“One of the great frustrations I have is when the tail wags the dog … [when the] policy is now the end instead of the means … the policy is why we’re here,” said Thom Rainer, the president of LifeWay Christian Resources (and my boss), when I interviewed him for a recent podcast. His words caught my attention because I find such situations frustrating because they can undermine organizations and their employees.
Just a few days later, Rainer’s words came to mind again when the story came out about LSU running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette being stymied by the NCAA in his efforts to auction a game jersey in order to donate the proceeds to flood relief in South Carolina. The NCAA has a policy against such actions with the intent, for better or worse, of keeping athletes from profiting off merchandise sales. In this case though, the policy stifled the generous desire of a prominent athlete. But the NCAA eventually came to its senses and allowed Fournette to auction the jersey after thousands of people tweeted and otherwise attacked the organization for its initial decision.
Just a couple days after that, the NFL got in on the wagging act when Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams announced the league was refusing to let him wear pink socks, shoes, and arm bands for the entire season to honor victims and fighters of breast cancer (something the NFL allows only in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month). Williams’ mother and four aunts all died from the disease. The NFL has an image issue when it comes to support for and respect of women. Yet its policy still interfered with decency.
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Some policies exist for good reason. Many, though, were put in place to protect a value that isn’t valuable or to combat behavior that isn’t prevalent.
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Values should determine policies. People should outrank them. And organizations should be willing to bend or eliminate them as soon as they become a hindrance to good. Dogs wag tails, not the other way around. That’s what God intended.