An Effective Open Door Policy Only Works With a Checked Ego and a Completely Open Mind
Day one of your employment and you hear your onboarding representative express to you that one of the benefits to working at the company is the "open door policy" throughout management. Personally, I have been in the corporate game long enough to understand that saying it and having one, are completely two separate things.
Most companies use the "open-door policy" carrot as a means to express to employees that the door is always open (literally or figuratively) for communication and complaints. HR Daily Advisor reminds us that, "It is meant to let employees know that they have an avenue for all issues to be addressed, and they should never feel as though they don’t have anyone to turn to.
Reality has taught many of us that the open door that you seek might be a revolving door, a trap door, or as small as a doggy door. Many employees want to believe that they can walk into a senior manager's office with a concern, be heard, and then get that concern addressed. While this is how it should work, the question for most employees is "If I walk into that open door, what will it cost me".
Honestly, managers have issues of their own and have no time for someone coming to them with an issue plus no reasonable suggestion of action. Secondly, does a manager want to talk through an issue with you if you have not discussed it with your direct manager (assuming they are not the issue)? Then again, is that going against an open-door policy?
Then some come through the open door so much that they should have a key. You know who I am referring to as every business has one or two people who have their ear to the ground and act as the spokesperson for the masses.
So here is my question. Is there such a thing as "open door policy abuse" by employees? Do Managers set the proper expectations for when or how it should be used? Is that an afternoon training in itself?
Harvard Business and The Globe and Mall report that;
44% of employees reported they do not feel free to speak their minds to their bosses
42% of employees admitted to speaking up but withholding information if they believe they have nothing to gain or something to lose by sharing
20% of employees say fear of consequences has kept them from addressing ordinary company problems
Short and sweet, your employees know the drill and in most cases, they are not believing that the door is as open as you have so enthusiastically stated. They know (or believe) that on the other side of the door is someone who does not have time for their concern. Someone who is going to go through the motions and then they'll get more of the same and maybe at a price.
This brings us back to our statement of saying you having an open-door policy and having it be effective are two separate things. Companies must have an open-door policy in place that can bear fruit and results. If you want to build strong loyalty within the ranks of your staff, have an open-door policy with teeth.
If you want to see them build trust in Management, show them that there is a clean, retribution-free, results-driven, open-ear process in place at their disposal. One that will not just go through the motions but one that will hold people (up and down the org chart) accountable for a standard of action, fairness, honesty, and excellence.
Of course, a key component to a good open-door policy is having solid communicators before your employees feel the need to move to the first open door they can get to.
Lastly, (to all the managers that have queued me on this) I say to you that management, Leadership, or APM (adult personality management) is not for the faint of heart or everyone but it is a strong part of what you must do to help your organization grow and groom a better culture.
Now, you could just keep your door closed (that is an option) but then you may be shutting out the best idea you have ever heard. See, heavy is the head that wears the crown. If it gets too heavy, you may want to seek an open door in your corporation and ask someone what you can do about it.
As a working professional with 20+ years of team building experience, Kenn has worked passionately in concert with a litany of groups on the topic of team building, process, engagement, and productivity. He is also Director of Life-Line Coaching which specializes in personal and executive coaching. He makes time for speaking engagements and group assessments while having a full-time staff of 20 direct reports of his own. He is a champion of culture, enjoys listening both as a hobby and a career, and is always working to understand the “why” of what makes teams successful. You can find him on Twitter @Your_Inner_MVP.