If you haven't heard Tim McGraw's song or seen the video, I suggest you do so right now. So inspiring (and such good advice).

And especially pay attention if you need to create (or revise) your employee handbook.

Unfortunately, most employee handbooks are written in an authoritative, lecturing, unfriendly tone. For example, several years ago when my son was in college and got a low-level hourly job, on his first day at work he received a two-hour orientation and a 29-page handbook called "Company Rules."

Since I'm interested in any form of employee communication, I read the handbook and was immediately struck by its harsh tone. For example, here's the opening paragraph:

"The following rules apply to all employees and shall be changed from time to time as deemed necessary by the director. Each and every rule must be read and strictly adhered to. If any rule is not adhered to, it may be considered grounds for dismissal. This is NOT a CONTRACT."

This cranky, hectoring voice continued through the entire 29 pages. A few excerpts:

  • "ALL phone messages will be on standard telephone message pads and will be entirely filled out regarding time, date, Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms./ etc. All incoming messages will be placed in the appropriate manager's 'message box' and not placed on his/her desk unless so directed by said manager."
  • "Proper grammar is to be used at all times in the facility. Phrases such as 'yeah' 'dese, dems and doze' and 'ain't' are EXTREMELY UNPROFESSIONAL and should not be used anywhere in the company by receptionist, technicians or anyone employed by the company."

And my two favorite items:

  • "At all times clients should be addressed in a polite, concerned, interested manner. Show that you care about the clients' problems and indicate genuine concern. Smile at all times, even on the phone, and your voice will always sound friendly and interested. Irritated voices directed at clients will not be tolerated under any circumstances."
  • "Irritated, impatient and/or sarcastic voices are not to be used when talking to managers or co-workers."

Of course, the handbook document is the epitome of irritated and impatient, written in a way that is the opposite of "friendly and interested."

I wondered if this negative tone was consistent with the way the company is managed.

"This handbook sounds kind of mean," I said to my son. "Are the managers that way as well?"

"No, not at all," he replied. "They're actually very nice."

I wonder what the author of the handbook was thinking when he or she wrote it. Senior managers probably believe they need to have the rules written down, so they can legally fire someone who doesn't obey the rules. But what they don't realize is that even rules can be communicated in a way that is kind, loving, supportive and encouraging.

That's what Tim McGraw would advise.

Published on: May 17, 2016
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