The one downside of your open-door policy


by Rich Henson, ManageElite Blog

open-doorRules of thumb are great, but they are not absolute truths in all situations.

For instance, it’s a rule of thumb that great managers have an open-door policy.

Another rule of thumb is successful organizations solve problems close to where the problem occurred.

In other words, if you have a waste basket burning in your parking lot, you don’t summon your marketing team. Makes complete sense.

But what happens when these two rules collide? Here’s what I mean.

At its purest, an open-door policy means any employee should be free to talk with any manager at any time.

So an employee puts the policy to good use and decides to discuss the waste basket fire with the marketing manager? Hmmm!

You’ve now moved well away from where the problem is occurring, (and hopefully you will still get that fire put out!)

In real life this happens all too frequently, on problems large and small.

What to do?

It brings us to a third rule of thumb: Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Don’t abandoned the good AND the bad.

In other words, keep your open-door policy, just toss out the bad part.

First, the good parts. Open-door policies provide the kind of fast accessibility that gives folks a better understanding of what’s happening on a daily basis. It keeps them in the loop.

Likewise, an open flow of communication keeps the manager informed, as well. Open doors also promote closer working relationships, and trust.

So that’s all good.

The downside is when employees use open-doors as a way around their own manager. That’s a no-no.

And similarly, some senior managers use their open-door to field complaints so they look good at the expense of lower managers. Definitely not good, either.

The fix?

Be sure people know that most problems can and should be solved in discussion with your immediate supervisor; and that this is the encouraged first step for problem solving.

All managers also need to know that their first recommendation to these employees is to encourage them to work things out with the person they report to.

This approach keeps the door open, while keeping the problem in it’s proper area of focus.


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