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What Are Explicit & Implicit Policies?

Updated March 23, 2017

Whenever you step into a store, a work environment, or even just out onto the street, there will be a number of policies to follow. These may be informal company operating procedures, or the law itself. While it can be easy to find the explicit policies that govern an institution by consulting written records, discerning its implicit policies can be a little more difficult.

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Explicit Policies

Explicit policies are those that are formally recorded. Examples of explicit policies include those that are recorded in a company's operational handbook, or legislation that is recorded in the law books. Such policies have power precisely because they are written. An example is an employer's written policies governing absences from work.

Implicit Policies

Implicit policies are similar to norms that govern individuals within an institution, but they are not formally recorded. Even though implicit policies are not recorded, they still have an authority within the institution that stems from the fact that individuals within the institution follow them. The implicit policies are perpetuated by the individuals who follow them exerting social pressure on others to follow them as well.

Examples of Implicit Policies

Implicit policies can be common practices, such as grouping students by age. Others can take a more antisocial turn, such as institutionalised racism or sexism, hazing of new employees, giving more severe judicial punishments to certain ethnic groups, or promoting men faster than women. A less antisocial example is not wearing heavy perfumes or colognes if such scents irritate other staff members.

Implicit Policy Examples

Implicit policies that are racist or sexist in nature can be particularly difficult to challenge. If a discriminatory policy is plainly written, it is proof and therefore becomes easier to challenge. Implicit policies, however, are more difficult to challenge and need to be proved with a record of the unacceptable behaviour.

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About the Author

Micah McDunnigan

Micah McDunnigan has been writing on politics and technology since 2007. He has written technology pieces and political op-eds for a variety of student organizations and blogs. McDunnigan earned a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from the University of California, Davis.

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