How too much open door can harm your business

May 25, 2012

Do you have an open door policy with your employees, allowing them to drop in any time with their questions and concerns?

According to many studies, having an open door policy encourages an open and transparent work environment where employees are able to directly communicate with top management.  Many companies, especially small businesses, implement an open door policy to foster an environment of collaboration, high performance and mutual respect where employees can feel empowered and directly involved in the growth and direction of the company. 

While studies have shown that open door policies can work to improve efficiency, productivity, growth and corporate ethical standards, having too much transparency with employees can actually negatively impact the bottom line of your business. Here’s why:

Open door policies tend to make your employees highly coveted by your competitors: Small business environments by nature provide members of your company with a whole arsenal of knowledge very early in their career path.  Junior employees gain indepth knowledge and exposure to senior management within their first few months on a job in an open door setting.  Employees, who are just looking to get their feet into an industry and are not committed to your business, could use your company, its training and its information as a stepping stone to quickly move on to a bigger company, leaving you and your business at a loss.

Information overload: It is important to provide employees with the resources to effectively perform their job duties.  However, providing them with too much information can actually cause performance to drop as employees spend time trying to process and prioritize.  Effective training programs are those that teach employees how to better do their job, not those that overwhelm the employee.

People should value time: Time is money is a saying promulgated by Benjamin Franklin. It’s important for top management to focus on building long-term company growth not managing “drop in” meetings with junior staff.  In a small business setting, senior management still needs to allow their team leaders the ability and space to lead and only become directly involved in situations when objectives are not being reached.

So how do you foster an environment of growth and contribution without negatively affecting your bottom line?

● Employ managers who can act as decision makers and who can determine what should be brought to top management’s attention and what can be taken care of on a department level.

●Institute monthly town hall meetings where interested employees can come and learn more about the company as well as share their thoughts and opinions.

●Based on the size of your staff, implement quarterly, bi-yearly or yearly company meetings to discuss new initiatives, company goals and successes and allow for an open Q&A session to take place.

● Consider overall office design.  Design senior management offices with windows or glass walls or encourage senior management to leave their doors open when possible.  This will set a good example for employees to see the dedication of senior management but still allow the senior manager the privacy needed to conduct everyday business.

●Provide outlets for employees to interact with management outside a corporate environment either through volunteer projects or social events like happy hours and sporting events.

Employees are one of the most important assets of your business and it is important to provide them with the education, knowledge and opportunity to grow and thrive at your company.  By allowing for controlled interaction with top management, one can maintain an environment that fosters collaboration but without negatively impacting your business.

Dinesh Boaz is managing director/co-founder of Dir ect Agents, a New York-based digital marketing agency specializing in lead generation, e-mail marketing, search engine marketing and Facebook advertising.

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