Over the years I have heard many small business owners and managers say that they have an “open door policy”. Simply stated an employee is encouraged to come in and talk with the owner/manager anytime there is something bothering them. But many managers are ill equipped to handle the feedback that they receive from their employees, and their “open door” could ultimately create more conflict then their good intentions were meant to alleviate.
Whether you have an MBA or a Bachelors degree in business management, a class in conflict resolution is not part of the curriculum. The inability to handle conflict in a meaningful way can cost a company time, money, customers and valuable employees.
Here are a few things that an employer can do to make there “open door” a success:
1. Make sure you have time to listen to your employee. If they have come to talk when you are in crisis mode you won’t be able to give them the attention that is needed to solve their problem. Let them know that you appreciate them stopping by and that you want to talk to them and be able to listen, then schedule a time for them to come back for the meeting.
2. We have all been in a situation where we felt like we were not heard, understood or recognized. Learn to use reflective listening so that your employees know they are being heard. In it’s simplest form, reflective listening is to hear what the other person has said and then parrot back to them what you heard them say. The goal is to see if you truly have heard what your employee has expressed to you and make sure that it is accurate so you can help solve the problem.
3. People tend to see what they want to see. In trying to help them solve their problem you must be able to help them see that there are multiple points of view when looking at an issue. People tend to focus on their point of view; they will pick out and focus on those facts that confirm their perceptions and disregard or misinterpret those that call their perceptions into question. They may see only the merits of their case, and only the faults of the other side’s.
4. Ask what they would like to see happen as a result of the dispute they have brought to light. The process of working out an agreement that works for you and the employee produces a mutually satisfactory agreement that will be lasting. It creates a working relationship that builds understanding, confidence, and respect over time that can make future meetings more fruitful.
5. Make an agreement to follow-up on how the solution is working and make changes if necessary.
When you create a positive experience for your employees you help create a culture within your company of openness and cooperation. Your open door is a model for all your employees to see how to solve problems that creates an atmosphere of trust and ultimately a more profitable and peaceful organization.