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Ask Sparky (August)

August 12, 2013

SparkyDear Sparky: We’re hoping you can settle a dispute for us. We work in a professional type setting and have a disagreement about how our contract should be viewed. My contingent sees it as sort of a guide — the big principles are important but there’s a lot of little stuff that’s not going to hurt anyone if it’s not enforced. The other camp sees the contract more as a bible and gets upset when our employer violates the smallest detail. What do you think?
Not Sweating the Small Stuff

Dear Sweating: Sounds like this issue has become what I like to call a “bone” of contention...This is a great question because it really gets to what role a contract plays in the workplace. I’m with you about the importance of laying down a set of big principles. But your coworkers in the other camp have a point too. Let too much of the “little stuff” slide and before long, key issues, like overtime or work hours, are getting a pass too. Are you familiar with the expression “use it or lose it”? Think of your contract as a muscle. Let it go unused for too long and it will atrophy and get soft. Your contract is a living document. Which gives me a great idea — before your next round of negotiations, why not get your colleagues together and go through the contract point by point. Is there language you think isn’t necessary anymore? Anything important missing? And please invite me to the party, especially if you’re serving snacks.