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William B. Bradshaw Headshot

Let's Keep Things Simple

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A telephone repair man coming to our house the other day called ahead of time telling me about what time to expect him. I was watching for him and saw his truck slowly pass our house and go on down the street. I thought he was probably looking for our house and had missed it. He had given me his cell number earlier, so I called him. He told me he had seen where our house was, but was parking in a designated parking space for workman and would walk back to our house. I told him he was welcome to park in our driveway, but he told me the company rules would not allow it.

He put booties on before coming into the house, and I thanked him for his thoughtfulness. Again, referring to the rules, he said, "The company requires our doing that--it's in the rules."

Before leaving, he sat at the kitchen table doing some paperwork. My wife had made some chocolate-chip cookies the day before, and they were on a plate in the middle of the table. She always wraps them separately with a plastic film-wrap to keep them fresh longer. I asked him if he liked chocolate-chip cookies, and he said he did. I offered him one, and he said, "Oh, no, I could never do that. The rules don't allow us to take anything from a customer's house that does not belong to company."

I asked him how long he had worked for that particular company and if he liked working for it. He told me how long and said it was a good company to work for except there were so many rules. He held up his hand and said you can't imagine how thick the employee manual is--showing me about an inch and a half.

As a consultant I have seen numerous employee manuals, and they definitely have become more detailed and complex in recent years. This seems to be the way with regulations, rule books, employee manuals, and so forth, these day--larger, more complex, more difficult to understand, and difficult to keep track of what all is being required. The manual for our car, for example, has 254 pages. Who is going to read through the thing?

The other day I heard a news analyst say the regulations that are currently being written for the enforcement of the Affordable Care Act (commonly called ObamaCare) are at 17,000 pages and counting. I do not know if that is correct or not, but we do know that the regulations for ObamaCare are in the process of being formulated and are expected to be very detailed and complex. I do not mean to pick on ObamaCare, but the growing regulations that hospitals, doctors, nurses, drug companies, medical equipment companies, insurance companies, and patients must try to understand and abide by is an example of the seemingly incurable epidemic among people in positions of authority and power in all venues of life to make life more complicated.

I don't know what happens to the common people who are elected to the United States House or Senate or to their appointed aides. Working in Washington does something to them. Many of them seem to abandon the roots from where they came and take up the very Washington practices they promised to change. The same is frequently true of those people elected to state, county, and even town offices. And for that matter, it happens to people who are elected or promoted to positions of authority in organizations, athletic associations, homeowners' associations, companies, and so forth.

From the perspective of an ordinary citizen, the more complicated the rules get the more likely we are to ignore them, not with the intention of being bad citizens, but just because it is a little like the manual to our car--all the rules and regulations are just too complex to understand and take forever to read. So, in many instances, I just use common sense instead of reading the entirety of the laws, rules, regulations, manuals, and so forth, resulting in my failure to abide with some of the fine print.

I live in a subdivision. We are officially governed by a thirty-five page document in small print drawn up by lawyers, being certain to abide by the laws and regulations applying to every aspect of the subdivision and filed with the county when the subdivision was first developed. It is very complex and, having been written in "legal-ease," is next to impossible for the common person to "wade through" and understand.

We have a homeowners' association, as do most subdivisions, and we regularly elect a board of trustees responsible for managing the affairs of the association. Our board did a very practical thing. It published a small, ten-page, pocket-size Homeowners' Manual that summarizes in laymen's language the important things we all need to be aware of.

It really would be great if governments, organizations, associations, companies, or what have you would just keep things simple so we could truly understand what is expected of us. All of us would be so much more likely to abide by the rules, regulation, and laws, and to get along better with each other.

Getting back to the telephone repair man and the company he works for, I really appreciated the rules and his following them: he called me first thing in the morning and told me approximately when he would be there instead of telling me it would be sometime between 8:00 a.m. and noon; he did not park in the driveway blocking our garage, so my wife was able to get the car out; he did not track-in dirt, salt, and wet from the snow that we would have to clean up; and I did not have to ponder if I should tip him because he made it clear that the rules prohibited him from taking anything from the house that was not company property.

I am grateful that the telephone repair man was very careful to abide by the employee handbook. And I'm grateful for the company rules. They showed respect for me, the customer. And they made it easier for the repairman to answer my questions. Many employees of companies are not so diligent--not necessarily because they set out to be bad employees, but because the rules are too voluminous and complex to read, understand, and remember.

Rules and regulation in and of themselves are not bad. They are prepared out of respect for one another, providing codes of behavior that help us understand how we can live together and get along better with each other. Yes--we need laws, rules, and regulations--but let's keep them simple and to the point, written in terms we can understand, so we are more likely to abide by them!