Your Open Door Policy Isn’t Enough

Back in my corporate days, I can remember whether it was on-site at the office I worked at, or even when I would tour our larger regional offices or our corporate headquarters, I can remember touring and walking around, and I would see that most, if not all, of the managers had their doors open.

But if you took a closer look, there would be particular managers that often times had individuals in their office – whether they were direct reports, colleagues, or their own manager. And there were others that their offices very rarely had any foot traffic. This is where this concept of open door policy came to be, and it was visually very obvious when we were all on-site, but now that we’re in this remote or hybrid environment, we still have this concept of open door policy.

But what it means now is, “Hey, me as a leader, I have an open door policy, which means you can come share with me any of your feedback at any time. I want you to feel really comfortable about providing that honest insight, your honest opinion, anytime you want to, I’m available.” I hear it all the time. I see and hear leaders who tell me, “Colleen, I am so open for feedback. I have an open door policy, people can share with me whatever they want,” but – are they actually sharing?

There’s a difference between saying you have an open door policy, and even communicating that with those words of telling people, “Hey, anytime, come talk to me.”

That’s great, that is a great first step. However, if people aren’t actually coming to you, then that policy is broken, that policy is not working for you. Instead, we have to show people, we have to show direct reports, our colleagues, those that are around us, that it is safe to take advantage of that open door policy.

How are you as a leader, or just a responsible employee, how are you showing that it is safe to provide that feedback? Are you yourself sharing stories or sharing examples of when you’ve made mistakes or you have thought about something differently? Are you opening up to some level of vulnerability that actually demonstrates a safe environment for everyone else to do the same?

I’m going to challenge you today, are you just saying you have an open door policy, or are you actually demonstrating it and creating that safe environment for people to actually take advantage of that policy? It’s really the only way that we are going to continue to evolve – not just as teams, but to help make our organizations better, by tapping into the resources of our frontline employees, our employees as a whole.

So again, I challenge you, is it a policy you just say, or are you demonstrating it?