Throwing Out The Employee Handbook


April 13, 2012

Flip through any organization’s policy manual and my guess is you’ll find no less than twenty.  After all, some poor “Personnel” department thirty or forty years ago toiled over creating all the boundaries and lines that should not be crossed.  Policies, like many other things, grow and multiply over the years.  All the companies I’ve worked at have had more policies than one HR pro can possibly remember and if it’s hard for HR to remember them all and we use them daily, just imagine how employees feel.  They usually have no idea what is really written in there unless they look it up.

I admire companies like Nordstrom for cutting down on all the distraction of over-orchestrating an employees every move.  For many years, employees received the following:

Nordstrom Employee Manual

We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.

Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

I’ve heard new Norstrom employees now receive a little more direction in order to comply with legal regulations.  Shouldn’t a company be able to have a short collection of statements that focus on which behaviors they WANT their employees to exhibit instead of focusing on what people shouldn’t do?  Can we treat employees like adults?  I’d argue that we can.

We may never all get to the point of having a one page employee handbook, but if you had to look at your own organization, what is one policy you’d throw out today?  Share it in the comments.  In the end, we’ll have the list of “Worst Policies of All Time”.


  • I’d probably throw out the funeral leave policy, especially if it lists those people whose death allows for paid time off. Our meaningful relationships extend well beyond our immediate families, and time off should be based on your need to grieve. Take the time you need.

    • @Tim- BRAVO! I like when I’ve worked at places that let the manager determine how long the person receives for funerals. Many people we consider “family” may not be immediate not actual blood relatives. Death is just as devastating when it is one of those loved ones. Thanks for weighing in.

  • Dress Codes need to get tossed and be replaced with “Dress appropriately for your job.”

    p.s. +eleventy million to Tim’s comment.

    • @Robin- I agree. You’d think people, adult people, would know how to dress appropriately. Unfortunately I have had to had one too many convos with 20-something girls with thong undies showing above their low rise pants. It’s unfortunate.

  • Bravo Trish!

    I recently joined a new company and “by policy” had to sign a statement that I had read the entire 76 pages of the employee handbook!

    Years ago I worked for a small healthcare company and their handbook, directly from the VP of HR, was “Do the right thing, if you have to ask it probably is not the right thing”. Simplistic but we never had a problem that I can recall. Hire the right people, leaders lead, and save all that paper!


    • @Dan- 76 pages? Seems like I may have seen one like that! 🙂

Comments are closed.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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