Why You Might Need to Work Harder to Earn Compliance
Experienced managers would tell you that dealing with Problem Workers is one of the most significant sources of the stress they experience at work. If you just said “Hey, they stress me out too!” then one thing you can do to reduce worker resistance is to implement an “Open Door Policy”, which is:
A communication policy in which a manager, CEO, president or supervisor leaves their office door “open” in order to encourage openness and transparency with the employees of that company.
Whether you actually have an office door or not, the concept remains the same – show your workers respect, honesty and commitment to reasonably act on their feedback and they will comply with your direction in kind. But before you go about offering your own “Open Door Policy”, let’s first take a look at why they work in the first place.
This approach works because it gives all workers the ability to speak their mind and contribute to daily operating policies and, in affect, the long-term health and well-being of the company. It establishes a culture of trust, respect, and openness and makes even the most resistant employee compliant due to the fact that each one is able to share their thanks or displeasure openly without fear of retribution. Resistant workers tend to respond best to these policies because it gives them an official outlet to share their opinions and feel like part of the solution.
Resistance is “the degree to which a person may disregard authority and be resistant to feedback.” In practical terms, it is the driving force behind why one or several of your employees will get tense when given direction, question decisions made by their direct superiors, and complain about company policy and/or management decisions when they’re not around. If your parents have ever told you “Because I said so!”, you’ll understand fully why just saying “no” does not always always inspire compliance in your workers.
A high level of resistance in front-line workers can lead to them cutting corners when their boss is not looking. Supervisors or managers can be resistant also, such as in cases when workers are directed to act against known corporate or government policy. For example, an Ontario company failed to train their employees in the use of fall protection equipment and did not provide said equipment to workers on the job. One of these workers fell from a roof, suffered paralysis, and led to the supervisor earning 45 days in jail and the company getting a $75,000 fine from Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety administration.
Communication is paramount to getting highly resistant workers to buy in to corporate policy and supervisor direction. Supervisors needs to be honest, sincere, and take action on feedback they receive from workers on a regular basis. Even something as simple as providing a detailed explanation of why the worker’s ideas can’t be implemented can earn compliance because it shows respect and builds trust through honesty. These types of conversations are more well received once an “Open Door Policy” is established.
How to Implement an Effective Open Door Policy
Now that you understand why the “Open Door Policy” works, especially on resistant workers, it’s time to apply this understanding to creating your own. It is easier than you think and can be established in three simple steps:
Step 1: Measurable Goals
In order to know your program is successful, you must first establish what success looks like. For example, if your ultimate goal is to earn compliance from specific people, you might set a qualitative goal of receiving feedback from your least compliant employees. If your goal is more broad and long-term, you might want to look at quantifiable objectives, like number of suggestions provided, number of implementations as a result of feedback, or cost savings/revenue generated from employee suggestions. The goals are yours and should shape your decisions in each of the next 4 steps.
Step 2: Feedback Methodology
Select a method for open and honest communication that suits your company culture as it is now rather than how you hope it to be. If there is a low level of trust and/or a clear divide between workers and supervisors in your organization, you might want to try something non-threatening like an anonymous suggestion box. On the other end of the spectrum, where workers and supervisors regularly work like a team and already have a base level of communication and trust, you could try literally opening your door to workers so that they can give feedback to you directly.
Step 3: Conflict Resolution
Taking feedback is important, but acting on it will cement the effectiveness of your program. Establish a practical way for implementing qualified suggestions and providing constructive responses and explanations to others that cannot be implemented for any reason. With workers that are more highly resistant, these explanations should include the reasons why their suggestion will not be acted upon so that they know their voice has been heard and can form their own reasons for complying.
Step 4: Documentation & Communication
If a tree falls down in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? You’ve heard this before. Now apply it to your policy. Write down everything you had established in Steps 1 & 2 in clear and concise language and post it in places where every single employee can see. This could be a framed document on the wall in a hallway or room that every employee passes. It could also be through a company email program, intranet, or website. Just make sure that every employee knows that the policy exists and that there are clear instructions for how to act on it.
Step 5: Monitor and Improve
Very few programs are perfect the first time around, but typically require tweaks and improvement along the way to achieve established goals. Look at who’s providing feedback, or more importantly – who is not! What types of suggestions are you receiving and do they match initial expectations? What, if anything, is holding back the most resistant workers from sharing their feedback? The answers to these questions will dictate the evolution of your “Open Door Policy” if you want it to be a success.
Earning compliance from Problem Workers is always going to be a significant challenge. Hopefully you will have success in implementing your own “Open Door Policy” so that this challenge is minimized at worst and completely resolved at best. One key thing to remember when resolving your people-related challenges is that each and every person on your team is an individual, with different beliefs, hopes, dreams, and plans. Treat them as such and you’ll enjoy long-term success that leads to a happier and more productive life for you and your team!