It seems like a gracious and genuine gesture for leaders in executive, senior, or supervisory roles everywhere. Extending a policy to their team that invites them to knock on their door to express concerns at any time they feel compelled to still feels like a forward-thinking servant leadership practice, and that’s probably why it’s still so popular.It’s a check-in-the-box tactic that makes the leader seem engaged, concerned, and willing to listen. Perhaps that’s true and the leader genuinely is all of those things.
Perhaps the leader sincerely expects the team to circumnavigate any direct chain-of-command in the company’s internal structure to take grievances, professional concerns, or personal issues directly to them at any time as a demonstration of support. I sure did.I always established an open-door policy as a leader. Opening my office to my team was typically the first order of business for me in any new leadership role I accepted.
Transparently, I also felt like it would make me more approachable and more connected. It seemed like a noble idiosyncratic trait to my modality of leadership until I began to notice some pitfalls and drawbacks to having an open-door policy:Every so often, I would field a genuine concern from a staff member who trusted me. Most of the time, however, my open door serviced general complaints and gripes about teammates and the threshold to my office would seem like a petri dish for one-sided toxic deposits of gossip and inappropriate remarks.
This did not promote healthy conflict resolution and disrupted productivity on several occasions. Real issues were discussed in my absence between teammates in the form of cynical remarks and apathetic expressions. Meanwhile, I was oblivious in my