to company standards and the person who complained may suffer from retaliation from coworkers or management if a system is not in place for discreet reporting.
In the business world an example of the danger of a work environment that doesn’t promote open feedback from the employees was seen with the Volkswagen automobile company. Engineers or managers or both were involved in falsifying or concealing that auto emissions were worse than limits allowed. Autos were produced and sold with false claims for environmental air pollution standards.
A discussion of the Volkswagen company's situation suggests a few strategies that might help protect other teams from risk of illegal or unethical collusion by a team:
In the short run, bypassing these instincts might be easier than focusing on trying to change them through educational efforts or by trying to enforce change with rules. The problem with rules is you then need to monitor and punish those who don't follow the rules and it might increase negative behavior by creating a sense of unfairness and a need to challenge the rule by finding ways to get around it.
Change is likely to start gradually and then pick up pace as people see positive results.
Presenting ideas initially without identifying who thought of them might be possible with "Suggestion Box" style meetings where new ideas are presented in a standardized format by a third party. Who the people are whose ideas are selected for further consideration could be revealed at later stages of development so they could present more information about the idea. More equal speaking time in meetings might be achieved by having a moderator simply point/ask individuals to offer their opinion or input regarding an idea or to go around the table in turn or have a "Talking Stick" that is passed to people as they volunteer to speak. The Talking Stick is a concept borrowed from Native American cultures. Only the person with the Talking Stick speaks except for questions or comments from others seeking to clarify or better understand the speaker’s point. The speaker passes the Talking Stick on to the next speaker once they feel their point has been made and understood by the group.
“Stress and resilience management” programs have been found helpful for reducing stress in workers.
An excerpt describes some of the stress management and cognitive behavior techniques that have been found helpful for work based employee wellness programs:
The website positivepsychologyprogram.com has information about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques and worksheets available online and also offers a free “Positive Psychology toolkit” with access to “a science-based, online platform containing 135+ exercises, activities, interventions, questionnaires, assessments and scales.”
"Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love." ~Rumi~
Mindfulness Training encourages us to become aware of our feelings and thoughts and accept them and observe rather than get concerned or anxious about an uncomfortable feeling - accept it and learn from it. Mindfulness exercises have been found helpful for reducing activity in the amygdala with negative stimuli which would suggest a reduction in a fear or anxious response. Mindfulness techniques have also been found helpful for reducing bias.
A psychologist found mindfulness techniques helpful in a diversity training session for a business group. They seemed to help break the silence of those uncomfortable about speaking on sensitive topics:
Self-reported mindfulness was found to be associated with more self-esteem and an orientation for autonomy, being self-directed. A secure attachment style was also associated but less closely. The research authors suggest mindfulness can be innate but which is also a skill that can be developed over time and improved with practice. (12.23)
Having an autonomy orientation has also been associated with more pro-social behavior - helping others, volunteering or other positive activities - and more to the point for a guide about writing policy for guiding behavior - autonomy support was associated with lower volunteer turnover. (12.23)
An engaged employee is a retained employee - a paraphrase of the popular saying “A family who prays together, stays together.” Rituals help form bonds with the group, whether prayer or holiday decorations or the annual company picnic tug-o-war, traditions help remind us who we are and who are the people who care about us. (12.25) Leaders with a moral purpose may instill more commitment by their employees, the trait is associated with more engaged workers, read more: Why Leaders With A Moral Purpose Have More Engaged Workers, (12.28)
An engaged worker likely feels they have some control over their some aspect of their day and that their opinions and work is valued. A sense of autonomy refers to feeling that you are in control over your actions instead of having every action be micromanaged with excessively controlling policies. For "Autonomy support," try investing in the workers with training and career planning resources. Effective managers and leaders aren’t born, they are trained and mentored, and opportunities for resume building projects may have been handed to them through networking.
A bias towards helping our family, “Nepotism,” and a bias towards helping our friends, “favoring insiders,” is innate but so is “empathy, reciprocity,” and “fairness.” (pp 271-272, 7.3) People like helping others and they like helping those who had helped them in the past - “reciprocity,” returning favors - “fairness,” and concern for others - “empathy.” Humans are a mixture of noble generous traits and self-protective survival traits - the generous giving may be part of the surviving instinct considering the idea of “reciprocity” and networking. Help others and they may someday be in a position to help you, or your family member or friend, or help the group as a whole.
Reciprocity can be about the larger instinct of survival of the group. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Multiply the Golden Rule by the majority of the group and you have a mostly peaceful group - as long as everyone has basically similar definitions or expectations of what “normal” is, what behavior they would hope for from others in a business or public setting. What individuals do in the privacy of their homes, as long as it is consensual and not harming others, is not really important to anyone outside of that private setting.
Discrimination against someone just because of differences can be illegal in the job setting depending on the difference. Discrimination against the youthful worker is not protected in the U.S. currently. Age forty is when “Age” discrimination protection begins legally at the federal level. While everyone needs a livable wage, younger workers today may value a sense of purpose and autonomy more than a pay raise or monetary bonus. They are more likely to switch jobs many times in comparison to workers of previous generations.
Leaders and managers can be the role models for purposeful behavior and smooth the way for employees to seek out a purpose they find stimulating. Guiding the selection of projects and helping the team collaborate can also give younger workers a chance at leadership roles which can add experience to their work record and resume.
Recent research suggests workers are more engaged when their manager or business leadership shows a sense of purpose. The team of researchers suggest that organizations can promote purposeful and ethical leadership in their management staff with several key strategies: adopting relevant policies; providing leadership role-modeling; having a core vision for the business; providing training and development for staff; and providing an organizational culture. (12.28)
An organizational culture that would be more supportive of purposeful leadership would promote positive interpersonal relationships and support the staff who are demonstrating the values of the core vision of the business.
A purposeful leader incorporates the values of a moral self, with vision and commitment to stakeholders according to the report and a purposeful organisation would have the attributes of societal responsibility, values, and ethics. (12.31)
Advocacy for causes that support society in general or at a local level or even for the employee who needs a new car to get to work are all serving a “moral purpose.” Advocacy can be very challenging and trying to help can sometimes end up being harmful instead. Guidance is available, a free ebook, "The Complete Guide to Advocacy," might help make speaking up for the environment and for human rights less stressful: (12.32.thecampaignworkshop.com)
The image is a chalk and oil pastel drawing I made with my toddler and preschool age children and two of their friends. It includes drawing and coloring by all of us and words from Native American tribal lore attributed to the Winnebago Tribe: “Throughout the world who is there like little me! Who is like me! I can touch the sky, I touch the sky indeed!” The words seem to be questions but include exclamation points which makes them more of a statement celebrating each person’s uniqueness and absolute right to touch the sky each in their own unique way. “I touch the sky indeed!” The words were from a book of Native American writing.
Autonomy may involve a sense of uniqueness and a sense of purpose, and the ability to achieve that purpose - I can touch the sky - whenever I want to - it is my sky, it is your sky, it is all of our sky and we all can touch it whenever we want to.
Autonomy may also involve a sense of curiosity and freedom to explore in a playful way without fear of repercussion over the occasional plan that didn’t work out as hoped.
The definition of the word Autonomy includes three parts, two that refer to the self governing control of a nation or business entity and one that refers to the individual’s ability to control their actions and moral choices:
So autonomy may also involve the freedom to not have to do things that are against your moral values.
The concept of autonomy is discussed in an older book about philosophy and morals, from the book set, Characteristics of Men Manners, Opinions, Times, Etc., by Anthony Earl of Shaftsbury, Ed. John M. Robertson, Vol II, The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody; Being a Recital of certain Conversations on Natural and Moral Subjects. Miscellaneous reflections on the preceding treatises. 1900, (12.33.The Moralists), A quote from the second page suggests the book is a response to feeling a need for the discussion of philosophy to enter into daily conversation as the topic of politics had seemed to do, in the author's recent past - in the lingo of 1900.
To go back to even older lingo, the author provides an example from ancient Egypt to support his idea that people should have a right to choose their own type of career path in life.In ancient Egypt your career was generally always going to be the same as your father’s or family’s type of work. A translation is given, which states that work roles were based on what your father or family did:
The missing section of the quote is available elsewhere, Herodotus, as he is also known wrote:
The author of The Moralists is against the policy, he doesn't use the word "autonomy" but making a person's job-for-life be predestined based on what your father did, is opposite of having your own "autonomous" control over your choices, or at least over some of them. He opened the section on the previous page with:
In more recent history, research repeated by several groups suggests that increasing control over a group or person, removing their sense of autonomy and control over their own situation, actually increased violence rather than serving to limit it:
The same article includes background information on different ways people "dehumanize" other individuals or groups which can be for the purpose of reducing feelings of guilt over marginalizing them or denying their rights or freedom. Pretending someone or a group of people are not human and are more like animals in some way is animalistic dehumanization and pretending they are like machines or tools with no human nature is mechanistic dehumanization.
When we deny our human need for touch and sexuality we are treating ourselves as machines without needing the boss to deny our right for family time for us. Gender research and interviews with people in the technology industry suggest men and women get ahead in the business world when they focus on work and limit the time they spend on a private life or they don't have a family at all - that seems like an example of mechanistic dehumanization.
In Greece slaves were treated worse than in Egypt at the time and were considered not human, "tools that speak," (12.34.Egypt/social_classes) which would be an example of mechanistic dehumanization.
Here's a modern day example of mechanistic dehumanization of a woman or man being metaphorically killed as a sexual tool: See the joke by the ironically named account: (12.36.FaithPeaceLove2)
Mechanisation and dehumanization were also discussed regarding employee’s rights to have their biological needs respected by employers in the section 11: What is Sexism?.
The link about Egypt provides more information than the book The Moralists, the article suggests that there were fewer slaves in Egypt than in other areas at the time and that equality and the ability to improve one's position were also encouraged to some extent within each class, and occasionally movement between classes occurred. Noble classes had a hierarchy based on how close they were to the pharaohs, who were considered more than royalty, more like gods in a polytheist culture. Equality was encouraged in some ways though more for the craftspeople who were free in many ways to improve their position within their working class group. Even a few slaves were able to change levels when their masters died childless and left property to the slaves. (12.34.Egypt/social_classes)
Manual labor was not lauded; if the land was very lush and fertile it would have seemed unimportant compared to an area where everyone had to work together to irrigate or bring in fertilizer to build up poor soil just to have enough to survive:
A writer and civil rights activist from our own era shared a similar concern, Booker T. Washington stated that:
I agree and add that, no race can continue to prosper if it forgets that there is more dignity in raising wholesome food that supports a community in a manner that can be sustained year after year. Farmers learned to interplant crops that work well together and to rotate fields over the years and to leave them fallow with no crops every few years to allow the soil to recover. Poetry is beautiful in part because it describes nature however it can not nourish the body as well as it nourishes the soul.
Little information is available in written works about the role women held although some of the women of the noble class were literate according to the article. Another article suggests common people may also have been able to read and write. Poetry did include the voices of females and some may have been written by women. Love poetry used imagery from nature and may have been set to music. Ancient Egyptian Love Poems Reveal a Lust for Life, (page 2, 12.38)
A poem thought to have been from 1160 B.C. was found on the burial tomb of a supervisor of workers who was named Inherkhawy. It’s joyful call to “seize the day” suggests to me that his workers thought well of him:
The Harper's Song for Inherkhawy (Excerpt)
“So seize the day! hold holiday!
Be unwearied, unceasing, alive
you and your own true love;
Let not the heart be troubled
during your sojourn on Earth,
but seize the day as it passes!”
(Translated by J.L. Foster) (page 2, 12.38)
Not everyone had as much freedom to try other roles within the ancient Egyptian society. The role of "swineherd" was more disliked by other groups than most working class roles and sons and daughters of other swineherds would have to be found as spouses for the children of swineherds. Overall however there was little social unrest compared to some other areas according to this page about social classes in ancient Egypt: (12.34.Egypt/social_classes)
Specializing tasks in a society does have some benefits; the daughters and sons of the swineherd families would have grown up in the surrounding and smells of their family's profession and they would be accustomed to it and know exactly what work needed to be done and how to do it well. Most jobs in life have insider secrets for how to perform tasks most efficiently. Having children learn their family's job would be a little like having an apprenticeship training program. But love happens, and creativity happens, some children of lower classes in ancient Egypt were likely left feeling stuck in their role.
The taboo may also have had an underlying health reason, people working and living closely with swine during times of inadequate sanitation may have been infected with the pork tapeworm T. solium which can have devastating health effects. A tendency towards a certain set of symptoms might become associated with a type of work. (12.39)
The average sizes of homes are given in the article as evidence or examples of the hierarchy between social classes. The smallest living space for a working class artisan was 50 square meters which would be roughly equivalent to an 150 square foot efficiency apartment in our modern world: (12.40)
While one of the royalty had a mansion that was 10000 square meters, approximately 30,000 square feet, which is is a luxury home selling in today's market at 17 million or more, some furnishings and the list price is more than 200 million - for a private home. Examples of floor plans for a 30,000 sq ft home: (12.41)
We have arrived back at the time of the pyramids - we are living in a society that is as divided in some ways as in the days of the Egyptians and the pyramids. So how much money might a modern-day billionaire spend on a burial site? Answer: $825,000. (12.42)
Students in the United States have a significantly larger student debt load from higher education loans than students generally needed to borrow in previous decades. College tuition on average is three times more now than what it cost in the 1980s. (12.29.demos)
It is less likely for young adults in the United States today to buy their own home or car than in previous decades. More young adults are still living with their parents and some dormitory style apartments are becoming available in very expensive locations. A management company may modify a two bedroom apartment into dormitory style bedrooms and make a profit from the high cost of a two bedroom apartment by charging eight people rent to share the cramped quarters. Rent in urban areas where jobs are located can be as much as $2000-3000 per month for a one bedroom apartment. There is no way you could flip burgers fast enough to pay that rent on a minimum wage job.
A non-profit organization focused on researching public policy and societal health provides a thorough discussion of the challenges that young adults face in the United States currently and provides recommendations for policy makers and for young adults.
What is “policy” - a plan of action agreed upon by a government, political party, business, or other group. (12.43)
Those all seem like very good recommendations, which could form the basis of effective policies, which is why I summarized them. An Executive Summary gives the most important points in a brief overview in order to save the executive time. But a summary is based on the work of many people that was organized around a purpose and written in a report.
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:
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.
The Four C's of Disaster Planning don't need to be saved for a disaster. (12.27)
Communication, Cooperation, Coordination and Collaboration are the four C’s of Disaster Planning.
Get your team or family working together well for everyday needs and plan the most fabulous vacation with your skills! Or pack up the spare tools & safety gear and help others repair after an environmental disaster.
The type of construction and zoning regulations used for cities and smaller communities can make a large difference in how much destruction a weather event is likely to cause. Lack of wetland and drainage is a problem in Houston that is due to human policy choices. The topic of how news coverage and political discussion of weather events may impact human management choices and our perception of who is the cause of the devastation - man or nature?
Building too much concrete surfaces without setting aside adequate land for drainage ditches and wetland areas is a man made disaster every single time there is a significant rains storm. Is that a human disaster or a natural disaster involving humans & any other creatures unlucky enough to be living in the area at the time of the weather event that occurred in a poorly zoned or regulated district for the type of climate or ecosystem?
Guidance is available regarding best practices for urban planning of infrastructure, yet the information may be underutilized according to a whitepaper that just became available - sharing is caring, pass it forward:
Links and Reference footnotes for
Chapter 12: Equal Opportunity Policy.