Here’s an interesting bit of timing: the two podcasts I listened to yesterday were Manager-Tools on open door policy, and Business Week’s The Welch Way where Jack and Suzy Welch answered a reader’s question about going to his CEO regarding an incompetent supervisor. Here’s a link to The Welch Way: The specific question I’m referring to is the second in the show called “The Succession Opportunity.”

These seem to be related topics, and I get very different reads on them from the two sources. The Welches characterize a situation where somebody goes up to the top of an organization to air a complant as “an end run.” For example, they say: “If you take your case to the CEO, you’ll get action all right! And that sound you’ll hear is the collective groan of everyone who has ever watched in wonder as some naïve poor soul has tried to pull an end run.”

How does this relate to Manager-Tools? If I understand the recent pair of casts, it is conceivable that people will approach senior executives many levels above themselves because of their Open Door practices.

I encourage some feedback, comment and discussion about two different takes on a related issue. Please though, I don’t raise this as a “Mike and Mark versus Jack and Suzy” argument – I like to think that one aspect of a professional manager is the ability to reconcile diverse points of view without having to assign “right” and “wrong.”

What do YOU think? Does the Open Door encourage the End Run? And do you have a perspective on the effectiveness of this behavior that’s different from the outcome Jack and Suzy suggest in their advice?

bflynn's picture

I don't think there is anything to square. This podcast was advice to the manager. Jack is talking about actions by the employee.

The MT podcast was about having the policy, not what you do with it or what your employees do with it. With an open door policy, someone will jump too far in the chain of command. It flows downhill, but this still reflects more poorly on the employee than on the management.


pneuhardt's picture

There will always be someone that abuses any system. It seems to be something inherent in the species. No doubt there have been and will continue to be people that abuse an Open Door policy by conducting "end runs."

The abuse of the few does not outweigh the benefit of the many and should NOT be a reason to discontinue (or never institute) an open door policy. Or any other largely beneficial policy. You have a responsibility to set and carry out policies beneficial to the company. Each employee has a responsibility to use those policies and procedures in a mature and professional way. The occasional of an employee to live up to that responsibility does not absolve you of your responsibility as a manager to have and to support that policy.

Does an open door policy encourage an "end run?" Not in my experience. Anyone who would do that with an open door policy in place will find a way to attempt it even without one. At one company I worked at where there was no formal policy, our CEO left the building to go home one evening to discover that someone disgruntled over the size of her annual bonus had been sitting on the hood of his car for over 4 hours waiting for him to appear so she could "carry this issue to the top."

In fact, I would argue that the open door policy makes it easier to deal with these situations by giving those people a professional method to "get it over with" quickly and in a straghtforward manner. The employee get to say their peace without resorting to subterfuge and whoever they go to doesn't end up being stalked in the parking lot by unknown people with (to the manager) unknown intentions.

pneuhardt's picture

Oops. The last sentance of the second paragrph of that last post should read "The occasional [i]failure[/i] of an employee to live up to that responsibility does not absolve you of your responsibility as a manager to have and to support that policy."

You can see why I'm not a proofreader for a living.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

I'm sorry this has taken me so long. I regret my absence.

I don't think the two discussions conflict at all. Going to the CEO IS a "form" of open door, one could argue. And I wouldn't say categorically never to do it. (Even though consequences are likely to be close at hand, and not from the CEO.)

If I'm five layers down from the CEO, it is NOT the Manager Tools Open Door way to go RIGHT to the CEO. What one does is go to one's boss's boss. If one does not feel treated fully and fairly, one goes to THAT person's boss. And so on. Every step is necessary, and with each there is greater risk. And yet, if one would go ultimately all the way to the top, one is surely willing to say of one's efforts that this is the ultimate issue, right? If you're disagreeing about a marketing campaign, that's probably pretty dumb if there are five layers to go through. If you have an ethical concern, GO RIGHT ON UP.

We're both right. Good discussion!!!

Again, my apologies.