Merge's Blog

An archaic practice that destroys trust in the workplace

A yellow folder with the label PoliciesIn May last year, I wrote a couple of blog posts about trust in the workplace – Is it earned or lost? and How can you build it? Today’s blog post is about how you can lose trust … quickly! I refer to what I believe may be a fairly common workplace practice, particularly in large organizations, of requiring that employees provide a death certificate or a funeral notice in order to take a few days of (paid) bereavement leave.

I recently received an upset phone call from a long-time reader whose mother passed away in a city on the other side of the country. Not surprisingly, he found himself in a situation where he needed to take several days of leave to attend to funeral and other details. He was offended and quite frankly, hurt, that his long-term employer required him to submit a death certificate or funeral home notice in order for him to take a few days off. My initial reaction was “It’s just paperwork, some bureaucrat somewhere needs to have something on file.” But as I talked to him, I came to the realization that such a policy does more harm than help. First, it’s one more administrative pointless task that this already overwhelmed person needs to add to his to-do list at a time when things are pretty stressful. And second, and perhaps more importantly, it sends a strong message, loud and clear, about lack of trust in this long-standing employee. Clearly, at some point in the past, some worker somewhere falsified a family death in order to get some time off, and the company instituted this policy in order to prevent this kind of deception. But here’s what I think … policies should be written to manage the majority, not the minority! When you create policies that are directed towards people you wish you never hired, then you’re managing to the lowest common denominator. Trust your employees until they give you a reason not to. Trust your employees, and they’ll trust you back.

Well, do you agree with me? Is this type of bereavement leave policy an archaic practice that destroys trust in the workplace? Or is it a necessary evil? Share your thoughts please.

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