February 9th, 2013

Open Door Policy: How’s that working for you?

Management tells non-supervisory workers (underlings, subordinates) that direct, honest communication with your boss is possible, as if both are equals. It’s called an “Open Door Policy.” Sounds great, but rarely practiced. Just another disingenuous biz buzz phrase that rings hollow. Here’s an example of the words:

At Cablevision we maintain a true culture of family and teamwork based on mutual respect. We foster an environment of camaraderie, equality, cooperation, dedication, and recognition. We believe in the importance of supporting our employees by providing excellent career-development opportunities, tuition assistance, valuable training, and maintaining an open door policy.

An “Open Door” is offered as an excuse to convince workers there is no need to bring in a union for representation. Target, the retailer, uses the ploy. Watch the video to see for yourself.

But workers and managers are not equals. Here’s an example of what actually happened when workers try to use such a policy. 23 Cablevision (see its policy above) Brooklyn, NY union workers were fired on Jan. 30.

The workers were CWA (Communications Workers of America, Local 1109) members.

A year ago, Cablevision technicians and dispatchers voted 180-86 to join the CWA. Cablevision raised technicians’ wages to block union organizing. About 300 Cablevision workers became CWA members. However, after the union started to represent workers, the employer refused to bargain in good faith regarding economic issues. Employer refusal to negotiate is an unfair labor practice according to the law (the NLRA). [However, the NLRB which would normally hear such claims has been gutted, neutered, shut down in early 2013.] Cablevision has nothing to fear.

CWA says that Cablevision is shamelessly intimidating workers in NY boroughs other than Brooklyn in addition to locking out and terminating the 23 members who attempted to ask the company executive to explain the bad faith actions.

Cablevision also espouses, but has no intention of acting in accordance with, two relevant “Values”:

1. Fair and respectful treatment
2. Ready access to management

Feel free to contact the Brooklyn Cablevision office at (718) 975-1780 to speak to the director. Ask him why he fired workers for daring to use the “Open Door Policy.”

The CWA Local protested the firings. New York City elected officials — Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn supported the fired workers.

Boasting about having an “Open Door” with no intention of allowing it to be used, with assurances of no retaliation, is not unique to unions. All employers like to boast, but most fail to deliver.

The reality is that few managers have the personal strength and confidence in their own skills to freely exchange ideas with, or to hear disconfirming news from, non-supervisory workers. When an institutional hierarchy is the lens through which a manager views others, only her or his peers are credible. People lower on the org chart are seen as “lesser,” not deserving treatment as equals.

So, feel free to use the Door while if it is ever Open, but don’t let it smack you too hard when it suddenly swings shut.

Tell us about your experiences with an “Open Door.”


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This entry was posted on Saturday, February 9th, 2013 at 12:42 pm and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Unions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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