There Are Policies For That!

Marco, a brilliant graphic designer has worked for the same advertising agency for nearly ten years and received a number of awards for his artwork.  But recently, there were some issues at work that nearly cost him his job.  If Marco had been familiar with his employer’s policies and procedures, he could have saved himself a lot of aggravation, and not had to deal with his employer’s dissatisfaction.
Policy and Procedure Manuals (or P&P’s) are very common in most businesses that have more than 10 employees.  At their core, they are written to provide basic guidelines about acceptable behaviors, best business practices, legal concerns, and methodologies for dealing with complaints and disciplinary issues.  Some are written better than others, many are very detailed with explanations about how everything should be handled, and others have just cursory operational information.  The depth and detail provided in a P&P is frequently determined by the nature of the company’s business, and its legal responsibilities to its staff, and customers.
There are P&P templates available that cover a wide variety of detail and contingencies for almost any business and industry, but for P&P’s to be effective documents two things need to happen:  First, the document must be customized to represent the specifics of that particular business; and secondly they must be read and adhered to by all staff.  There can be no selective enforcement of the rules!
But the problem is that P&P’s aren’t reviewed with any regular frequency by employees.  It’s not that the documents change dramatically or too often, but employees will typically give their company’s P&P a cursory glance upon receipt shortly after being hired and then not look at them again.  And that’s where Marco ran into problems.
It seems that Marco had used his employer’s computer servers to store some very large files that were not part of his company work.  Yes, Marco had been freelancing on the side.  Compounding matters, Marco was doing work for some high-profile clients that his employer was trying to woo contracts with.  Marco’s faux pas were discovered when an in-house network administrator noticed an unusual amount of server space being consumed.  Researching the problem, the administrator traced the files to Marco.
Marco’s direct supervisor was notified of the issue, and asked him about his unusually high computer storage usage.  He explained that he was having his personal system upgraded and that these files were content that he needed to quickly access for some personal projects; and the files would only be stored on the company’s servers until he got his own computer back from the shop. Marco was open and honest about the situation, and didn’t think there would be a problem for his short-term usage.
The supervisor questioned the nature of the content Marco was storing to make sure it was nothing illegal or inappropriate.  Marco told his supervisor he’d been doing some freelancing and been making some extra money, and the “outside” work was not interfering with his company duties, or the quality of his work.  He wasn’t a fan of using cloud storage to hold his files temporarily, claiming the process of accessing and using the files was too slow in the cloud.   But because Marco’s personal files were being stored on his employer’s computers, the supervisor felt he was obligated to know more about the files.  When the supervisor learned the projects were for accounts the company was trying to win, Marco got his biggest clue that he was in hot water with his employer!
Marco thought that since he’s been a respected long-term employee he wouldn’t have any difficulties storing his files for a few days.  But had he reviewed his company’s P&P, he would have been reminded that there were clearly delineated rules governing his missteps and the possible repercussions for his actions.
Certainly Marco’s mistakes weren’t the most egregious he could have made. In the grand scheme of things, his offenses were relatively minor, and without malice.  But there within his company’s Policies & Procedures manual, in plain English (Marco’s native language!), were rules governing the use of company computers, their use for personal endeavors, and other regulations about employee freelancing, conflicts of interest and non-competition issues were also outlined in great detail.
Marco’s actions had violated several company policies, enough so that the company could have fired him for his mistakes.  Luckily for him, his employer really liked his work, and Marco was suspended for a month without pay, and placed on probation for six months.  If Marco enjoys the job security provided by his employer, he needs to follow the rules.  He now knows that if he fails to comply with the company’s P&P, he will be fired and looking for a new job.
Oh, before I forget, I gotta say that Scott Thompson\, now the former CEO of Yahoo should have read my post  Keep Track Of The Past.
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