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Published 06 February 2013 07:12, Updated 10 April 2013 07:40
WiseTech Global’s Richard White says he’s happy to talk to any employee at any time, for any reason. Photo: Fairfax Media
The CEO of logistics software company WiseTech Global, Richard White, has felt the need to remind his people about his “open door” policy.
“Team, there is a rule within the walls of this company: ‘Anyone, can talk to anyone, at anytime, for any reason’ and this means you and me too.
“Please feel free to discuss anything with me, I understand – and I am sure that you all understand – that I [have] limited hours in the day and that I have a lot on, but that does not mean ‘no time for you’.”
White is one of those leaders who understands that honest, direct communication is the only way to run a business properly; seniority should not get in the way of finding out what is going on in the company.
As White says: “Never let anyone say ‘you cannot or should not talk to me, or anyone else’, or ‘you should only go via channels’, or ‘you must (only) speak to your manager’ or anything similar.
“Creative companies need deep and broad communication for all staff always.
“If you know something that I should know, or that someone else should know, tell them.”
He is in good company in his efforts to be open to his staff. The CEO of the India-based software services company HCL Technologies, Vineet Nayar, made his view clear in his book, the controversially-titled: Employees First, Customers Second.
This book laid out his philosophy that happy, empowered workers do work that makes customers happy too.
Nayar once admitted answering 100 emails a day from staff and the communication was published online so that other people with similar concerns or questions could also benefit.
However, not all communication is good and sometimes the openness can be corrupted.
One Australian leader (who I can’t name) was enamoured of his “talk to the boss” email invitation to his thousands of employees. Certainly, it was popular with the staff – many of whom worked in locations a long way from head office.
However, more Machiavellian-types started to use it as a “dob-in” line to accuse their managers and colleagues of having affairs, of petty theft and of poor performance.
It became very difficult to discern which emails to pursue and which were motivated by personal grudges.
Because the staff emails were sent in on an anonymous basis, they were also hijacked by certain executives who wanted more resources for their divisions and pretended to be a staff member struggling with the workload.
Something that started with the best intentions ended up being a highly political exercise in manipulation.
That sort of anonymous communication is probably best left to an outsourced “whistleblower service”.