Guideline vs Policy: Difference and Comparison

In the Corporate and business world, we hear the terms such as guidelines, rules, policies etc. Often guidelines and police are used interchangeably. But these two are very distinct from each other, although they may come together.

Most companies or organizations have both guidelines as well as policies. But we must know that when these words can be used to avoid confusion. All are on the same page.

Both of them have the same goal, which is to improve the life of an individual and prevent them from any chaotic situations.

Key Takeaways

  1. Guidelines are non-binding recommendations or suggestions to help achieve specific goals, while policies are formal, mandatory rules and regulations.
  2. Policies have a broader scope and are enforced by organizations or governments, while various entities may issue guidelines and are more flexible.
  3. Non-compliance with a policy can result in penalties, whereas not following a guideline does not carry formal consequences.

Guideline vs Policy

Guidelines are recommendations or suggestions that provide general direction on how to achieve a specific outcome. A policy is a formal statement that outlines a set of rules or principles developed by senior management to provide clear instructions on what employees should or should not do.

Guideline vs Policy

A guideline is a statement made that filters and aims to set a particular process according to a routine. It is made to determine the course of action.

Everywhere, whether it be organizations, schools, colleges, hospitals, a company, etc., guidelines exist. It helps people to make them aware of the situation. To prevent them from being in any unavoidable circumstances.

Usually, a higher authority such as the Government or Private issues the guidelines to predict the pattern of behaviour of its employees or citizens. It is considered very much similar to a rule.

A Policy is also a statement that is needed to be followed. It consists of various protocols and procedures. It is mandatory to follow a policy. If not followed, a certain kind of punishment is expected.

The policy is made from the various systems of guidelines only. But they need to be followed very strictly. Governmental Organizations follow the policies.

While making any important decision, the policy is very helpful both in subjective and objective decision-making. A policy can be found in many public organizations, corporations, businesses, or an individual.

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonGuidelinePolicy
RigidityNot RigidHighly Rigid
SourceRules and ProceduresActions, Regulations and Objective
RepresentsCan be Broken and violatedCannot be Broken
ObjectivePut things in orderSets the value in a company

What is Guideline?

A guideline is a set of various procedures that are meant to simplify the process concerning a practice or a habit. Guidelines are not mandatory to follow. But if followed, they can change the behaviour of an entire system.

If guidelines are followed properly, positive change can be seen. Guidelines are there to guide an individual or an organization. If they are violated, there is no such punishment. Anyone can break the guideline at any given time.

As it causes no harm, the nature of the guidelines is not very rigid.

Guidelines are made so that everything in a company or any other organization is organised manner. Many times, we can see that guidelines are not followed. There is a very high chance of not following it.

However, while establishing anything, guidelines are always made to guide and have certain rules and procedures.  It is like a piece of advice that tells how to act in a particular situation.

The Government or Governmental Organization can issue guidelines to make the behaviour of the people more predictable. They are general recommendations. People don’t follow them or take them seriously.

It is no harm any discipline-wise. It is very informal and has a lot of flexibility. It is an important part of an organization. For example, in every company, an employee gets holidays of at least 1 month in a year. But if they don’t take it. It has no side-effect.


What is Policy?

Policy refers to the set of rules and regulations that governmental organizations make for identifying various types of problems or programs. Policies are also made to give someone priorities and choose how it will impact them.

To reach goals, policies are of various types, like managerial, financial, political, and administrative. Policies are made to avoid all the negative circumstances that have been noticed.

Because of implementing policies, it is expected that it will bring about a benefit or positivity in the organization.

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Policies have a negative side as well. It can be negative or biased, depending upon the circumstances. Making a policy for the benefit of a people can have a counter-effect.

It sometimes becomes so manipulative and influential because of the biased environment. While Formulating a policy, it is always theoretical, and they are made to lessen the negativity as much as they can.

In the field of Political science, there is a policy tool that helps to determine the development of an organization using policy items.

It is called as stagist approach, stages heuristic or stages approach. There are various stages in a policy cycle made by political scientists.

They are Issue identification, Building coordination and coalitions, Policy instrument development, Policy analysis, Consultation, Policy Evaluation, Program Design: Decision making and Policy Implementation.


Main Differences Between Guideline and Policy

  1. In a Guideline, the statement made in general. In a policy, the statement made is specific.
  2. Guidelines are highly flexible. The policy is highly rigid.
  3. A guideline is a set of rules and procedures that are very informal but are found in every organization. A Policy is a set of actions, regulations and objectives very formal.
  4. A guideline can be broken or violated. There is no harm in that. A policy cannot be broken or violated. If violated, there is a punishment.
  5. The objective of a guideline is to put things into order. The objective of a policy is to set the values of an organization.
Difference Between Guideline and Policy

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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6 thoughts on “Guideline vs Policy: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This article provides valuable insights into the distinctions between guidelines and policies. A very well-composed piece!

  2. Great article! The distinction between guidelines and policies is well articulated. It certainly helped me in understanding their significance.

  3. The clarification between guidelines and policies is very helpful. We often use them interchangeably, not understanding their distinct nature. Great insight!

  4. Although the tone of the article seemed a bit biased towards guidelines, the comparative analysis was insightful.

  5. This article was very enlightening and informative. I did not realize the significant differences between guidelines and policies, but your article explains them very well.


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