The IBM ‘Open Door’ Program at the Service of Human Resource Management

Posted: 13 Apr 2010

See all articles by Alice Le Flanchec

Alice Le Flanchec

Université de Metz (IAE)

Jacques R. Rojot

Université Paris II - Panthéon-Assas

Date Written: June 15, 2009


This paper deals with alternative dispute resolution in labour relations within the French context. By contrast with the United States and Canada, mediation and arbitration are rarely used in France for resolving individual or collective labour relations disputes. It is therefore interesting to study such a voice procedure in labour relations in France. This is illustrated by an empirical study of the French subsidiary of the IBM corporation. We focus our attention on the IBM “open door” policy that allows an employee who considers that he or she has been treated unfairly to formally request an executive manager to look at his or her grievance and potentially provide redress. A quantitative statistical analysis of 203 respondents shows that the “open door” favours procedural justice and equity within the company. However, the open door policy raises worries and anxiety among employees. Some of them might be afraid that the executive manager would decide the issue in favour of management. Some employees might also feel that using the open door policy could slow down the pace of their career. Opinion is also mixed as to the weight of custom and practice.

The study also shows the importance of information and communication with employees in fostering positive attitudes to the program and reducing their fears. Indeed, the better informed people are about the “open door” policy, the more confidence they show in the procedure, and the greater the perceived impact on procedural justice. Consequently, according to our study, using an internal mediation or arbitration process is all the more interesting in that it can help to build a sense of equity among employees who increasingly demand recognition and respect, as well as “voice” (according to Hirschman, 1970).

Keywords: arbitration, mediation, alternative dispute resolution, justice

JEL Classification: J52, M12

Suggested Citation

Le Flanchec, Alice and Rojot, Jacques R., The IBM ‘Open Door’ Program at the Service of Human Resource Management (June 15, 2009). Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations, Vol. 64, No. 2, 2009, Available at SSRN:

Alice Le Flanchec (Contact Author)

Université de Metz (IAE) ( email )

Ile du Saulcy
57045 Metz, cedex 1

Jacques R. Rojot

Université Paris II - Panthéon-Assas ( email )

12 place du Pantheon
Paris cedex 06, 75231

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