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When an open door policy fuels burnout



Is it just me or does someone saying they have an open-door policy not necessarily encourage me to actually take them up on their offer. It does not matter if the door is wide open. How that person received feedback, questions, challenges, and opinions in the past matters a lot more than simply saying the door is open.


Maybe it is just me, but actions speak so much louder than words.


What does this have to do with burnout?


Burnout is fueled by work environments where leaders think they have an open-door policy, but their employees know it is not safe to use that policy.

So where do we begin? Let’s start with defining what you actually mean by open-door policy. Are you saying the door is open for an employee to come in and shoot-the-breeze, but not bring bad news? Or are you saying you want them to talk about the joys and challenges of work life? Is the door open for opinions and thoughts that might differ from yours but lead to more successful outcomes? Do you want feedback on your leadership or ideas about needed changes?


Setting expectations and defining what we mean by open door policy helps the people on the other side of the door know what you are looking for. It also helps them understand if your open-door policy is a polite gesture or a real invitation. How you treat them and their ideas once they have crossed the threshold determines if they feel safe to take that courageous step again. It is not enough for us to say that we have an open-door policy. We must define what this means and make it safe for people to take advantage of it.


To have a real open-door policy these are the things we need to do:

🔔 Define what an open-door policy means to us

🔔 Ask for feedback on the specific areas that we are trying to grow into or that are new or challenging

🔔 Receive the feedback graciously

🔔 Thank people for their wiliness to provide the feedback

🔔 Ask for more clarity/examples

🔔 Don’t assume that you know what they mean

🔔 Ask how they would have done things differently and what informs their thought process.

🔔 Follow up with the people who gave their thoughts, ideas, challenge, or question

🔔 Act on advice where action makes sense or follow up and talk about areas where you decided not to take the advice or take action.


This is what makes an open-door policy more than just words. It makes it 10x more likely that someone on the verge of or in the throws of burnout will come and tell you they need help. Let's create the environment for real work-related conversations about burnout.

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