“Why it’s time to ditch the open door policy in the workplace

Open door policies have been a central tenet of management practice for many years.

But they’re actually very damaging to most modern businesses and workplaces. This is because business owners and managers rely on them as an excuse not to give any real thought to how staff communicate or feedback upwards. Whenever a problem arises caused by a communication blockage business leaders will respond by saying “well my door was always open and staff had every opportunity to come and tell me personally about the issue. They chose not to so I’m not to blame”.

Smart business leaders will spend considerable time working out how best to garner feedback from staff. Mechanisms will include suggestion boxes, 360 appraisals, anonymous staff surveys and so called “stop start continue” exercises where employees are given a chance each year in confidence to tell their company what they think is going well and should continue and what needs changed.

There may be many reasons why an employee may fail to walk through the door with open honest feedback or perhaps an idea to improve a current business practice. These may include, cultural considerations, an absence of any sense of “safety to speak” and the erroneous view that the idea may be worthy of a survey monkey form but not ten minutes of the CEO’s valuable time.

Businesses with open doors are often those where employees develop unhealthy dependencies on their managers to take important (and sometimes unimportant decisions) for them. They’re often businesses in which managers are distracted from doing the quality work they were employed to do because they’re too accessible and easily dislodged from their most important tasks. In short, they’re caught and made less effective by their own promises always to be available to their employees.

 

ABOUT BARRY

Barry failed his 11+ and left school with just one “O” level. A careers officer advised him to take a job as a trainee office junior.

Today, the former practising barrister is a published academic and chairman of a multi-award winning company based in Northern Ireland. He has worked at the European Parliament, the European Court of Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation in Geneva. He has travelled extensively and lived in eight different countries considering himself to be a global citizen first, a European second and British last of all.

He is a former President of the Belfast Speakers’ Circle which was set up in 1945 to encourage and to practise the art of public speaking.

Recently, for his 50th birthday Barry did an Ironman in France completing the 2.4 mile swim, the 112 mile bike ride and 26 mile run in 15 hours and 35 degree heat. He speaks Russian and Spanish and lives with his wife and daughter just outside Belfast.