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INSIGHT

Seasons change. So do laws and regulations

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

As fall turns to winter, it is a good time to examine other changes that impact us all.

To me, it’s clear that the legal and regulatory climate of our world is changing. Whether you manage a masonry firm or medical office, the changes are everywhere. But these transformations are not steady, like the movement of a glacier. They come in jerks and jolts that are hard to predict and often impossible to plan for. Yet the movement is clear over the long term and woe to he or she who ignores it.

Consider the popular television program Mad Men, a look at the high-pressure world of Madison Avenue advertising firms during the 1960s. With rampant sexism and bias on display for all to see, this world could hardly be more different from what we experience today. If the protagonist Don Draper were plopped into 2015, he’d probably survive on his intelligence, but he’d have to change immensely, at least on the outside.

Which brings us to your office management. Unless your organization is very unique, at least two things need to be brought firmly into the second decade of the 21st century: your policies and your staff.

I’ve written previously about the need for frequent and consistent updates to your office policies. This is important. But with limited space here, I’ll focus on how you might best introduce and enforce new policies in your office. In many cases, it won’t be easy.

A recent example involves the reaction many people have to the increased civil rights for the transgender population. The courts are ruling that people should be treated as they see themselves, not as others see them or wish to define them. As in other, earlier cases, a key often involves “accommodation,” which ultimately can be extended to everyone from religious fundamentalists to those with a physical disability.

So how do you get your staff to go along? The first step is to make it clear that the policy of your organization does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind. Make it clear that the protections that might cover someone who recently announced they are gay also apply to others. If you’re introducing a new or modified policy, stress that this is the policy of the company and everyone must adhere to it.

You will probably have someone who comes up with an extreme or far-fetched question. You can usually handle such hypothetical questions by promising to handle them when such a situation actually arises, or by asking the questioner if that’s an action they are planning. Some questions may indeed be sincere, while others may represent a thinly veiled disdain for the workplace, you or the topic—or all of the above.

But, by making it clear that this is the office policy and violations will be handled consistently and fairly, you are establishing from the outset that these rules are in place and will be applied to all. This approach is generally a good strategy for a wide range of issues.

Some topics will not be settled this easily, of course. Backing up a bit, it might be important to make sure everyone realizes that a new policy is the result of recent court cases, legislation or regulatory change. This may sound like a “copout,” and to a degree it is, but if everyone understands that his or her job may be on the line or even that everyone’s job could be at risk, it may help motivate some who would fight a necessary change.

Finally, it is important to see these not as reflecting a particular political persuasion or philosophy. Ultimately, these and similar changes are what organizations must do to operate successfully in today’s legal and regulatory climate. Even Mad Men’s Don Draper would understand that.


Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit www.laborgroup.com or call (913) 927-0229.


The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.

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