How to Break the Rules and Not Get Caught

Engaged is pleased to welcome guest blogger and DisruptHR speaker Lauren Welgush, People and Performance Manager, North America with Bambora. Lauren‘s blog outlines her talk “How to Break the Rules and Not Get Caught” at DisruptHR 2.0 with the full length video available below. 

As HR professionals, we want to break the rules in our own way and create amazing workplaces. We want a seat at the table. So often though, we are hit with the reality of the world’s perspective of HR. POLICY POLICE! The thing is, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We have traditionally gone straight to policy instead of focusing on business needs and results.

Harvard Business Review hit the nail on the head in their article, The High Price of Overly Prescriptive HR Policies, with the statement, “Too many companies’ HR policies are overly restrictive. Such policies are often convoluted and overly paternal, and attempt to control the behaviour of regular people through rules designed to rein in the ‘bad apples’”. This makes me think of the blog post I saw the other day that made me want to hit my head on a wall. It was called ‘The 20 Sneakers HR will Approve’. Why am I approving someone’s footwear? Why does their footwear even matter? Will it drive business results if they wear a certain shoe? I don’t want to control the things people wear or say and put everyone in a one-size-fits-all box – Do you?

Let’s disrupt our traditional HR train of thought and turn this around. Let’s empower ourselves and others, and take a cue from lawyers.

Lawyers seem to take what they know and make it work for themselves and their clients in each legal case. While HR is saying, “Sorry, that doesn’t fit with policy”, lawyers are thinking, “What is the loop-hole?” How, you ask, do they do this? I asked my lawyer friend who filled me in on her train of thought. It’s genius because one size does not fit all, and it forces HR to focus on the business and its people.

She asks her clients:

1) What are the facts? The key here is to craft a theme about the facts of the case that show how they are unique. If HR does this, we can confidently say, “Just because the policy applied to your colleague in that other situation, it doesn’t mean it applies to your situation.” There’s the loop-hole!

2) What do you want? For HR this means asking what is necessary for the organization to function at its best. Or, it means asking what this person needs to function at their best.

3) What is the law? Laws are last! Policies should be too. HR should be looking at how the policy fits into what the organization needs in that particular situation, like a lawyer does with a case. We need to begin examining what is necessary, and stop focusing on what is required, while resisting the temptation to go straight to policy.

In a world where HR is breaking the rules by being less overly-prescriptive and throwing policies out the window, we will get caught. Our loop-hole dialogue in which we have crafted a unique theme may seem inconsistent and confusing to others. So, if you do get caught, be honest and transparent. People want to know the why. Explain the uniqueness of the situation and how it fits in with the overall picture. Look your organization in the eye and explain that this is what was necessary.

Most importantly, don’t let the cost of following policy be the employees you are working hard to engage and the organization you want to make the best workplace. Change your HR mindset, and the rest of the world will follow.

Rules: were they not meant to be broken? Just break them responsibly, my HR friends.

Learn more with Lauren’s 5 minute DisruptHR Talk “How to Break the Rules and Not Get Caught”.

Disclaimer: All content provided in this blog is the opinions expressed by the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of Engaged HR Inc.