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After two days of sick leave, I returned today to my desk and computer and telephone and inbox. Oh, the inbox! Oh, the email! Oh, the humanity!

Many of the current crop of problems stemmed from the actions of the new employees that have just been trained and hired. Their senior instructor is a very rigid person, one who swears by the manual and puts the very fear of god in them if they deviate from the rules by so much as a hair's breadth.

In reality, we have a two layered system. Some rules and regulations are based upon law and company policy. They are, indeed, followed by all of us very closely because they are grounded in safety and legal concerns.

Others are, yes, policy, but of a different enforcement level. One of these might be like the "No use of company telephones for personal business" for instance. In actuality, everyone makes/takes brief (very brief) personal calls. They don't interfere with work and they are not long distance, therefore costing the company money. It's a rule invoked only when it is grossly violated and our mission to serve our customers is jeopardized.

The point is that some rules are followed to the letter and some can be flexed a little. The instructor is one of those people who see in black and white; her students picked it up in her class and their application of the rules now that they are out on the job is causing some distress. People are saying, "I've been a customer of yours for years and now you're telling me that delivery must be on the opposite side of the street? What's going on here?"

My job is to explain to the customer that, yes, this is the rule, and some apply it more strictly than others, let me talk to the supervisor and I'll get back to you. Then I talk to the supervisor and say, explain to the employee the difference between safety regulations and general conduct rules. No, people do not have to act like robots. There's some room for flexibility and judgment for the latter.

Personally, I hope the instructor gets promoted to a position where she can pontificate to her heart's content and we in the field can all nod our heads when she speaks--and then ignore her.

(Now that I think it over, I would agree that we need instructors like her to spell out one part of the program; just that we also need someone to talk about the human side of things, as well.)

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