Your written policies may expose a compliance problem

It’s the age of Open Government. Government offices at every level will be posting their internal administrative policies for all to see, in the name of openness and transparency. Overall, it’s a good move.

With one caveat: what messages will you be sending in those policies that you aren’t aware of? Specifically, if you have a compliance problem in your office, you could be announcing that problem to the world if you’re not alert to it.

Compare these two policy statements:

A) ”Thumb drives may be used in the office only after they have been approved by IT Services.”


B) ”All employees MUST always obtain approval from IT Services BEFORE using thumb drives in the office.”

In both cases, employees need IT Services approval to use thumb drives. So why does statement B contain all those extra words?

Clearly the office that produced statement B is experiencing a compliance problem. They’re probably frustrated and tired of reminding people about the policy.

We get it; we’ve all been there. We have all experienced administering a policy that people don’t follow for one reason or another.

But the rest of the world doesn’t need to know that. It is inappropriate that the current compliance issues are reflected in the wording of the policy statement.

If your policies are well-written, people will perceive that you know what you’re doing. On the other hand, if the wording of your policies exposes your compliance problem, you will be revealing much more than you need to.

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