Policies Governing People in Holacracy®

How NOT to Handle Things Working Hours, Dress Code, and Social Norms

Policies related to hours of operation, or other expectations of the people which are typically captured in an employee handbook are usually not valid Holacracy policies because the organization doesn’t own or control the people, it only controls the roles.

Of course, you need to capture certain expectations of the relationship between the people and the organization (working hours, full time vs. part time, compensation, travel policies, etc.), but these are best documented in a “relationship contract,” of some sort rather than a policy.

Usually defining the relationship contract happens with an “Employment Agreement” or “Partner Agreement,” which is codified when someone joins the organization. Expectations on both sides are clarified and a conscious choice is made.

But what happens if these expectations changed? It doesn’t feel right for either party (though it’s typically the organization imposing on the partner/s) to suddenly demand a new expectation under threat of ending the relationship. That would be like a spouse saying, “You must now always be home by 6pm or we are getting divorced.” It’s heavy-handed and weird, because it’s trying to leverage the resource commitment of the previous agreement (which was made freely), to impose a new agreement.

In practice, partners tend to silently accept new expectations put upon them by the organization either because they are used to the old paradigm, or because there simply isn’t a good way to process a tension as a partner.

This isn’t helped by the fact that the current version of the Constitution (v4.1) is silent on this issue, which leaves more room for misunderstanding and defaulting back to the old power system (though this will likely be added in Constitution version 5).

This issues are more complex than can be effectively dealt with by a normal policy because it includes both the people and the organization as two separate entities. Ideally, you need the ability to consciously renegotiate the terms of this type of agreement.

Interestingly, there are some simple solutions to this complex issue, so if you’re interested in learning how to more appropriately handle updating these partner-organization agreements (not just learn how NOT to do it), then watch this short video (25 mins in total) of Brian Robertson walking through some new thinking (you can skip to 9:08 when he talks about “Relationship Contracts,” but I recommend watching the whole thing).

If your organization needs help with things like this, feel free to reach out to hello@holacracyone.com to get connected to me or any of our Certified Holacracy coaches.