At one of the companies I worked in, some policy documents, if not all, were at one point of time confidential! Can you beat that? Actually, that calls for attention to another issue - what came first – the policy or the management whim?
My guess is - it’s the management whim.
Policy documents are but a manifestation of what is convenient to the management of the company. No, not the CEO - every CEO wishes his workplace to be the ideal one - where every employee who leaves the office at the end of the day with a feeling of contentment comes back the next morning, and eagerly at that.
How come then? For one, most of the policies are about benefits or administration. While benefits proportionately increase with hierarchy, administration is but a leash that the seniors require to keep things under control. Incidentally, 'management' qualifies under both the categories as 'beneficiaries' or 'interested parties'. Policies tend to be uniform at a certain level and below, whereas for the senior levels policies come clauses and sub clauses.
A classic example would be the Travel Policy. Employees at entry levels through executive levels - travel by AC-II Tier - board and lodge @ Rs. 2000/- per day; but as you go higher, there are stars that get added to the 'lodge' and when you run out of stars, comes the magical word - Actuals!
Ricardo Semler of SEMCO really turned things on its head and came out with policies that are one liners, a paragraph at most. There are also other companies that have concise statements - "Travel Sensibly" is actually the entire travel policy in a software company.
The fewer the words in a policy document, the more the employees are going to get the impression that they are considered to be responsible adults, capable of being realistic and ethical too. Another trick with making effective policies is to trash the document and simply build short phrased policies that centre on what is already working - this simple but 'eccentric' method may actually go a long way in winning the confidence of your employees.