In which I muse on whether I ought to have A Policy

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I am self-employed. I eke my little living out by touring about the place and training people about things. I teach for various different organisations, usually on a freelance/self-employed basis, occasionally as a hourly-paid employee. Generally it’s quite a jolly (if slightly unreliable) way to make a living, as it affords the benefit of getting paid without the drag of having to get out of bed at the same time every day.

It also means that I am spared having to attend meetings at which people discuss policies, you know –  how they ought to have a policy about something, how there should be a working group to design the policy, how the policy should be maintained and reviewed, and then (almost inevitably) how everyone’s ignoring the policy and doing exactly what they did before anyway. I can honestly say that since I packed in having a proper job and went self-employed in 2009 I’ve not had to have a policy about anything. Basically I just do stuff. I don’t even have to go to a meeting to talk endlessly about the stuff I’m going to do. I just do it. It’s at least seven different sorts of lovely.

But last week, something disturbing happened. One of the many and various organisations I work for sent me a “supplier form” to complete asking me to detail my Data Protection Policy, my Equality and Diversity Policy, and my Environment and Sustainability Policy. Now the sensible thing to do would be to append a letter to the form explaining that I’m a sole trader and I don’t really handle personal data and I have no intention of recruiting anyone or building a fossil fuel burning power station in the course of my current business, and then just tick “Not applicable” a lot on the form. That would be the sensible thing to do, but what would be better I think, would be to write myself some policies. That would be a whole hunk of time I could tell myself I was doing work, whilst not actually having to achieve anything. In many ways it’s a win:win situation.

Only it turns out not to take that long. I think I’ve managed to write the perfect one size fits all policy that deals with any and all issues that could ever arise. It has three points. As is my want, I have numbered them.

1. Try not to do stupid things.

2. Try not to do unkind things.

3. (Because most workplace policies ultimately are about covering one’s back against the risk of getting sued) Try not to do illegal things.

That is all. And I think that genuinely does cover all eventualities, and is actually a doubly good environmental policy, as it saves you from having to print out reams of different policies on different things.

Let’s check how it would work in practice – Thinking of printing out a 5000 word document one word per page over 5000 pages? Check the policy. Nope – turns out that would be stupid, so that’s a no! Thinking of poking someone with a stick because they don’t share your ethnic group? Check the policy. Nope – turns out that would be stupid, unkind and illegal. That’s a triple no!

So that seems to work. Right. Lovely new business policies written. Probably ought to get on with doing something useful now. Maybe I’ll have a go at simplifying laws. There’s like loads of them. It’s probably terribly inefficient.

As always, do commenting and following and all that sort of thing. Do you want to amend my policies for all things? Please feel free to make suggestions (so long as I’m not expected to do them – we’re not operating a democracy here people).

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2 thoughts on “In which I muse on whether I ought to have A Policy

    Mum said:
    October 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Should you not also ask the question “Is it necessary?” whereupon the whole idae of having policies becomes a “Nope”.

    Like

    John said:
    October 25, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Policies are just there as a defence against the outside world to discourage people from asking questions. If a question does arise internally, or if a question sneaks around the defence then the policies are not even considered and a discussion will ensue. Policies may therefore seem pointless if you have no contact with the outside world. If however you work in a call centre it is essential to be able to say “That’s not our policy”. On the other hand if you are the outside world then it can be difficult to present extenuating circumstance etc. I think your policies are are probably pitches at about the right level – they’re there but leave room for manoeuvre.

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