Wording Policies Respectfully (1)

© 2016 Lewis S. Eisen

The language you choose when you set administrative policies and rules for your employees provides some insight into the amount of respect you have for them.

It’s not enough for a policy statement to be clear and succinct. Good policies are worded in a way that’s respectful of the people they are intended to govern. A confrontational or dictatorial style is unbecoming a respectful environment.

Compare the following statements:

A) ”Travel expenses submitted to the Finance Office by close of business on Friday are reimbursed within 3 business days.”


B) ”Employees MUST submit their travel expenses NO LATER THAN close of business on Friday DIRECTLY to the Finance Office. Failure to do so will result in expenses NOT being reimbursed until the following week.”

Statement A is clear and succinct. Its requirements are strict and mandatory, but they are expressed in a respectful manner and are not combative.

Statement B (extracted from a real finance policy) reveals that the business suffers from a compliance problem but doesn’t know how to handle it. It also reveals that the people in the finance office are frustrated with the status quo. The person who wrote this statement believes that people need to be hit over the head with an ultimatum before things will improve.

Your business’s values are reflected in your policy statements. Statement A speaks to employees in a respectful manner, clarifying the rules so that people can make informed decisions around their behaviour.

In contrast, Statement B betrays an underlying fear that employees will not follow procedures unless they ordered to do so or—even worse—threatened with consequences.

Which wording sounds similar to your company’s administrative policies? More importantly, what kind of employer do you want to be: respectful or combative? Most of use would choose the former.

Policy wording is important; learn more about how to write your rules properly. Check out the newly published Respectful Policies and Directives!