Why Are Office Policies So Lengthy?

The truth? Most office policies contain lots of crap. (That’s the technical term. The formal term is “unnecessary sentences.”)

Written administrative policy documents should be clear and succinct. Too often they are padded with unnecessary information, which makes them longer but not more effective.

Take, for example, the following wording found in an Employee Conduct Policy:

Employees must not arrive late at meetings.

That sentence is not a statement of policy. When asked about the consequences of breaching this rule, the best the policy writer could think of was that a latecomer to a meeting would miss important information and would disrupt others when they arrived.

His prediction about the consequences is correct; however, natural consequences happen in the absence of  policy statements around them. At best, that sentence amounts to good advice, and good advice belongs in an employee manual, not in a policy instrument.

If, on the other hand, there is a decision around consequences imposed by the company rather than by nature, then that’s a different story. Like this example:

Employees arriving late at meetings are subject to discipline.

Now that sentence is truly a policy statement, and it should appear somewhere in the document containing the office policies.

Most organizations could cut their policy instruments in half if they simply got rid of the cr—, um…of the unnecessary sentences.

More Policy Writing Tips

For more information

You’ll find information on writing titles for policy instruments and many related topics in Respectful Policies and Directives, available at any bookstore.

Perfect Policies.org offers workshops that help you organize your policy instruments. Contact us for details.


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