Taking the Open-Door Policy Seriously


By M. Michele Milheim

Last fall I interviewed with many different firms, trying to find one at which I could feel at home. Every firm had its own unique culture and threw out catch phrases to describe the culture. When I interviewed with Schneider Downs, I talked with a manager, a shareholder, and some members of the staff. The shareholder emphasized that the firm maintained an open-door policy. He explained that he and all the higher-ups at the firm welcomed employees to come talk to them if they had any questions. Now most prospective interns and new hires may just have been impressed by this policy and left it at that. But I accidently put this concept to the test after I accepted an offer to intern with the firm.

During my first week at Schneider Downs, I was assigned to an audit that was nearly finished up. The manager ran out of assignments I could help with, leaving me with no work left. I did not like the idea of doing nothing, but had no idea how I could go about getting more work to do. In a moment of inspiration, I emailed the mentor HR assigned to me. She explained that I could walk around the office and ask the seniors if they needed help. At the time I did not really understand who seniors were and thought that they were senior managers. I also did not entirely understand how the offices and desks were set up. Feeling excited with the prospect of a new assignment, I walked right into one of the outside offices (which I assumed belonged to a senior manager) and told the office’s inhabitant that I was one of the new intern and that I was looking for work to do. He looked at me for a moment, and after a brief conversation, told me he would call me back in when he assembled some work for me to do. After I sat back down at my touchdown station I looked up the person I had just met. When I saw that he was a shareholder, I became worried that I had done something wrong. All I could think was: it is my first week on the job and I committed a major faux pas. When the shareholder called me back into his office, I apologized for coming to him. He simply laughed and said that I had not done anything wrong. Everyone here, he said, is laid back. Then he explained the assignment he was giving me and sent me off on my way.

That day left a huge impression on me. The shareholder’s action showed me that employees of all levels at Schneider Downs truly have respect for one another. All my interactions with other employees continue to reinforce this concept. Even though I had no audit background and was an intern, every higher-up I did work for genuinely appreciated my assistance and was very helpful. Schneider Downs fosters an inclusive culture and truly takes its open-door policy seriously.

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