Sample #15: The Phrase “No Exception”

After police officers stop a speeding car, they question the driver and usually issue a ticket. But if the officer sees a woman in the throes of labor suffering in the passenger seat, the officer will *not* issue a ticket, but instead will lead the way to the hospital. That response doesn’t change the law; rather, it demonstrates compassion and common sense.

Many organizations append the phrase “No exceptions” to their #rules. But it doesn’t look good on them. The truth in many cases is that they do have compassion and use common sense, and when the situation calls for it they do make exceptions.

So why append that phrase? Usually it’s because someone in the organization is afraid that too many people will ask to be an exception. That someone is tired of people asking and tired of saying No. But that phrase generates two negative consequences:

1) In most situations it belies the truth. Most organizations do make exceptions, even if only in the rarest of circumstances, where compassion or common sense dictate.

2) It sends a terrible message. It says, “We want to sound tough. We’re not pushovers, and we don’t want to give people that impression.

The policy statement is complete without adding the phrase “No exceptions,” even if you don’t have the ability to allow exceptions to that decision.

If the reason you’re adding the phrase is because you expect that you’re open to all kinds of abuse unless you state it overtly, then you have a toxic work culture. Fix that culture first, and then we can worry about the wording of the policy statement.


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