3 Easy Steps to Establishing an Open Door Policy That Really Works
No matter how big or small your organization is, you cannot make progress if your employees are not able to speak their minds and they feel undervalued and uncomfortable.
It is imperative for both the new and experienced managers to take necessary measures to enable their employees to express their feelings and opinions as well as feel highly valued and happy.
This is only possible if you strive to create an open-door policy in your workplace.
I am pretty sure every one of you is already familiar with the open-door policy.
Some managers employ this strategy to make themselves easily approachable to the employees to foster better communication throughout the organization, from top to bottom and vice versa.
What actually is open-door policy and how it benefits your company or organization? What you can do, as a business leader or manager, to implement this policy effectively?
We try to answer these questions in the following lines.
Jonathan Byham explains what an open-door policy is in his video.
OPEN-DOOR POLICY: THE DEFINITION
You may have already guessed what an open-door-policy is. It literally means keeping your doors open to employees and making them speak their heart and mind out in front of you.
In figurative terms, it is the policy employers and managers adopt to encourage their employees to approach them at any time and discuss their problems, issues, and questions with them without any hesitation.
Another purpose of implementing this policy is to make them feel comfortable and an integral part of the organization so they can keep on working wholeheartedly and diligently.
Implementing an open-door policy in your office means any employee, regardless of his designation or position, can directly approach a senior manager or even the owner by bypassing his direct supervisor.
In theory, the employee can avoid the bureaucratic tape which usually delays or even prevents the problems from being resolved.
There are many things an employee may directly want to talk to you about such as.
- Process improvements
- Suggestions and feedbacks
- Questions and clarifications
- Safety concerns
- Concerns with management
- Professional conflict with direct supervisor
- Unprofessional or abusive behavior of the colleagues or supervisors
The best way to make your open-door policy effective is to honestly explain it to your employees.
Some managers often take the meaning of open-door literally.
They keep their office doors open as long as it is feasible to do so.
OPEN-DOOR POLICY IN THE MILITARY
Some top militaries around the world have successfully implemented the open-door policy in their ranks.
It is necessary for commanders to devise and establishes an open-door-policy at the unit level.
This policy encourages and enables soldiers to raise and discuss their issues with their direct commanders first.
It is also mandatory for the commanders to explain their open-door-policy to their respective commands.
Soldiers, on the other hand, are required to work together and resolve their problems at the lowest level before taking the issues to higher-ranked officers.
BENEFITS OF OPEN-DOOR POLICY
There are many benefits of the open-door policy.
In some companies, it is obligatory for managers to have an open-door policy because of these benefits.
Some of these advantages are as below.
Managers are easily approachable to the employees.
As a result, employees have more access to higher management and they can reach them without any fear or hesitation.
Sometimes, the issues aggravate to the point where an employee has no option but to quit the job.
But in case of an open-door policy, he knows he can always discuss his issues with his managers and they can resolve the problem by working together.
Employees also consider the policy as a platform to deliver feedback, give vent to their issues and make suggestions.
The following chart clearly indicates that communication is the most important skill for candidates looking to find a new job.
Promoting Exchange of Ideas
One of the biggest benefits of the open-door strategy is that it promotes the exchange of ideas.
Even the lower levels of employees know they can share their ideas with higher management without worrying about their place or position in the organization.
This type of communication and employee engagement can lead to enhanced creativity and innovation.
Evan Carmichael believes idea sharing is among the top three components of a successful business plan. Watch the following video to gain some knowledge from his ideas.
Talking about creativity and innovation, employees can come up with some really unique ideas if you give them the freedom to make suggestions to their managers and department heads.
Employees feel valued and believe they have more say in their jobs when you provide them with easy access to higher management.
Their engagement level with the company skyrockets, considerably increasing employee retention and decreasing the turnover.
Talent Guard presents 6 Steps to Improving Employee Retention in the following video.
Both employees and managers tend to perform better when the information flows freely to both sides.
Similarly, the open-door policy also improves overall productivity as everyone spends less time on speculating what is happening in the company and more time on actually performing their duties.
Another benefit of the open-door policy is that it strengthens the relationships between employees and their managers. As a result, everyone feels he is a vital part of the team.
Both employees and managers feel connected to each other.
This does not only improve teamwork but can also lead to long-lasting relationships and friendships.
Last but not least: the open-door policy also improves employees’ morale because they can come to you or freely with their ideas and concerns.
The obvious outcome is that you have more engaged employees who perform better and contribute highly to the business as a team.
As a matter of fact, any of these employees can unearth the next big gem of an idea for your organization.
However, you will never uncover it if they don’t feel safe and comfortable enough to discuss it with you.
DISADVANTAGES OF THE OPEN-DOOR POLICY
There are many demerits of the open-door policy as well. For example, it does not guarantee to fix all the problems, especially if you formulate it in haste without giving it a good long thought.
In fact, tossing such a policy without any thorough planning will create more problems than resolving them.
Barry Philips believes it is time to ditch the open-door policy in the workplace.
Listen to what he has to say in his TED Talk.
A poorly invented open-door policy can create a rift between employees and their direct supervisors, adversely affecting their performance.
Similarly, you can end up wasting valuable time if the employee is not happy even after meeting with you.
The worst thing about an open-door policy is that the employees will become even more secretive if it does not yield the desired results.
The open-door policy may also enforce established hierarchies.
After all, it is you, the manager, who has the door and of course, the power to close it.
Your employees can never have this power and they are fully aware of it.
Similarly, you are also unequivocally asserting the notion that they have to come to your turf to discuss their problems, inadvertently underpinning your upper hand.
This clearly sends your employees a message that you are in command and they are just subordinates
Some managers just apply the open-door policy but never mean to practically implement it.
They despise the employees who break the chain of command and directly approach them to get their problems fixed.
After all, there are managers who consider themselves superior to others in every aspect simply based on their position in the company.
On the other hand, some managers just don’t like their employees to bother them with their questions and suggestions. They also do not appreciate hearing feedback as well.
John Higgins and Megan Reitz state business leaders must understand the power dynamics at play in their organization.
However, they also have to strive to encourage their employees to fearlessly speak their mind.
They explain in their essay, published in The Harvard Business Review, that managers can develop a culture in which everyone has the freedom to provide feedback and suggestions to senior management without implementing the open-door policy.
Some other disadvantages of an open-door-policy are as under.
- Employers may appear uninterested in whatever the employees have to say if they are highly distracted or too busy.
- Favoritism can run rampant in the organization if there is too much socializing and oversharing between employees and managers.
- Employees cannot learn how to solve their problems using their own skill and resources if they rely too heavily on managers. This usually leads to loss of productivity and a decline in performance.
- Employees fail to give their best if the managers share the information unevenly or inappropriately among them.
Open-door policies have been around for decades now.
However, organizations have not been able to maximize the advantages of such policies due to various reasons.
Some companies don’t manage to take any advantage of them at all.
How, you as a manager, make maximum use of the open-door policy and reaps its benefits while encountering its possible shortcomings?
3 EASY STEPS TO ESTABLISHING AN EFFECTIVE OPEN-DOOR POLICY
The following are the 3 easy steps to establishing an effective open-door policy that produces the results you want.
1. Set Rules and Regulations
It is important for you to fully comprehend what is going on with your employees and what they are up to. But, you do not want to micromanage your team or turn into a counselor as well.
So, how do you communicate with your employees that you are only available for meaningful discussions, not for chit chats and gossips?
The first role in establishing a successful open-door policy is clear and effective communication.
You can clearly deliver your message to your employees through following gestures or symbols.
- You can approach me with work-related issues if the door is open without any appointment. Make an appointment or find time from my schedule if the door is closed.
- In the case of an emergency, such as if an employee meets an accident while working on the machine, you can immediately come looking for me if I am not in my office. However, knock at my door if it is closed and I am in my office.
- Ponder how to solve the issue at your end before reaching out to me. Figure out whether or not you can solve it yourself. If you think you require my help, be ready to answer some questions such as:
- Does this issue concern only you or other members of the team and departments as well?
- Do you have 2-3 ideas about how to resolve this problem or not?
- Have you discussed the problem with your line manager or not?
Another thing you can do is to set some office hours, ideally before and after the team meetings, to listen to the requirements and problems of your employees.
It could especially be beneficial for you if you are a busy manager and find it difficult to set apart some time for your team members.
Frequent meetings and interruptions can reduce your productivity.
What you can do is to schedule a one-on-one meeting with each of your employees once a week instead of spending time with them daily.
2. Always Pay Attention to What Your Employees Say
Another prerequisite of an effective and successful open-door policy is that you pay attention to whatever your employees have to say or complain about.
Try not to receive calls or let anything else such as emails and other people distract you during the meeting.
Carl Rogers explains why it is important to reflect back the meanings and feelings of your employees to express the understanding of their meaning.
Also, recap everything in order in front of him or her to make sure you fully understand the issue at hand. If not, ask him to repeat his problem and explain it in more detail if possible.
Some managers are just indifferent to their employee’s concerns, which lead to more complications in the future. You must not do that.
You must listen to him carefully and try your best to resolve the problem because his frustration may be hiding a genuine issue.
Something is definitely wrong if an employee regularly comes back to you with a recurring issue. You need to address his problem as soon as possible otherwise it can erupt into something much bigger which you may not able to control.
You can acknowledge the pattern to give him some confidence and even ask him to present a solution if he has any.
Sometimes, you can keep endless meetings and disruptions at bay by driving the conversation towards solutions.
It is always beneficial to encourage employees to find their own solutions before approaching you.
Only if they are unable to cope with the issue that you should come to their aid.
Keep in mind that not every person is a natural problem solver.
Some people are not used to using their brain or they do not think in terms of solutions.
You can teach such employees to rely on their own resources and skills by walking them through the decision making the process.
3. Your Time is Valuable
One of the most important components of a well-placed open-door policy is the time, both yours and your employees.
You will only undermine your ability to lead and the productivity of your team by indulging in frequent meaningless meetings and interruptions.
You should strive to resolve any problem which is brought to your table the first time while observing your own boundaries and remaining within the parameters of your company. You actually set up your team for the highest level of success by fixing problems at the earliest.
Involving your employees in the decision making process further enhance their ability to resolve problems on their own, saving a lot of precious time and the company’s resources.
Here are some other tips for establishing a successful open-door-policy
- Express your concern for every problem your employee is facing. However, it is better to involve human resource in the matter if the employee requires significant personal support.
- Also, take care of appearance. You can create a perception of favoritism or give rise to gossips if you have frequent closed-door meetings with the same employee, especially someone from the opposite gender.
- You should not compromise on your own productivity as it counts too. If you feel the problem needs an in-depth discussion with everyone involved, schedule a meeting for a later date instead of wasting your entire day.
To sum up, you should only put an open-door policy in place if you really need it. Gone are the days when you would sit in your office all day with its door closed.
Today, managers are required to be fully engaged with their team members and have a total understanding of what is behind their productivity or lack of it.
You can actually help your employees find out what their hurdles are and how to overcome them by being a caring and open-door manager.
It is the only way you can win the confidence, trust, and loyalty of your employees.
Are there any other tips or suggestions managers can use to establish a successful open-door policy?
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