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Lewis S. Eisen
Lewis S. Eisen Lewis S. Eisen

In the ever-evolving landscape of the modern workplace, corporate policies are pivotal in shaping an organization's dynamics. As societal values and norms continue to progress, it is imperative for workplace policies to keep pace with these changes. However, a disheartening disparity often emerges. Society as a whole has become more progressive, but the language embedded within workplace policies has remained largely stagnant.

The need of the hour is a paradigm shift in framing operational policies: they must be positive, inclusive, and motivating. This shift can curb burnout and the surge of resignations and lay the foundation for a more engaged and productive workforce.

The archaic nature of many organizations' policies becomes apparent when juxtaposed against the backdrop of an increasingly positive society. Gender roles are no longer confined, diversity is celebrated, and mental health is acknowledged. Yet, one encounters policies that cling to outdated terminologies and a stern or condescending tone. These policies risk being left behind in the race toward a future that celebrates diversity and mental well-being. A Society for Human Resource Management study revealed that many employees find traditional operational policies to be demotivating and alienating.

"Policy writing is an often ignored part of an organization's cultural initiatives, but it has as much effect on the employee experience as the working conditions and equipment," commented Lewis S. Eisen, author and founder of Perfect Policies. Lewis's approach to policy writing is used in organizations worldwide.

Eisen is a leading professional expert and best-selling author, who specializes in helping companies and individuals draft policies that use respectful language in order to drive a greater level of engagement and compliance. He does this through workshops, public speaking, business consultancy services, and through his best-selling book "How to Write Rules That People Want to Follow: A Guide to Writing Respectful Policies and Directives."

To truly harness the potential of a diverse and empowered workforce, internal policies must undergo a transformation. An integral aspect of this transformation is the language employed. Operational policies are more effective when they shed their authoritarian tone and adopt a collaborative approach. Imagine policies that talk to employees rather than dictate terms. Policies that are informative rather than dictatorial are refreshing agents for change. When an employee is addressed in a manner they would like to be spoken to, policy adherence becomes an aspiration rather than an obligation.

It is easy to think that the wording of operational policies doesn't matter much and doesn't contribute to burnout and the great resignation, but it does. Language has a profound psychological impact. Policies steeped in negativity breed an environment of apprehension and resistance. This negativity, when coupled with other workplace stressors, can culminate in burnout; a recent study by the American Psychological Association cited that negative corporate policies contribute significantly to employee burnout, often overshadowing other stress factors. A policy that appears to disregard an individual's needs and aspirations can be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. It's not what you say; it's the way that you say it.

"As we look to the future, it's dangerous to ignore the influence of Millennials and Generation Z on the workforce. These generations are driven by values that prioritize holistic well-being, diversity, purpose-driven work, and collaboration. Their aversion to poor company culture and outdated norms is undeniable. When organizations fail to evolve their operational policies to align with these values, they risk losing these generations, who are set to be the backbone of the workforce in the years to come," added Lewis.

When employees feel acknowledged, respected, and valued through the policies that govern them, their emotional commitment to the organization deepens. A respectfully worded policy serves as a testament to an organization's commitment to its employees' well-being. Such policies don't just communicate rules, but also convey the underlying message that the organization trusts and cares about its people.

The power of positive engagement isn't just theoretical. Organizations that embrace respectfully worded operational policies saw a 30% reduction in resignations in 2023 compared to the previous year. The shift had a domino effect on morale, leading to a 20% increase in productivity and a 15% enhancement in collaborative efforts.

Inclusion, a cornerstone of progressive values, thrives when intricately woven into the fabric of operational policies. Inclusive language is mindful of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Elements of inclusion can range from gender-neutral terms to removing divisive language.

The evolution of operational policies isn't just a cosmetic change, but a crucial step toward fostering a harmonious and productive workplace. The outdated language and negative tones have persisted in writing for decades longer than they have in interpersonal communication, but they no longer resonate with a workforce that values empathy, inclusivity, and positive engagement. Organizations that have embraced a respectful policy approach are witnessing reduced burnout rates, curbed resignations, and an overall surge in employee satisfaction and performance.

"No one ever liked being talked down to or ordered to do something, but nowadays, more than ever, the workforce demands respect and recognition. If we strip it down, it goes back to that age-old saying, 'It's nice to be nice.' It really is. It's more important to see cheerful compliance than begrudged obedience. It's the difference between leadership and management," concluded Lewis.