Have you ever been in a work environment and had an urgent question for your supervisor, only to find his or her door closed when you need an immediate answer? Maybe you’ve learned some important information you need to share with your manager right away, but you’re not sure if it’s okay to knock on his or her door. These types of situations can leave employees frustrated and feeling disconnected. This leads to a negative work environment, according to Paychex.
On the flip side, what would it be like to have a great idea that you wanted to review with your immediate boss, and his or her door is wide open? You could just walk right up and starting sharing. That’s a refreshing idea. And that type of scenario is becoming more common in the workplace every day. It’s called an ‘open-door policy‘ and more and more companies are finding the benefits of leaving their managers’ doors open.
What Is an Open Door Policy?
So what does an open door policy consist of? According to Management Study Guide, an open door policy means the managers’ or supervisors’ office doors must be open in order to allow employees easy access whenever they have questions or they need to discuss matters of importance. That means anyone on the team has the ability to walk up to their superiors’ offices (including the CEO’s office) and discuss issues with them in an open manner. So, no matter the issue, employees should feel like they’re able to communicate openly and honestly with their supervisors or managers.
Why Having an Open Door Policy Matters
But why does having an open door policy matter? Do employees really need to have open access to their managers whenever they feel like it? Things are much different in today’s work environment. It’s no longer acceptable for managers to come to work, close their office doors, and avoid all contact with their teams, unless they need to reprimand them. That is counterproductive to any work environment. When employees feel left out or isolated from their leaders, they don’t feel a connection to them. This can lead to less trust and respect, which leads to less productivity.
Conversely, when employees feel free to speak with their managers openly, they can develop a sense of trust in them. They know they can share ideas, ask questions and receive support and direction whenever they need it. This builds their trust and confidence in their managers, which leads to more respect. It also helps build their own self-confidence and their desire to always do their best. When employees feel a desire to perform at their highest level, this improves the company’s success rate.
How an Open Door Policy Should Work
So how should your open door policy work? There are certain guidelines to keep in mind, according to The Balance Careers. For starters, employees should first communicate with their immediate supervisors, even if they don’t feel like that person can help them or that they will know the answer. If employees bypass their direct managers and go straight to the next level manager, this can undermine the immediate manager’s authority, which is counterproductive. Instead, if employees attempt to bypass an immediate manager, the executive should refer employees back to their direct supervisor first. If the immediate manager can’t resolve the issue, then it can be brought to the next level.
Ultimately, you want your employees to trust and respect their direct supervisors and go to them first. There is one possible exception. If an employee has a personal issue with his or her immediate supervisor, then he or she could go to the next level of management first. However, the senior manager should strongly consider having the employee try to resolve the issue personally with the immediate manager first. If the problem cannot be resolved, then the senior manager can step in.
The Benefits of an Open Door Policy
There are many benefits to having an open door policy in the workplace, according to an article on Forbes.com. Here are just a few:
1. Better Working Relationships – when people are free to communicate with managers it creates a more open and friendlier environment. When leaders are more engaged with those they lead, everyone feels more committed to the company and their work. This makes for better working relationships and friendships.
2. Improved Communication – communication is vital to every organization. When you have an open door policy your entire organization experiences better communication. People share ideas and insights and everyone works together for the common goal. Employees understand their roles better and miscommunication is reduced, if not eliminated.
3. Quicker Access to Information – important information can travel faster with open doors. When employees need to share something urgent they can easily do so without being met with a closed door. This helps everyone in the company learn what they need to know faster, which is vital, especially in fast-paced industries.
4. Greater Accessibility – when leaders are easily accessible, employees feel more comfortable stopping by to talk, whether it’s important company business, or just a quick informal chat about life. This sense of accessibility helps employees feel like their managers care about them as people and that they’re important to the organization.
5. Enhanced Understanding – having an open door policy allows managers to better understand their employees and what they’re dealing with. This can help spawn new ideas, cultivate current ideas, and increase future interactions and success.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are some cases when having an open door policy might not be the best. For example, you might need to speak with an employee about a personal issue. Or, you maybe you need to share private company information that needs to remain private. Obviously, you don’t want the rest of the office to hear these conversations. In those situations, you could close the door. However, the better practice is to meet with an individual in a private conference room. This helps reinforce the open door policy, but allows you to keep personal and private things confidential.
You can make these exceptions part of your open door policy rules. Just make sure you make the rules clear to everyone, so there is no confusion. The last thing you want is to create a feeling of inequality amongst your employees. By making the rules clear to everyone, this lowers the chance of someone being offended or assuming something that isn’t true. This helps keep everyone on the same level, which helps build more trust and satisfaction in the workplace.
Create Your Own Open Door Policy
In order to effectively manage a team, everyone needs to feel comfortable speaking to their manager in an open forum without fear of repercussions. This is becoming the norm in today’s work environment. If you’re ready to create and implement an open door policy for your company, then keep these tips in mind. There is no one size-fits-all method to establishing an open door policy. Consider your organization’s needs and how you can best build your employees connection with you and your company leaders. As you create and implement your own open door policy you will find greater trust and connectivity, better communication, improved relationships, and overall greater success.