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Communicating Work Rules

Having work rules means nothing unless employees know that the rules exist and understand them clearly. Communicating your policies or standards is important not only because it helps employees understand the rules, but documented communication of those rules makes it easier to enforce them, if necessary.

So what's the best way to make sure that employees get the message about standards of conduct in your workplace? Here are some issues you need to consider:

  • When to communicate work rules: you'll need to make sure employees are aware of the rules before they have the chance to break them, and you'll want to give periodic reminders as well.
  • Oral communication of work rules: communicating orally allows give and take between you and the employees. However, it's hard to document a conversation and be sure that you've come away from it with both parties in agreement. Oral communication is usually best for very small businesses, where the employer and employees need a lot of flexibility in dealing with each other.
  • Written communication of work rules: giving employees your policies, rules, and expectations in writing has several advantages — it allows you to document that the employee was informed about the rules and, if you've written them correctly, it's clear what you expect. However, remember that if the rule is in writing, it will be very difficult to change.
  • Employee handbooks are a way of ensuring that all employees are aware of your rules, but they can cause major legal problems. If you have only a handful of employees, creation of an employee handbook is usually a waste of time. Nevertheless, some employers feel they need a handbook in order to comfortably enforce their rules.