An open-door policy is a communications policy that means every manager’s door is open to every employee, even the upper most executives. This gives employees the ability to talk with any manager at any time and makes higher-up management seem more accessible to all levels of employees. Closed doors, though sometimes necessary for confidential matters, can lead to feelings of formality and secretiveness within the business. Human resource experts suggest confidential matters be discussed in a conference room rather than a closed-door meeting in the manager’s office.
Open door policies are viewed as ways to develop employee trust, create transparency within the organization and make sure managers receive important information to make changes in the workplace. It also can make the employee feel as though he or she has a say in future decisions and the ability to solve problems within the company. It can give managers a way to improve their problem-solving skills, develop closer relationships with their employees and help them keep a better pulse on the daily happenings in the company, all of which can improve the organization.
This type of open communication encourages employees and gives them an opportunity to openly express feedback and discuss any matter they feel is important, according to human resource experts.
However, human resource managers warn that an unregulated or unspecified policy can lead to misinterpretation in which organizations are unable to solve problems where they occur because employees bypass their immediate supervisor when there is an issue or complaint they believe needs to be solved.
A business owner who wants to establish an open-door policy should include it in the employee handbook and train managers and other supervisors, as well as employees about how the policy will work. There are correct and incorrect ways to seek open door feedback, and everyone needs to learn how it works.
Generally, the policy is not designed to give employees the feeling they can tattle on their co-workers or boss, but rather they are given an open opportunity to discuss a situation in which they feel as though they might be a barrier preventing them from taking it up with the other person who is involved.
Under the open-door policy, an employee is expected to address any areas of his or her job that is causing concern. This could come in the form of a problem, complaint, suggestion or observation. There is a balance, however. Employees should first discuss most problems with their immediate supervisor and are expected to have done so before they bring up the matter with a higher executive. An open-door policy isn’t a way for an employee to avoid his or her manager or keep them out of the loop about an issue by going over their head. This should be included in the company’s open door policy.
Any business owner who enacts an open-door policy needs to express the expectation to managers that they willingly listen and help create solutions or resolve an employee’s problem, complaint or suggestion. But employees need to understand that most problem-solving will take place where the solution is needed — close to their job and oftentimes back to the employee’s manager for remedy. ♦