In Defense of Violating Policies

“I have seen a lot of things, and have seen a lot of guys die…but I have never seen a Marine cry.” (witness to incident below)

I don’t know any Marines personally, but I suspect that making one cry is a very difficult feat. A story surfaced recently regarding a Marine trying to fly home on Delta Airlines. This young man lost two legs in Afghanistan last year and was trying to fly home for Christmas. The Customer Service people (and I use the term ‘service’ very loosely here) decided this Marine should be boarded last at the back of the plane. It’s a pain for able-bodied people to navigate through a crowded plane, let alone a double-amputee in a wheelchair. So they dragged him through the aisle, bumping into seats along the way despite offers of assistance. A couple First-class passengers even offered to trade seats with him but the Delta employees refused and continued the humiliating journey down the aisle in front of a crowded plane.

Now in defense of Delta Airlines, they acknowledged they mishandled this situation, and issued a statement saying “We failed in this situation”. That takes a lot of guts for an organization to publicly say they made a mistake, and I respect their willingness to do so. (other organizations who mess up should take note of Delta’s response)

Incidents like this happen every day in large organizations (albeit most don’t make the front page of newspapers). An employee gets presented with an opportunity to use their brain, their internal compassionate tendencies, and their discretion…and they hide behind the policy instead. How many times have you heard a variation of, “Thank you sir, but our policy states that…”? Does it ever make you a more engaged customer? In most cases, it enrages you. But I think the issue is not the employee him/herself, but rather the leaders who enforce those policies, and who punish violators irrationally. Policies can’t encompass every conceivable situation, even though they sometimes try to.

Our orientation and training for employees should include a review of policies, but also a review of when to violate said policies. If the employees you hire can’t handle that discretion, then you shouldn’t have hired them. It’s amazing what can happen when you give employees liberty, discretion and opportunities to provide the service you want them to. Policies are needed, but not at the expense of what your organization is there for in the first place.

The quote at the beginning if this article is haunting. So many things could have gone different in this incident had this organization empowered their employees to violate policies when it makes sense to do so, and who backed up their employees when they did. It may very well avoid embarrassing situations like this one.

HR & Christmas Policies

I’m not sure who wrote this, but a colleague emailed this to me today. It made me laugh. Merry Winterval!

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Please be advised that all employees planning to dash through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, going over the fields and laughing all the way are required to undergo a Risk Assessment addressing the safety of open sleighs. This assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly where there are multiple passengers. Please note that permission must also be obtained in writing from landowners before their fields may be entered. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance. You should also refrain from the use of the word Christmas as others might find this offensive. Winter festival or simply Winterval has been found to be acceptable as an alternative.

Benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available for collection …by any shepherds planning or required to watch their flocks at night. While provision has also been made for remote monitoring of flocks by CCTV cameras from a centrally heated shepherd observation hut, all facility users are reminded that an emergency response plan must be submitted to account for known risks to the flocks. The angel of the Lord is additionally reminded that prior to shining his/her glory all around s/he must ensure that all shepherds are wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to account for the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory.

Following last year’s well publicised case, everyone is advised that EC legislation prohibits any comment with regard to the redness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr. R Reindeer from reindeer games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence.

While it is acknowledged that gift-bearing is commonly practised in various parts of the world, particularly the Orient, everyone is reminded that the bearing of gifts is subject to Hospitality Guidelines, as contained within the Companies Honesty and Integrity Policy, and that all gifts must be registered. This applies regardless of the individual, even royal personages. It is particularly noted that direct gifts of currency or gold are specifically precluded under provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Further, caution is advised regarding other common gifts, such as aromatic resins that may initiate allergic reactions.

Finally, in the recent case of the infant found tucked up in a manger without any crib for a bed, Social Services have been advised and will be arriving shortly.

Merry Winterval,
Risk Management Team