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Companies Who Say They Have An Open Door Policy. . .Don’t

October 8, 2013

I think we have time for a few questions. Yes, you there in the third row.

I’ve heard that when we move to the new building next month the company might change the dress code.

Thunderous applause from about half the room of 1000 people.

Oh please. The guy at the front of the room was the guy in charge of our entire non-profit organization. He had thousands of people working for him. And when someone gets a chance to ask a question they go with a dress code question? We were a very conservative non-profit organization. And we had a dress code. White shirts and ties with slacks for men. Dresses for women.

Yes we are thinking of changing the dress code.

More applause from the same half of the crowd.

We are considering making you dress up more.

Now applause from the rest of us. Clever response.

The real issue though was the idea that when they asked for questions some people actually thought that meant they could ask questions. Maybe I’m just cynical, but in 25 years of the computer business, it’s my experience that if you work for a company that feels the need to express their support of an open door policy it is generally not a good idea to test them.


WordPerfect had an “open door” policy. That’s why I sent my comments on their stupid sick leave policy anonymously. (How To Turn Honest Employees Into Dishonest Ones.)

And don’t be fooled by the “anonymous” online surveys. If they are hosting the survey in house, they know who you are. SharePoint has a survey feature. I actually laughed out loud when my manager suggested we could use it to do anonymous surveys.

Sure, so long as you don’t mind the fact that we collect everyone’s username by default. It can’t be helped. We’d have to intentionally throw it away after the fact.

Regular readers of this column know that I’m not one of those anti-management zealots. Why would I be cynical about the idea of management taking criticism from employees? Probably because I’ve sat through too many manager meetings. We wanted employees who could think for themselves, but we did not want 1000 people second guessing and worse complaining about every decision they didn’t agree with.

I learned early in my career to separate my personal validation from my career. I absolutely want to do a fantastic job for my employer. It leads to many great things; more autonomy, first pick on interesting projects, raises, promotions, etc. But, if the company makes a decision that I disagree with? Once the discussion period is over, I’m going to do it the new way. If you want to make your manager happy, figure out how to make his job easier. And complaining employees do not a happy boss make.

So, do a great job at your work. When the day is over go home and do the things that give you validation. And at work, once the discussion period is over, just wear the white shirt and tie without complaint. It’s not a bad uniform as far as uniforms go.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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