4 Reasons Why I Hate Policies and What to Do About It

I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of policies. It may be because I’m not a very good rule follower, but I honestly don’t think they work as well as they are intended.

Policies are a course, plan or principle of action. They are designed to offer a sense of control. In theory, policies are to make things better. They are a necessary part of dealing with people in an organizational setting.

My problem with polices is that they often interrupt progress rather than enhance it. If not careful, a policy may control the success you want to see as a leader.

Here are 4 reasons I hate policies:

Policies control a sense of freedom – Policies, by nature, are methods of control, which can limit people’s sense of freedom.

Policies limit ability to think outside the box – Policies can limit thoughts to a pre-determined outcome, which keeps the random and potentially explosive thoughts from developing.

Policies stall attempts at excellence – The parameters of a policy often produce an atmosphere of mediocrity.

Policies curtail the pursuit of progress – The weight of meeting a policy’s demands can take energy from pursuing things with the opportunity of greater progress.

My suggestion?

In lieu of a policy, here are 4 suggestions:

Handle individual problems individually – Rather than create a new policy to control an issue, deal directly with the individual who needs more control. (It works…try it.)

Treat people differently – If a team has more than one person, then there will be more than one type of person on the team. Did you follow that? Policies treat everyone the same, which ignores individuality and personality differences. (I wrote about that HERE)

Lead rather than manage – Management is much about implementing policies and seeing they are adhered to completely. Leadership sets a vision and guides people towards it. Less policies are needed in that process. (I wrote about that HERE)

Allow for more mistakes – Policies are easier to measure. They have a pass/fail assessment attached to them. Without policies, grace and forgiveness can be more freely applied. People can learn from their failures, without the repercussions of breaking a policy.

My bottom line:

I’m not suggesting we can do without policies, but I am suggesting they should not be the “go to” solution to a problem. Most problems in an organization don’t need a new policy. Policies can weigh down progress. Leadership can be more difficult without policies; even a little messy, but with less policies you’ll have more opportunities for success.

Be honest. Are you more likely to want a policy or resist a policy?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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19 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why I Hate Policies and What to Do About It

  1. Wishful Thinking? Your article makes me thinking. Fact is that each form of society is based on “policies”. If that is the smallest form like a partnership (couple) or in bigger forms (business), all is based on ‘Rules, Regulations and Restrictions’!
    Think about it! One example only: how would be the traffic on our streets without them?
    Policies can und should improve, protect and prevent what ever it belongs to – by all means positive aspects if they are made in the right way.
    Those are agreements which we use only then when one of the contracting party makes mistakes -otherwise let them in the drawer.
    And do not forget:
    the 10 COMMANDMENTS are nothing others then Policies and we do good to go with this!
    Thanks for your thought!
    God bless! Pastor Wolfgang

    • You probably misread my post's intent. I stated a need for policies. I just don't want one unless required. Less is more for me. I love Galatians 5:1 top much. Thanks.

  2. Wow, Pastor Ron this was my day and I've been wondering how to write about it on my blog! I felt that policies were being substituted for a lack of leadership ability today. Nothing being put upon us was helping us do our job better nor was it to help the team succeed – which I feel needs to be the driver (outside of employee safety) in any policy.

    When a manager institutes a set of rules without getting to know the people or getting to know how the people are currently operating degrades people. I think it's rooted in their inability to connect with people. You can't create a process or policy to replace good judgement and leadership.

  3. I think ultimately if we are operating under the auspices of Grace, then we should be very much about following Matthews example even in group setting as opposed to only one on one. The one on one is the Leader to the Group. The policy is the scripture where it is a three step process. Ultimately arriving at the church level which in effect are the "would be" policy setters. At least I think to Jeffrey's point above, when there is "issue" that is irreconcilable, however, not to demean anyone or any way disrespect anyone, if our Leaders are leading, rarely will there be such a case.
    With regards to "non-issue" policy, yes there should be some guideline, for example funds greater than $20,000 needing to be spent; what is the procedure? Even still when there is such a need everyone that needs to know should already know and if the need is actually a need, there is no need for the micro-manage of the policy. A guideline is in place, a good leader will ensure that everyone is on board, and "procedure" for securing and spending the money will be followed.
    My point is, Good Leaders, will almost always have no need for policy, but rather an outline of "major topic" procedures.A good leader will then be free to cast vision, implement, and attain, with very little "issue".

  4. I think it depends on the nature of the policy. Some are quite controlling, but others – particularly very generous and customer-focused ones – may do a lot to set the organizational culture.

    • That's a great thought Loren, and while I agree in principle, I still think policies must be kept broad, rather than specific. As an example, I love the culture of Nordstrom. Some would call them the best at customer service in the nation. Books have been written. Their "policy"? Make the customer happy. I love the story of someone taking back tires to keep the customer satisfied, even though they've never sold tires. Makes no rational sense, but in the situation, it proved to make a big picture sense.

  5. I am a part of a church that has some policies in place.I see your point to some degree, however I see how a lack of policies leads to autonomy and people just doing what they want! For example Our choir is in turmoil because of many people with poor attitudes, they attend rehearsal when they "feel like it". Some have outright refused to participate in church-wide outings to visiting churches. My point is this in this scenario how do you address these people individually and say Sister Jones we're going to ask you not to be involved in the music ministry! Sis. Jones is going to respond why am I the one being singled out what about Sis. Smith, Sis. Williams , and Sis. Do little they all do stuff too? In that sense how do you address mass problems like that without some policies in place? Isn't the bible one big policy book?

    • I'd have a hard time saying the Bible was one big policy book. We are not under the law but under grace. I share a funny story about that concept in my message from Sunday, which is a few posts back. If it is a policy book, according to Galatians 5, which was my text from Sunday, then we'd have to keep everyone of the policies…even some of the Levitical ones that seem very strange in this culture.

      As I said, yes, policies are needed, just as a speed limit is needed. My rule of thumb is when it affects everyone and everyone needs control on that issue, a policy might be in order. The example you list, depending on your culture and the vision you are trying to attain, may be one of those. If only one person is the problem, address it with one person. Sometimes you even address it with the one person in the presence of everyone, if everyone agrees it is wrong. That way they know it was addressed and aren't questioning if you are leading. Plus it puts it before everyone.

      The key for me in this post is that the more policies you have, the more control you'll have. At some point that slows progress. Jesus healing on the Sabbath is a good example of "breaking the policy".

      Quick reply, but hope that clarifies some.

  6. My husband and I were kind of talking about this topic yesterday with regard to his job. He struggles between balancing managing and leading, and tries very hard to be a good leader. For me, I tend to dislike policies because I usually see a better way to do something. They have their place as guidelines, but so many people tend to get too rigid with them and use them as control mechanisms. This is one reason I prefer working from home on my own. No policies :-) (Okay, maybe a few for my kids.)
    Twitter: KariScare

  7. Handle individual problems individually – Rather than create a new policy to control an issue, deal directly with the individual who needs more control. (It works…try it.) –Yay for this thought. It is so refreshing and wise that it sounds original and I wish that more people thought this way. I really believe most needless organizational policies were developed because a leader (non-leader?) somewhere was afraid to deal with an individual who was causing problems.