BY CHRISTINA FIORENZA
We’ve all heard of maintaining an open door policy in the workplace, but do employees really know what that means? Do managers understand its importance? Some employees take advantage of the policy to vent, gossip, procrastinate, or bring their personal issues to work, while others welcome the fact that management is approachable both if and when needed. New managers sometimes find it hard to schedule their days when there’s a revolving door of employees coming in and out to discuss their private lives, work issues, suggestions, or ideas.
A quick Internet search defined “open door policy” as follows: “A communication policy in which managers leave their office door ‘open’ in order to encourage openness and transparency with the employees of that company. As the term implies, employees are encouraged to stop by whenever they feel the need to ask questions, discuss suggestions, or address problems or concerns with management. An open door policy serves to foster an environment of collaboration, high performance, and mutual respect between upper management and employees.”
Take special note: The definition clearly states that “...employees are encouraged to stop by whenever they feel the need to meet and ask questions...” How are we as managers supposed to maintain the necessary level of productivity when we encourage these interruptions?
First of all, we need to understand the intent of our open door policies. We are trying to both create and demonstrate a culture of honest and direct communication between management and employees. By throwing our doors open, we prove to our staff that we are accessible, willing to communicate, and committed to creating positive working relationships. This does not mean, however, that we have to drop everything we are doing every time someone walks into our office. Scheduling a time that works for both management and the employee still adheres to an open door policy.
Secondly, scheduling breaks into our days proactively demonstrates our desire for open communication. During these breaks, we should get out of our office, walk around, and talk to our employees, being careful to respect their work and not interrupt them if they are in the middle of a project—a courtesy we would expect from them, too.
Finally, there definitely will be times when we need to close our door: We may have a performance issue that needs to be discussed, a delicate problem with a client, or senior management needs a word with us. I recommend that these types of meetings take place in a conference room. If the only time we close the door is for a perceived negative conversation, we can create fear and anxiety in our employees—especially if we call for a private meeting and close our office door behind them.
Since 93 percent of communication is nonverbal and only 7 percent is verbal, (according to Albert Mehrabian’s book Silent Messages: Implicit Communication of Emotions and Attitudes), creating and exemplifying clear and open communication between managers and employees is of extreme importance. An open door policy is more than just a physical office door being open: It’s a commitment to transparency and receptiveness. [CD0216]
Our friends at The LMC Group, the livery management consultants, will be exploring different monthly topics that are relevant to you, and we’d like to know what questions you’d like to see answered. Please email your questions for the HR Coach to firstname.lastname@example.org, who will also provide additional guidance and information regarding this ongoing series.
Christina Fiorenza is the HR director for The LMC Group. She can be reached at christina@LMCpeople.com.