Knocking Down Doors – Literally!

Keeping the lines of communication open in the workplace is critical – both metaphorically and literally, as illustrated by a national independent workplace study commissioned by Lynn Taylor Consulting, and released in March. Interestingly, in April, AOL’s new CEO, Tim Armstrong, took a significant symbolic step consistent with this study which made some headlines. He ordered that the locked glass doors which sealed off staffers from the executive suite in the company’s New York headquarters be removed. In doing so, he immediately earned the praise and respect of employees.

Armstrong’s gesture is also consistent with the theme of this blog and my upcoming book, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant™(TOT). To employees, closed doors often suggest (intentionally or not) an unwillingness to communicate – or an exclusionary mindset. Especially during times of downsizing, they can instill unnecessary anxiety, hinder the free flow of information and impede interaction. In the end, they shut out more than people, but also morale and productivity.

Admittedly, AOL will be taking many other steps to bolster itself in the marketplace. But this micro version of taking down an “executive Berlin wall” was a great first step in bridging the communications gap.

Employees and employers alike can and should talk up this simple yet memorable move, because if nothing else, it says to a workforce: “we are a team,” as opposed to: “stay away.” Occasional privacy is understandable, but a non-stop blockade isn’t. Maybe in the latter case, an inexpensive alternative is to hand out free doorstops.