We hear it all the time: communication is the key to happy and productive teams. Open door policies are generally accepted as a good leadership practice today, but there are some big downsides that also need to be considered. Not only can they discourage employee autonomy, but they can negatively affect the entire team’s productivity. Before you close the door, there are a few things you should consider.
Every leader wants to provide their teams with the skills and encouragement to produce their best work. However, sometimes our most genuine efforts can do more harm than good. In fact, by trying to empower employees, some leaders may actually be promoting bad habits and even hurting the company culture.
Leadership styles have changed as much as industries themselves. A couple of generations ago, most managers adhered to a no-questions-asked style of leadership. If the company had an established process, then it wasn’t up for debate. “This is how things are done here,” was generally a conversation-ender. Employees did as they were told and that was that.
Things have changed a lot recently. Companies around the globe have swapped “closed doors” for “open doors,” and begun encouraging employees to actively contribute to the internal process by asking more questions and challenging the status quo. At first this seemed like a big win for organizational behavior. But now some experts are starting to wonder whether this shift in policy is actually counterproductive in some regards.
Some consider the open-door policy to be one of the greatest leadership mistakes of modern business. This is because it is easily and often abused. While some team members understand that this is an opportunity to broach timely and important issues with their managers, others see it as a chance to complain about every little thing that comes to mind throughout the workday. This can have devastating effects on productivity – for all parties.
Managers should exist to do just that – manage. The problem is that open door policies can turn managers into parental figures. The managers are constantly badgered in miniscule details when they should be focusing on the big picture. This makes it difficult – sometimes impossible – for them to focus on their own tasks, and as a result their work can suffer. This has a ripple effect on the entire team.
In addition to affecting the team’s productivity, open door policies can also have adverse effects on employees’ confidence and independence. Team members may come running to their manager before making any decision, opting for confirmation as opposed to trusting their own judgment.
So, should companies get rid of their open-door policies? Like most things, there needs to be a happy medium. Managers need to foster autonomy while still providing direction. They should establish open communication without inviting constant interruptions. Businesses would do well to create more of a “cracked door” policy, where there are established times during the day that team members can openly engage and ask questions. This would allow everyone to utilize their time more efficiently and produce better work as a result.