I came across an interesting article today about managerial openness to feedback. In it, author Jason Fried talks about the age-old, and most often empty, statement: “My door is always open.”
The take-away is that managers often give their employees an impression of receptiveness by saying they’ll always be available for any questions, concerns or criticism; yet they leave it at that. From then on, the ball remains in the employee’s court.
An “open-door” policy is, as Jason Fried explains, more of a cop-out for managers than anything else. In fact, I would go so far as to say that such a policy makes employees even more reluctant to provide feedback, requiring them to take upon themselves the risk of sporadically interrupting their boss’s day to confront him or her about the issues at hand.
Suggested solution: Proactively solicit feedback from employees on a regular basis.
Legal administrators should pay extra-special attention to the culture of feedback they are fostering in their firms. Employees have opinions and insight about everything surrounding the legal workplace that can be very valuable in creating a successful firm; the state of client relationships, reasons for leaving or staying, and the general vibe around the office.
While it’s important to solicit healthy feedback, it’s just as vital (if not more so) to take the time to address it. Giving your employees a voice is one thing, but failing to hear them can be a detrimental mistake.
Consider the following benefits:
- Responses encourage open communications which encourage feedback, in a self-feeding cycle
- Responding to feedback instills trust across the organization
- Productivity is boosted when employees can see that their input creates output
- Critical assignments move faster when concerns are addressed
- Turnover is lower and buy-in is higher when employees believe their managers “care”
- Frustrated employees often waste time venting with their co-workers
- A non-response makes employees think no one notices if they contribute or not
- Stress increases the number of sick days taken and healthcare costs – Paul Baribeau
Creating a safe-to-speak-up atmosphere can unlock a wealth of information that legal administrators can use to improve their workplace culture. Employee engagement can also benefit greatly from more open lines of communication.
The challenge is finding the right tools to implement that kind of culture and sustain it. The reward is a happier, more engaged workforce, which in turn creates a strong backbone for a successful and more profitable law firm.
Rich is Founding Partner of ModernThink LLC, a strategic organizational development and management consulting firm that focuses on workplace excellence.