Employee Handbook Phrases to Hate

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employee handbook

This blog was originally posted by Melissa Fairman on the Peformance I Create blog. Every other Wednesday, Blogging4Jobs will feature a guest post from the up-and-coming multi-contributor blog, Performance I Create. 

I’m working on reviewing and revising the employee handbook at work…

I’m not sure there is anything more soul sucking then wading through labor law disclosures.

Luckily for me I’m on a great team that is working hard to blow up the current version and make the new manual/handbook/guide (we haven’t named it yet) more engaging and most important easy to look through.  After all, no one ever consults the employee handbook because they want some interesting reading… they go there because there is a problem.

As I was reading through the 300th revision (not really but it feels like that) my eyes kept focusing on words that I’ve seen across multiple handbooks and companies.  They are words we use all the time in our handbooks, policies and procedures. Some of these words are okay, some are great and some are just awful.

Here are some of the words/phrases I really can’t stand:

  • “Up to and including termination” – I know this is part of the phrase bible we are supposed to abide by in HR but it really annoys me.  It sounds too draconian for most employee communications. I imagine Kim Jong Un uttering this phrase to someone who doesn’t kick high enough in the military parade.
  • “Manual” – Usually used in conjunction with “employee manual” I need a manual to operate my food processor not to be an employee. I like “guide” or “guideline” better.
  • “Policy” – I know we must have policies and procedures but because of our reputation as policy police, I just dislike this one.
  • “Reasonable” – I hate this word because it is so ambiguous and you will always have someone arguing with you about their standard of reasonable. Reasonable is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder.

And then there are the HR jargon words we should not utter in any communication to employees: 

  • “Competency Framework” – I’m not even sure what that means.
  • “Talent review”– I know what this means but the manager who has to go through the process rarely does. Let’s talk about these things in plain English: “Who is great, bad, or OK on your team?”
  • “Performance Drivers”
  • Balanced Scorecard”

 The last two? Enough said.

I know most of us are very diligent about checking communications for grammar and usage mistakes but have you ever checked them for readability? Will an employee be able to understand the substance and importance of what you are saying? What message are you sending with the words that you choose? The tone you take?

A communication full of jargon or antiquated HR speak is easily disregarded as junk…don’t let that happen! Instead, focus on making your communications understandable and concise.

Is this extra work? Yes.

Is it important that your email, letter, guide or instructions are being read, understood and acted on? YES!

Comment below and share some of your Employee Handbook nightmares!

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