Non-Negotiable vs Flexible Policy: Which is Best for Your Business

Organizations employ all sorts of structures in today’s modern work environment. Having a series of policies in place for just about any event is good planning and can be very responsible. How these policies are written, though, differs greatly from organization to organization, and from policy to policy. There are some things that are just common sense to be written as non-negotiable, whereas there are other policies that are just better written as flexible. 

There are a variety of factors to consider when jumping into policy creation. Keeping this in mind helps organizational leaders and decision-makers create reasonable policies that are in line with industry standards, keep their employees safe, and also lay out reasonable expectations of their employees. This is a relatively tricky balance to achieve. 

“To write a good policy, you need to put in a lot of time and hard work. You need to conduct research, think, and analyze before you begin writing. And after writing, you have to rewrite. Even with a proper understanding of all you need to write, the first draft is never good enough.”

Owen McGab Enaohwo, CEO and Co-Founder, Sweet Process –

Depends on the Category of Policy 

When it comes to deciding between flexible and non-negotiable policies, it’s important to take the category of the policy into consideration. This is because there are certain policy categories that relate directly to employee safety. For instance, in the case of sexual harassment and assault, policies need to be written as completely and totally non-negotiable. There is no room for flexibility when it comes to policies that can directly impact the safety or well-being of the affected employees. 

There are other policy categories that are much less serious and can be written with a lot more flexibility in mind. For example, implementing a late policy is completely and totally optional for an organization. Not only that, but the severity of the late policy is also up for debate. 

While some companies will be extremely sensitive to employees who are even 5-minutes late, there are other organizations that are really only paying attention to the amount and quality of work being done, not 5 minutes at the beginning or end of the day. In this instance, it’s understandable, and logical, that late policies are completely optional and vary greatly from organization to organization. In fact, many companies don’t have a late policy in place at all because they recognize that their workforce is made up of adults who have lives outside of their day-job. 

“Before starting my own company, I never saw the value in a late policy, so when it was my turn to be in charge, I never made one. If someone is chronically late, but they’re still producing high-quality work, I honestly prefer that than someone who will always be 5 minutes early, but produces lower-quality work.”

– Tyler Read, Founder and Senior Editor, Personal Trainer Pioneer

The Industry Matters Too

Policy category isn’t the only thing that needs consideration when writing a policy. The industry matters too. Think about remote-work policies, for example. In many cases, remote-work policies are extremely flexible. This is effective because so many professionals are able to perform the entirety of their job in a work-from-home or remote-work environment. However, in the context of construction workers, there is no such thing as remote-work availability. 

To put it simply, there’s no way to build a building without being directly on site. As such, it’s important to keep in mind the actual industry in which the organization operates. Writing policies to be aligned with both the category and the industry in which they lay is vital to creating internal policies that create a conducive and productive environment for both employees and employers. 

“We try to be as flexible as we can, but there are some positions that we just need people on the ground for. We do a pretty good job of being flexible elsewhere though, so I think that makes up for it. I mean every industry comes with some pros and cons. If remote work is super important to you, then this may just not be your industry, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

– Matt Miller, Founder and CEO, Embroker

What’s the Reasoning Behind the Policy?

Another major consideration to take into account when it comes to writing internal policies for organizations is the reasoning behind the policy. To put it plainly, what is the purpose of the policy? Why does it need to exist? If there isn’t a good justification behind a policy, it may not be worth the time, energy, or resources required to develop it. On the other hand, investigating the reasoning and purpose behind a policy can strengthen its case and illuminate all of the reasons that it is absolutely necessary to develop and enforce. This balance can also be highlighted through the example of work-from-home and remote-work-environments. 

If there isn’t a specific reason that employees need to be in the office to perform the responsibilities associated with their jobs, companies may experience some pushback when trying to implement forced in-office policies. 

“I like knowing the why. The why has always been important to me because without the why, then I’m just wasting time. Or I’m doing something I don’t see any value in and I’m perceiving it as wasted time. So yeah, the why matters a lot. Especially in creating and enforcing policies.”

– Yuvraj Tuli, Founder, Compound Banc

Is it Worth the Time and Resources to Enforce as Non-Negotiable?

If a policy has to be written, it’s very important to decide if it’s going to be flexible or non-negotiable. This is partially because a non-negotiable policy requires a lot more attention and resources put toward monitoring and tracking. If a policy is there as more of a guide, it’s probably best written with flexibility in mind. Whereas safety policies are almost always best written in non-negotiable terms. 

“If the safety of our people is involved it almost automatically becomes a non-negotiable policy. This is followed up with training, too. Because, well, a policy without proper training is just words on a page essentially.”

– Loic Claveau, CMO, Prom

Writing Policies That fit the Business

Every organization is unique, and the policies that serve it should reflect that individuality. Take the time to write and develop policies that are both aligned with industry best standards, and keep employees in mind.  

“You do not have to suffer a policy management disaster to start getting your policy management strategy in order. In fact, there’s more to gain from investing time, talent, and resources into managing policies and procedures in your organization compared to the various costs it would demand.”

Laura Varon, Content Specialist, SweetProcess –

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