4 Reasons to Actually Read Your Employee Handbook

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Starting a new job often means spending your first week or so filling out paperwork, meeting more new people than you can easily count, and being asked to read the 100-page monstrosity known as your employee handbook.

The purpose of an employee handbook is to spell out a company's rules, procedures, goals, and so forth. And while most employers don't intend to make that material overwhelmingly dull, that's often just the way it works out. But painful as it might be to work your way through that handbook, it pays to read it in its entirety. Here's why.

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1. You'll avoid inadvertently breaking the rules

You're probably aware that your employer doesn't want you to steal company property, show up late consistently, or take time off without requesting it first. But some of its rules may be less obvious, and if you don't read that handbook, you could end up violating one accidentally.

Imagine you're in a position to offer contracts to outside vendors. Your company might have a policy barring you from accepting thank-you gifts, or even meals, in exchange. But if you're not aware of that policy, you might violate it and get into trouble without meaning to. And that's a good way to start off on the wrong foot at work.

2. You'll be better prepared to watch what you say

Over email, that is. Many companies these days have a policy of monitoring employee email, and most spell it out in their respective handbooks. It pays to understand that particular policy inside and out, so that your words don't come back to bite you. Along these lines, figure out whether your employer claims the right to monitor communication over your personal email, provided it's accessed on a company network.

3. You'll discover benefits you may not have known about

The major benefits your company offers will probably be presented to you along with your salary -- things like a 401(k) and health insurance plan. But you might need to read through that handbook to unearth some of the lesser-known perks you're entitled to, like an annual fitness-equipment subsidy or money toward educational materials or courses. In other words, spending a few extra minutes (OK, hours) going through that handbook could actually put money back into your pocket.

4. You'll get a better sense of your company culture

When you're new to a job, it tends to take time to learn the ropes. A good way to get a sense of how your company operates and what it values is to read that handbook. Don't just process its content, but observe its tone. Chances are, by reading it cover to cover, you'll better understand your management team's style and pick up on your company's goals. And that, in turn, will not only make that transition easier, but also put you in a better position to succeed.

Your employee handbook probably isn't the most exciting thing you'll read this year, but do yourself a favor and tackle it anyway. This way, you'll know all things company-related.

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