To get to the point, all employees at a company should have the freedom to walk up to their senior managers when they need to discuss something. This policy promotes a culture of openness and supports employees at all ranks of the hierarchy to bring their work-related issues, ideas, or problems to their direct reports or senior managers.
The long term objective is to have managers and senior leadership have a clear idea of major happenings at the workplace. Having open discussions between employees and their managers can lead to a culture of respect, communication, and trust in the workplace. When implemented effectively, open-door policies also help reduce toxicity from employees.
This culture of mutual respect, trust, and open discussion among employees can change the outlook on the workplace as a whole.
Businesses that adopt an open-door policy develop employee trust and engage them. It also allows managers to get useful feedback and information that can be used to improve strategy and decision making. The primary objectives are communication and transparency
Open door policy also allows managers to help reduce allegations or impressions of workplace favouritism. Work-related favouritism is a real issue and can cause a toxic environment to develop quickly. Giving every employee the chance to interact and communicate with their managers allows for better engagement overall and helps to cut down chances of favouritism.
The Role of an Open Door Policy
When a business keeps an open door policy, its employees are free to reach out to their managers and senior leadership. Companies should train managers and executive staff to handle situations that can arise due to an open door policy.
If mishandled, open-door policies can create problems for management. It can appear that certain employees are welcomed to bypass their bosses and tell tales about their colleagues to senior managers. If not handled properly, employees can get the message that they need o reach out to senior management to get decisions made and problems solved.
This is not to say that managers should not listen to employees’ feedback and ideas when the employee reaches out to them. However, suppose the issues discussed are those that the direct manager of the employee could solve. In that case, the manager should refer the employee to their direct report or at the very least discuss why they didn’t take it up with their direct manager.
At times, employees and managers perceive issues and hindrances in communicating with their direct supervisors and have biased assumptions of about how the boss will deal with a situation.
Ensuring that an Open Door Policy Remains Effective
When a manager or senior leader addresses the employee’s issue without involving or routing it through the direct supervisor, responsible and rational problem solving is bypassed. Such a scenario can affect the future flow of communication and work. The employee perceives the direct manager as incompetent or inadequate. In contrast, the direct manager can resent being bypassed by the employee and undermined by their senior management.
In such a situation, the open door policy creates problems and is not being used to its full potential. Open door policies should nurture the relationships between direct managers and their team members. If raised to higher managers, problems should be routed back to the direct line to be solved to prevent such issues.
Similarly, in more fluid structures, many employees will move toward managers from whom they would get a more favourable or tactful response from a manager. A simple rule for all managers should be to confirm (and cross-check) if the issue has been raised to the direct manager and reconfirm with managers why no action has been taken so far.
If the issue and delay are both verified and worth following up on, managers can include the employee and their direct manager and make it a combined discussion to ensure that the matter is addressed adequately.
If the issue is a negative view or a complaint about the direct boss, the issue should be investigated and then addressed according to the findings.
Efficient Tool for Solving Problems
The effective use of an open-door policy allows business leaders to assess what is on the minds of their employees. This can be a useful strategy for teams working on new projects as well as new businesses.
Having front-line employees come back with feedback and suggestions about how effective a plan proves in practice is very useful. This can allow businesses to modify their strategies and save money, time, and resources when done effectively.
Senior managers get to know what is going on with employees through such a policy. There must be no perception of retaliation connected open communication with the managers, or the policy will fail. Using this as a tool in a positive and productive way helps to generate new ideas and solve problems.
The Advantages of an Open-door Policy
1. Promotes communication between employees and management.
2. Such policies help reduce victimization and workplace harassment. An open-door culture is effective for welcoming such employees to discuss their problems.
3. It reduces toxicity, rumours and workplace confusion.
4. It fosters a culture of trust and collaboration.
The Disadvantages of an Open-door Policy
1. Open Door policies can waste management’s time and reduce productivity. Managers spend time listening to and investigating employees’ problems and cannot focus on their own tasks.
2. While open-door policies are a system for reducing problems and improving communication between managers and employees, a too lenient policy can make employees dependent on their managers, which can reduce their ability to take the initiative.
3. Employees can end up breaking the chain of command. This creates distance between employees and their managers with whom they should be working the closest.
The list of advantages and disadvantages can go on and on. It ultimately depends on how any workplace manages the policy.
Corporate culture and the way we work always looks for better and improved variations of policies that assist leaders in managing people well. Companies that adopt an open-door culture can reap all its benefits. This works if they manage it effectively, keeping the potential problems in mind. There are disadvantages, but these are all preventable and are far less than the advantages.
Sadia Zaheer holds a Masters in Business Administration from IBA, Karachi. After working in several financial institutions in Client Management, Corporate Lending, Islamic Banking and Product Management she jumped careers to pursue a career in writing.
She is a Finance, Business and HR Development writer with four years of experience. She reads a lot and takes care of her multiple cats to remain calm.