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Can Past Mistakes Prevent Future Issues?


How are policies at your organization created? If you think back to when you made your policies, can you identify what was at the root of them? Did you create a new rule or procedure as a reaction to something that went wrong? If so, ask yourself this question: Are you punishing the majority for the wrongs of a few? 

Some organizations have policies and structures in place that make the majority pay for the wrongdoings of a few employees. Why are your employees being punished for offenses that most of them did not commit? Read on to learn more about how to stop this cycle. 



As a society, there is an overall tendency to create rules based on the actions of people who “misbehaved.” Take the example of parents creating a stricter curfew for their younger children because of the mistakes of an older sibling. Or an entire class missing out on recess because of the behavior of a few classmates. 

The underlying factor here is a lack of trust. The societal norm to overcorrect people’s mistakes leaves honest and trustworthy people on the short end of the stick.

How has this impacted the workforce?

As discussed above, when employers have stern rules and policies more often than not they are a result of employees who have abused their privileges. If this is the case, it can lead to an environment where employees don’t feel that they have autonomy and that can turn into resentment. 

Resentment is poison in the workplace.

Whether it’s requiring excessive documentation for sick days -doctor’s notes are for elementary school, not the workplace- or monitoring employees who work from home by invading their privacy, trust is the issue. 

How can employees fully show up as themselves and perform at their best if they constantly have to prove their integrity?


Is your organization guilty of this? Here’s how you know:

Depending your answers to the  questions below, you may have to challenge yourself to re-think your policies:

  • Do you allow your employees to work from home when their job functions make it possible? 
  • Do you create systems that micromanage or to keep a close eye on your employees?
  • Do you require them to share excessive information about PTO and sick days? For example, doctor’s notes. 
  • When a few people broke a rule, or lost your trust, did you react by creating a new rule for everyone?


How can we begin to avoid this environment?

When you are creating a policy for your organization, instead of looking backwards at what did not work, look forward at what you DO want to work.

Then, once your future vision is clear, look back at the volume of employees who you could trust, and the ones who failed, with similar freedoms. You will likely find that most people are trustworthy. Use past data – sheer numbers – to give you confidence in giving your current team the freedom or benefits they deserve.

We understand that simply trusting all of your employees might feel too risky, so instead of sweeping change, go slowly. Try giving the less strict policies a test run period.

For example, if you want to try allowing your employees to have unlimited sick days, you may get a select few who suddenly have a health emergency every week. This will allow you a period to identify the people who abuse the system and address it directly with them, while noticing that most of your team is doing much better under the new policy. If you enact a policy that is for the benefit of people, give it time and gather the data. 

Be patient with your workforce. Remember, the employees who take advantage of the system will always show themselves. Take the time to implement fair policies that will benefit your employees and take the time to gather data and come up with solutions. Let your employees earn your trust.