september 1989

CEOs like to believe they are open to employees' comments and ideas. Whether that's true is often hard to judge, but Rick Johnson, general manager of Vincent Metals, in Springboro, Ohio, doesn't want to leave it to chance. He put a locked box in the lunchroom in which frustrated employees can leave him messages -- he has the only key.

The idea isn't to replace interaction between employees and supervisors. Rather, Johnson explains, "it's a safety valve for people who feel threatened or ignored." During the first six months it was in place, Johnson says, he got just a few messages. But the frequency of use doesn't begin to capture the value, he claims. "It's to show people they have a voice around here, that ev-eryone has a direct link to the top."