An open-door policy is literally leaving your office door "open" to your employees.
It is a type of work culture that is being adopted by the growing corporate world. It establishes an environment of trust and mutual respect between the employer and employee.
It is a communication policy that encourages transparency, trust, openness, communication, feedback, and discussion among its managers and employees.
In the words of Harold S. Geneen;
"A true leader has to have a genuine open door policy so that his people are not afraid to approach him for any reason."
Employees or team members at your company need the liberty to walk up to their senior managers whenever they feel needed. It encourages employees at all levels in the hierarchy to take their workplace concerns, suggestions, or questions to their team leaders or managers. It further helps managers and leaders get a clear perspective of everything that is going on in the workplace.
This culture of mutual respect, trust, and open discussion among employees can bring about a change in the outlook on the workplace as a whole.
Have you implemented an open door policy at work? If not, what measures can you take to implement one?
But, before establishing such a culture, you need to know its purpose at the workplace.
The Purpose of an Open-door Policy
The ultimate goal or purpose of an open-door policy is one - i.e., transparency. Transparency at all levels in the chain of command is what it aims for.
When every employee, irrespective of their position in an organization, can have an open discussion and share their opinions with the senior members, a culture of equality and empowerment prevails in the workplace.
Another important purpose is to cut down workplace favoritism.
Workplace favoritism is real, and it can create a very toxic environment for your employees. Even great managers can fall prey to it. Having a culture of transparency and openness allows managers to engage with every employee at the workplace. This results in an unbiased opinion of managers towards their employees.
94 percent of respondents say their company has procedures in place to prevent favoritism in promotions.
Modern organizations today are moving towards a more open management system.
Companies are training managers and human resources about the purpose and how to bring about a culture of equality, openness, and a great work culture altogether.
Open communication between managers and their employees is one of the prime factors. It affects employee morale, satisfaction, and engagement as a whole.
Vlasta Dusil, head of human resources, SAP India, states;
"When senior leaders maintain an open door policy for employees to approach them and have meaningful discussions, it promotes a culture that encourages discussion over an argument. Sharing of information also increases, and speed in making decisions results in delivering better products and services."
Big companies like IBM, Delta Airlines have also implemented the policy as part of their management system. These companies have witnessed a considerable measure of success through the approach.
However, the term "open door" is subject to interpretation. Different companies might implement the policy in different ways and might have varied purposes.
Brian Jones, a principal with Table Consulting Group in Gulf Breeze, Fla, quoted;
"The term 'open door policy' itself is so open to interpretation. Maybe you're just good at spending time with the staff, which is an open door on loafers if you will, and that's part of the point in setting a sincere tone of openness."
Several studies have found that;
When employees can voice their opinions freely and are encouraged to open communication and feedback between managers and employees, organizations see increased retention and higher performance.
So, we can say that the purpose of such a policy serves both the company and employees. It enhances the problem-solving skills of both employees and management.
At a national restaurant chain, managers were able to persuade senior leaders to make improvements. It reduced employee turnover by 32% and saved at least $1.6 million a year.
The organization benefits from shared information and feedback. Employee trust is generated, too, from successful experiences with a broader range of management.
When the policy works, it's a win-win for all participants.
As much as the policy has its benefits, it has some drawbacks too.
Listed below are some of the pros and cons of the open door policy in detail.
The Pros of an Open-door Policy
1. It Encourages Effective Communication Between Employees and Management.
When working, employees are always preoccupied with various suggestions and concerns regarding their work and the workplace. When the manager's door is always open to the employees' concerns, it results in effective communication between them and the management.
A Gallup poll found that managers who received feedback showed 12.5 percent greater productivity.
This also helps management in getting better results, detect work-related problems at an early age, and get a chance to improve them early on.
2. The Policy Helps Employees Who Were Victimized or Harassed in the Workplace.
According to one poll stated by CNBC;
19% of adult Americans claim to have been sexually harassed inside the workplace. 10% being men, and 27% were women.
Sexual harassment or any kind of verbal or physical victimization interferes with employees' work performance. It creates an intimidating, toxic, hostile, or offensive work environment.
An open culture at the workplace is beneficial for welcoming those employees to discuss their concerns. After that, the management can create a safer environment and train managers, supervisors, and employees to prevent sexual assault and abuse.
3. It Prevents Rumors and Confusion in the Workplace.
One of the most toxic things among employees is confusion and rumors about the management and the company.
When employers allow employees to openly communicate with the management, it prevents employees from creating unnecessary confusion and rumors.
Rumors spread like fire. Take steps to prevent it in the first place.
4. It Helps Foster a Culture of Mutual Trust and Collaboration.
A Harvard Business Review survey reveals;
Fifty-eight percent of people say they trust strangers more than their boss.
Open communication within an atmosphere of mutual trust is of prime importance to your employees.
Transparency in communication between the employees and management builds trust and collaboration. It establishes a more loyal worker base and an overall, more productive team.
The Cons of an Open-door Policy
1. An Open Door-policy Can Waste Management's Time and Decline Productivity.
Employees might take long hours from their managers' schedules to vent out their concerns at work. This results in managers not completing their responsibilities and duties on time and an overall productivity decline.
Forbes stated that;
"Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, found that it takes an office worker an average of 25 minutes to return to a task after being interrupted."
Make it clear to your employees that the policy is a problem-solving mechanism. It's designed to help the company run more efficiently -- not an excuse to socialize on company time.
2. Creates Dependency.
Though an open door policy is a problem-solving mechanism between managers and employees, too much of it can make employees too dependent on their managers.
Becoming overly dependent on management can make employees afraid to take decisions and solve problems independently without first running to their managers.
Always leaving the door open can discourage your employees from appropriate bias-to-action and limits the opportunities they need to grow.
3. Disruption of the Chain of Command.
Employees might often violate the chain of command in the name of the policy. This kind of open culture can make employees feel entitled to consistently go beyond their managers or team leaders and reach higher-level executives. It creates distance between employees and their managers with whom they should be working the closest.
The pros and cons can go on and on. It depends on how an organization implements the policy.
Coming back to the question. Have you implemented an open door culture at work?
If not. Here's how to get started.
An open-door culture needs to start with the employee handbook. A successful and productive policy encourages your employees to have open communication with their managers, thus fostering transparency in the company.
But, you also need to set some rules and guidelines for a smooth sail.
You can get started by:
Talking to your employees about the kind of culture that you want to implement at your organization. Gain your employees' trust and support for the process. You can also ask your employees what they want out of the policy and work your way through it.
Setting boundaries can help prevent abuse of the policy. Be clear of the limitations of the policy.
Listening intently to your employees' concerns can build a strong base for your open-door policy. It builds trust. Listen and try to find a solution along with your employee.
Being prepared to take steps for problems that need immediate attention. Concerns like sexual harassment at the workplace or safety issues can create a toxic environment for your employees. These concerns need immediate action.
Keeping track of time can help in implementing an effective policy. Giving long hours to an employee can decrease productivity for both you and your employee. Time is money. Spend it carefully.
Making follow-up plans with your employees is what makes an open door policy successful. It's of no use if those concerns go unaddressed as soon as the employee walks out of your door.
Corporate culture is changing rapidly. Companies are adopting the open door culture for all its benefits, which far outweigh the drawbacks.
The bottom line is that companies want more transparency at all levels in the chain of command.
Now, it's your turn. Weigh out the pros and cons listed above and figure out the kind of policy that works best for your organization.