Is it enough that your company has an open-door policy?

At almost every job I have ever had, I was told during orientation or in the handbook that HR (and in some cases, management) had an open-door policy. And yes, the policies that I wrote as an HR professional contained that verbiage as well. But what does it mean? As an employee, I suppose I thought that meant that I could come to HR or a manager at any time to talk about anything I thought they ought to know. Looking back at whether that made a difference in when or how I brought up issues in the workplace, or whether I chose to bring an issue forward at all, I truly don’t think it did. This caused me to consider what may have made a difference, and how I would change the policy going forward.

Opinions on the “Open-door Policy” have waivered back and forth over the years. For example, Forbes Magazine has published for open-door policies (forbes.com/4-reasons-you-need-an-open-door-policy) and against them (forbes.com/why-successful-leaders-dont-have-an-open-door-policy).  And both sides have good points. Open-door policies can reduce manager performance as some employees see this as enabling them to just come in and shoot the breeze whenever they see fit. However, the policies also allow employees to come forward when they have a suggestion or complaint that really needs to be heard.

When business professors James R. Detert (Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University) and Amy Edmonson (Harvard Business School) set out to analyze the reasons behind fear of coming forward with information at work, their study found that having an open-door policy did not reduce the fear of coming forward. Why? Self-preservation. The professors explain:

“In our interviews, the perceived risks of speaking up felt very personal and immediate to employees, whereas the possible future benefit to the organization from sharing their ideas was uncertain. So people often instinctively played it safe by keeping quiet.”

It is time to ask ourselves if our open-door policies are enough to drive the type of change we need to see in our organizations. In my opinion, the answer is no. In our previous blog post (#noretaliation), we provide helpful hints for HR professionals and Managers, to encourage workers to come forward. We need to demonstrate and invite open communication and reiterate our policies that prevent retaliation when employees speak up.

At InvestiPro, we have chosen to move forward with three steps to help employees bring their voices forward.

  1. Our Code of Civility will be prominently posted in the office for all to see. It will define how we will treat each other, speak to each other and show respect to each other, in all levels of the company.
  2. Our open-door policy will be changed to an open-communications policy that will define how we approach each other in both positive and challenging situations, and will include strong statements against retaliation and accountability.
  3. We will provide training to employees on communication skills that will help build confidence in raising issues that drive toward a constructive outcome.

As with everything in business, we don’t always know the impact that changes will have in the long run. But we have to start somewhere, and I am feeling optimistic.

EEOC to Focus on “Holistic Prevention Programs” to Prevent Harassment.

With the release of the EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) for 2017 – 2021, it is time to take a look at your Complaint, Investigation and Prevention processes and procedures. The SEP outlines the EEOC’s principal areas of focus for the next four years. According to the plan, the EEOC will increase efforts to ensure that employers implement processes that will serve as a deterrent to violations. Will your current processes meet that requirement?

In short, the EEOC wants to see that employers are taking steps to prevent harassment and discrimination, which most frequently are based on sex, race, disability, age, and national origin.

To assess your prevention program, ask the following 7 questions:

  1. How often are your employees being trained?
  2. Is your training current and relevant?
  3. Are your managers actively looking for signs of harassment and discrimination in the workplace?
  4. Are employees encouraged to bring their concerns forth, and provided a safe and comfortable means of doing so?
  5. Does the company have a standard business processes in place that will allow immediate response to complaints in order to determine if an investigation is necessary?
  6. Is your investigation process compliant, consistent and unbiased?
  7. Does your process include a plan for returning to work after an investigation without judgment or retaliation?

I am hopeful that you are taking a sigh of relief right now because your processes are buttoned up. But if not, it’s time to add this to your priority list. And remember, InvestiPro can help.      www.GoInvestiPro.com

 

You can review the entire EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/sep-2017.cfm, or read a simple overview provided by Fox Rothschild.