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Why Having an Open Door Policy Doesn’t Work

𝗕𝗲𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 ‘𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗻-𝗱𝗼𝗼𝗿’ 𝗳𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗮𝗰𝘆!
When we ask leaders how much time they dedicate to the management of their team, we regularly hear “𝘮𝘺 𝘥𝘰𝘰𝘳 𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘰𝘱𝘦𝘯 𝘪𝘧 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘣𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘴 𝘮𝘦”.
The “open-door policy” is great in theory, however, in practice this management approach should never be an end in itself. Often doing more harm than good. There will be many issues that you’ll never see unless you look. It’s your job to predict problems before they escalate. These problems are expensive to fix and won’t come to your doorstep.

So why doesn’t an open door policy approach work?

𝗘𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗼𝘆𝗲𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗮𝗳𝗿𝗮𝗶𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗸 𝗨𝗽
Research of 200 individuals from all levels and functions, found that employees often choose to hold back from sharing information that could be beneficial for the company (Edmondson). It takes an extremely brave employee to willingly take the risk to go to their boss or their bosses’ boss to tell them about problems. That even assumes that the employee knows what the problem is well enough to explain them. Even on teams where there is trust, many problems will never come to you

𝗬𝗼𝘂’𝗿𝗲 𝗦𝗼 𝗕𝘂𝘀𝘆 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗧𝗲𝗮𝗺 𝗗𝗼𝗻’𝘁 𝗪𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗕𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗬𝗼𝘂
Some managers give out the energy of being so busy, that team members decide for themselves not to bother you. You might appear to them as being stressed, overwhelmed or consumed by another project. Even though you’ve been clear about your open-door policy, you send out a mixed message

𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗕𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗧𝗲𝗮𝗺’𝘀 𝗖𝗵𝗶𝗲𝗳 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗯𝗹𝗲𝗺 𝗦𝗼𝗹𝘃𝗲𝗿
When your open-door policy does work and people come to you, it can also create a different type of problem. Many managers get promoted because they are experts at their job. But, in their new role, they miss the instant dopamine hit of solving a problem. So when their team comes to them with interesting problems to be solved, they can’t help themselves and use their expertise, position or authority to fix it. Over time, this creates an unwanted dependency, killing your #productivity & disempowering your team.

𝗦𝗼 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝗹𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲?
Here are 4 to get you started:

1: Ensuring your 𝟭-𝟮-𝟭s go beyond a basic check-in. You can use these as a great way to understand what your people are working on and surface issues early (check out our latest video on 1-2-1s in the comments below)
2: 𝗩𝗶𝘀𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸 of the team can also help you identify potential bottlenecks, capacity issues, project overruns or zombie projects
3: 𝗦𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗱𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗴𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗮𝘀𝗸𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀, supported by regular progress check-ins are an excellent way to ensure your team is on track
𝟰: 𝗦𝗲𝗲𝗸 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗯𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗺𝘀. Ask your fellow managers if they can see any potential challenges facing your team.

What is your experience of open-door policies?

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