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Where Company Policy is Concerned: The Devil is in the Details

ShoesYesterday, we received the catalog from Despair.com. One of their demotivators featured the legend: “Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.” I thought about this as I was working with a client on revamping her company’s employee handbook. We discussed everything from dress code to paid-time-off, to the point where she was so tired that she asked, “Do you think that all of these details really matter? Can’t we be a little more vague and worry about addressing some of these issues when they come up?”

But the point is, you can’t — not if you want to avoid unwanted results from your employees or claims from DLLR.  As time-consuming as the redrafting effort was, we needed to get it right.  The devil is in the details.

It’s easy for this idea of the devil being in the details to be lost on some. In this economy, we are tempted to rush, rush, rush to get the end product completed. We’re stretched thin, and our only goal tends to be the almighty dollar. However, we have got to stop and be reminded that, in any endeavor, the devil – the difficult part – is getting those small details just right, so that the end result is excellence.

When we neglect the details, people notice. For instance, in that employee handbook, if we failed to note that jeans were impermissible for office staff, you can bet that employees would notice and would expect that jeans were acceptable attire. What’s worse, the client who walks through the door to your business and sees the office staff wearing the jeans may be turned off by the lack of professionalism. And if you later tried to enforce a “no jeans” policy, or ultimately let an employee go as a result of the lack of professionalism, not having this detail documented in the handbook may allow that employee a legitimate claim for wrongful discharge and/or continued benefits.

Of course, the flip side is also true. Sometimes the more details you tend to, the less that people really notice. But this is a good thing. Allow me to explain:

You come home from work today, check your mail, and find an invitation to a party in a few weeks. The date comes along, and you go to said party, where you eat, drink, mix and mingle for a few hours, and then head home. Do you really think about all of the details that went into the party?

If I were your hostess, here’s what would have gone into that party (at a bare minimum!):

  • 2 hour to select the perfect theme (season, occasion, etc.), date (no Ravens home game, or other obvious conflict), time and location (backyard, fancy restaurant, art gallery, you name it!)
  • 30 minutes forming a guest list (taking care to stay within proper friend and family circles and to be as inclusive as possible),
  • 2-3 hours to select the perfect invitation (considering everything from the theme to the font, because the invitation sets the tone of the event),
  • 30 minutes choosing stamps and timely mailing the invitations (there is such a great selection of stamps out there, you may as well find one that works well with your event!),
  • 2 hours selecting decorations (even more if some decorations are homemade or require any kind of legwork)
  • 3 hours selecting a menu
  • 2 hours shopping for decorations and food (if you aren’t using a caterer)
  • 4 hours preparing food (again, if you aren’t using a caterer)
  • 5 hours cleaning and/or setting up the space (placecards or nametags… labels to identify food selections… fresh flowers on tables and in the powder room…)
  • 2 hours assembling my own wardrobe for the event

And then, the guests arrive.

Paying attention to all of these details is exactly why the party will go off flawlessly. And exactly why not one guest will think twice about everything that went into making the party fabulous. But guess what? It’s exactly why every guest will remember the evening.

Both personally and professionally – whatever your business, give great care to those details!

  • Tuck in your shirt. Look the part.
  • Proofread. Yes, even emails.
  • Avoid saying “um.”
  • Remember people’s names.
  • Make eye contact. Smile!
  • Create an outline before your next presentation. Practice.
  • Ditch the AOL, Yahoo, or Gmail account and get your business its own domain name! For $75, two guys in a pickup are transformed into a solid company you can trust.

If you take the time to battle those devilish details, they are sure to produce returns tenfold.

I wore maroon, patent leather, pointed-toe, crocodile-printed pumps to work today. They pick up the hint of burgundy in my brown checked suit and truly complete the outfit. They even make me feel more confident as I attend my morning, lunch, and dinner meetings today.

As I said…the devil is in the details.