Is The ‘Open Door Policy’ Just Lazy Leadership?

An open door policy refers to the practice of business or organizational leaders leaving their doors open so that employees feel welcome to stop by and meet informally, ask questions, or discuss matters that have been weighing on their minds.

These days, with open office environments, co-working spaces and remote team members working around the globe, the “open door policy” is more metaphorical than ever before. The equivalent of walking through a physical open door in many organizations is now: sending an SMS phone text message, a direct message on Facebook or Slack, an instant message on Skype, or a ping on Basecamp.

Regardless of whether the interruption is through an actual door or a digital door, the theory is that an organization uses such openness to build a culture of trust, collaboration, communication, and respect regardless of an individual’s position in the hierarchy. Access to executives should reduce workplace gossip and rumors.

Over a decade ago, University of Virginia professor James Detert and Harvard professor Amy Edmonson set out to discover why some employees bring ideas to their managers, and others don’t. They interviewed approximately 200 people in a high technology company and discovered that about half of them chose to hold back from sharing information that could be beneficial for the company. Why? In an article the professors explain:

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