Policies Are For the Powerless

Get some rest.

– Some rest?

Yeah, we’re leaving tomorrow.

– Tomorrow? I have a Quantitative Literacy paper due Tuesday.

No, you don’t.

– I don’t?

No, I spoke to Professor O’Reilly. I told him you were helping me with a special assignment, and he understood, so he gave you an A. You see, Ben, amazing things can happen from the inside.

21 (2008 film)

Every company has official rules regarding employee conduct, ranging from acceptable office attire to handling media inquiries (pro tip: just don’t). These policies are generally published in an employee handbook and available on the company’s intranet. However, do not make the mistake of assuming that these policies are sacrosanct. Exceptions can be made if you or someone you know has sufficient power.

I learned this lesson a few weeks into my first job after graduation. At the time, I wasn’t sure if anyone would give me a full time offer. So when a mistake fare for a one way flight to SE Asia appeared, I jumped on it. I figured it’d be cheaper to figure out my next steps in Thailand than America.

Lo and behold, an offer materialized. Unfortunately, the start date predated my trip by a few weeks and HR policy forbade taking vacation during an employee’s probation period. I sadly informed my friends that I would not be joining them in scarfing down pad thai in Bangkok.

Somehow, the managing director found out and a Rosa/Campbell-like conversation ensued:

Him: Heard you were taking a trip soon, have fun!

Me: Oh. I’m not going.

Him: Why?

Me: HR doesn’t allow time off during probation.

Him: HAHA. You let me worry about that.

The next day, HR emailed me to inquire about what days I expected to be away. She also mentioned never having seen vacation approved this early in an employee’s tenure before.

Exceptions can be made to virtually any type of policy, such as dress code, working from home, travel expenditures, and much more. The only inviolable laws are the natural kind.

Micky Rosa and Ben Campbell

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