Many leadership and management best practices tout the value of an “open door policy” and I have met many a manager who boast about their open door policy and how available they are to their staff.
I have also had a lot of managers say to me that the open door policy is pointless because no one uses it and everything is fine in their organization. I challenge this belief and say that just because your open door policy isn’t used doesn’t mean that everything is fine and in fact, can often mean that there are problems with how the concept of an open door policy by management is being implemented.
Here are the top 3 mistakes that we see, in terms of how an open door policy is used, and some tips on how to turn these common mistakes into wins for everyone!
Mistake 1: Your open door policy is just a policy and no one actually uses it.
This “policy” is something that forces the employee to come to you.
Solution 1: Don’t wait for people to come to you.
Walk around and talk to people – go to their offices and have a chat. If you work in a cube environment, ask the person for coffee and leave the area.
Mistake 2: You say that you have an open door policy but your schedule is so packed that you are either never in your office or are always rushing from meeting to meeting.
It is also easy for people to feel that their need to talk isn’t as important as your packed schedule, especially if your actions send out a message that you’re unavailable.
Solution 2: Make room in your schedule to be in your office, door open, without anything scheduled.
Go back up to Solution 1 and walk around – check in with people, have casual chats and show everyone that you have time for them.
Mistake 3: Someone does come to you to discuss something that is on their mind but they don’t get the air time they were looking for.
If an employee comes into your office to get assistance with something and it turns into a project update meeting, an opportunity for you to delegate more work or, in the worst case scenario, you spend the entire time talking about yourself, the employee will be less likely to engage in the open door policy.
Solution 3: Ask yourself to WAIT as in Why Am I Talking?
Make sure that when your employee approaches you, you put down all distractions (no checking your phone/email during this conversation) and you sit back and listen. Listen to what is going on for them, ask clarifying questions and get to the heart of what they need from you. Do they just need to vent or are they looking for a resolution? Do they just need to brainstorm on a problem or do they need you to make a decision?
Understand what they need and then spend time with them to work on the outcome. This meeting isn’t about you – it is about them!
Many times, our open door policy isn’t used and so we think everything is fine. Sometimes it takes effort on our part to set time aside in our calendar, to wander around and to listen and ask questions before we really know how things are. That time is always time well spent.
Your Engaged HR Assignment
Open your calendar. Clear some time in your calendar for check-ins and start wandering. You just never know what you will learn!