You pride yourself on having an open door policy. Employees know you’re receptive to their needs and can talk to you about anything.
That’s great, right?
But what sounds like workplace nirvana can turn into a nightmare. If you’re not careful, you could end up running daily therapy sessions or becoming the defacto office police department.
An open door that allows for constant access to you for every single issue, problem and decision may turn out to be counterproductive to you and your entire department.
How It Could Backfire
Make no mistake – open door policies can cause more problems than they prevent.
- A formerly productive work day turns into a steady stream of interruptions to the point where you get nothing done.
- Your office resembles counseling sessions so often, you’re considering buying a couch (and tissues).
- Your office morphs into the Complaint Department – which doesn’t encourage employees to resolve issues if everyone’s coming to you for answers.
- The word is out on your open-door approach, so employees whose managers don’t open their doors are now coming to you for their needs.
- Repeated visits from the same employees can start to look like favoritism.
- Employees start relying on you so much for so many things they can’t solve even the smallest problem on their own.
- You find yourself mediating more he-said-she-said gossip than a “Real Housewives” episode.
On The Plus Side…
However, with a bit of effort, an open door policy that works the way it should can both showcase your skills as a manager and encourage better communication from employees.
The secret is to make sure it’s used on your terms, and in ways that support your team goals. This is especially important if you’re a new manager.
Done right, an open-door policy can help you adjust to your managerial role faster and help you to build closer working relationships with employees.
Forbes.com lists four top reasons an open-door policy is a good idea:
- It shows your accessibility. You want employees to feel comfortable stopping by for a quick chat to talk situations or ideas. A closed door can send the message that you’re uninterested and disengaged.
- It encourages the open flow of communication. A closed door could cut you off from what’s going on within your department. You want employees to know they can knock when they have questions or there’s an urgent problem.
- It can get you access to info you otherwise might not get. Your employees can often be the source of new information and happenings around the company. They can keep you in the loop of what’s happening.
- It fosters better working relationships. An open door policy promotes a culture of friendly openness and tells others you want to be actively engaged in their success.
4 Steps To Opening Your Door
So how do you get open door policies to work without turning into a counselor or micromanager? Apply these guidelines to make it beneficial for both you and your employees:
1) Set Parameters
You don’t have all day. No one does. Just make that clear from the outset. “Open door” shouldn’t mean open-ended. Get across to employees that you’re accessible, but just like everyone else, you’re also on a schedule.
2) Always Listen Intently
Let people speak without interruptions from phones, email or other people. Recap to make sure you fully understand what the employee is saying. The sooner you know what the point of the visit is, the sooner you can take steps to resolve it (and get the employee out of your office).
3) Be Willing To Communicate
If an employee constantly harps on the same issue, there could be a root cause that needs to be addressed. Try not to be dismissive: What you hear as an employee’s venting might reveal a genuine issue behind the frustration.
4) Don’t Let It Be Over-Used
A key component to a well-oiled open door is that it solves problems. You don’t want to foster the idea that your open door is a revolving one. Make an effort to solve issues the first time. And involve employees directly in the decision-making process.
The message you want your open door policy to send is: I want to hear your concerns, ideas or complaints – but I’m not your therapist, your lawyer or your mother. Let’s figure out ways to solve problems and conflicts together.
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