Breaking Down Barriers: Rethinking the Open Door Policy

An open-door communication policy can help encourage an open and collaborative work environment.

The underlying idea is sound: It signals to employees that you are serious about breaking down communication barriers and want to hear about the issues affecting their productivity or overall comfort in the workplace. However, there are some issues to consider.

Issue #1: Fear and Vulnerability

An open-door policy assumes that employees are willing to talk with you about an issue that may put them in a vulnerable position professionally. Even if there is good communication between management and staff, an open-door policy leaves management waiting on a subordinate to come to them and voice a concern. Employees have to already trust they will be listened to and that meaningful action will be taken to help rectify a situation.

Inconvenience and fear of vulnerability might prohibit employees from not taking advantage of your open-door policy. They might worry that they won’t be able to articulate their thoughts in a fluid conversation. They might also fear retaliation for their honesty. Favoritism and office politics are a dicey game. Employees can spot the pitfalls and often decide the most prudent course of action is to do nothing and play it safe.

Issue #2: Proximity and Delivery

The second problem with an open-door policy is it assumes employees are in close proximity and can walk through the door to initiate a conversation. According to Gallup, 43 percent of Americans worked remotely in 2016 and in frontline industries, that number could be even higher. Dispersed workforces have steadily risen in the past 10 years. Communication around sensitive issues is already complicated, but it’s hard to see eye-to-eye on a challenge when you can’t speak to a manager face-to-face.

Issue #3: Passing Time

The longer an issue goes unaddressed, the more frustrated a team member may become. Company management may be unaware that an issue even exists — but each passing day the problem goes unnoticed is a day a team member may think their managers condone the problem or simply don’t care.

Consider the trucking industry as an example. Drivers are often far away from home and the office for weeks on end. Even if a driver feels comfortable talking with their manager, a month could pass from the time a situation arises and when a driver has the chance to voice it in person. Critical feedback might fester in that time, robbing you of a chance to address it. Meanwhile, a professional driver might decide to move on to another company.

How WorkHound is Different

Offering multiple communications channels often mitigates the challenges mentioned above. When employees have multiple opportunities to express themselves professionally, they can choose the one that fits their own personality, comfort level, and the issue at hand.

WorkHound is designed and engineered to remove barriers remote employees might encounter with a more traditional open-door policy. Employees are asked to share their concerns anonymously by text message, and the prompt for feedback gives employees time to collect and share their thoughts about a situation in a constructive, safe environment.

The platform empowers employees to freely speak their minds without fear of retaliation. They don’t have to worry that feedback will hurt their reputation, future opportunities, or professional standing.

WorkHound also encourages real-time feedback. It allows employees an outlet for their frustrations and gives management the chance to rectify a situation before it spirals out of control.

The Bottom Line

Open-door policies are a good jumping-off point to improve workplace communication in any industry. But developing true transparency and trust in a top-down, management-to-employee structure is difficult. WorkHound helps level the playing field.

Ready to see how WorkHound can open lines of communication with your team? Talk with an expert today!

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