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The Open Door Policy: Fostering a Culture of Transparency and Trust


Employee Management

The Open Door Policy: Fostering a Culture of Transparency and Trust

The "Open Door" policy encourages employees to bring their concerns and ideas to their managers and leaders. It promotes open communication, transparency, and inclusiveness in the workplace in a bid to create a more collaborative and productive work environment, where employees feel heard and valued.

January 24, 2023
min read
January 24, 2023
8 min read
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In today’s work environment, organizations need to be aware of what is happening and how their employees are faring in the workplace. More importantly, employees would want management that understands their expectations. Statistics show that 74% of employees say they're effective when they feel heard. All of these issues revolve around open door policy in the workplace.

What does the open-door policy mean? What are its benefits and drawbacks? How do you even establish yourself in the workplace? This post answers some of the questions about an open-door policy.

What is an Open Door Policy at Work?

Open door policy refers to a management practice whereby leaders and other managerial members of an organization leave their doors open for employees to bring up their concerns, opinions, ideas, and feedback. The fundamental purpose of having an open-door policy in the workplace is to enhance communication and transparency across all organizational levels. In return, it helps establish a culture of trust and mutual respect between employees and their managers or employer.

Why does it matter to have an open-door policy anyway? Communication between managers and their team members is a vital factor that directly and indirectly affects employee morale, engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. Above all, an open-door policy creates an environment whereby employees can approach their seniors to have meaningful discussions.

What are the Benefits of having an Open Door Policy in the workplace?

Some of the benefits or advantages of having a healthy open-door policy at work:

1. It encourages effective communication between employees and management

Effective communication is an essential tool in the workplace. A healthy open-door policy is one way to establish two-way communication between employees and management. Subsequently, effective communication in the workplace helps mitigate conflicts, improve employee engagement, and result in a more productive workforce. It will also promote better work relationships.

2. It helps address employee concerns on time

An open-door policy offers employees more accessibility to management, allowing them to quickly air their concerns and opinions. On the other hand, managers can easily come up with resolutions to problems on time.

3. It helps establish a culture of mutual trust

An open-door policy creates an excellent environment that accommodates a direct question-answer dialogue between workers and their seniors, fostering trust and commitment to an organization.

4. It helps creates a healthy work environment

As outlined above, an open-door policy fosters effective communication, mutual trust, and timely conflict resolution. These are also vital elements needed to create a healthy work environment. Consequently, it helps employees remain productive.

5. It helps reduce employee turnover

Employees often leave a good organization if they don't get along with their managers. They may also go if they lack a channel to air their concerns or opinions. However, an open-door policy creates an environment where employees can openly communicate with their immediate supervisors. As a result, there will be reduced employee turnover. A study showed that encouraging employees to share their opinions and concerns reduced employee turnover by 32%.  


What are the Disadvantages of an Open Door Policy?

Like many policies, an open-door policy in the workplace also has disadvantages. Here are some of the challenges likely to occur:

1. It may make employees depend on managers

An open-door policy allows employees easy access to management and enhances communication. However, employees may take advantage of it and become over-dependent on their managers to run every idea or make decisions. Consequently, such relationships in the workplace overwhelm the management and undermine employees’ sense of accountability.

2. It stresses management, thus causing inefficiency

If employees are all over the management every time to vent their concerns, it may quickly fill up managers’ schedules. As a result, managers may only attend to other responsibilities if they spend less trying to solve employee issues. Additionally, it exposes them to quick burnout, which reduces their work productivity.

3. It may disrupt the chain of command

With an open-door policy in place, it’s easy for employees to disrupt the chain of command since they feel entitled to go beyond their immediate managers or team leader to reach higher executives. It may undermine a company’s procedure unless employees do it when they want to complain about their immediate supervisor or don’t trust them.


How to Establish an Open Door Policy that Works

As you can see, an open-door policy can be significant to a business and its employees if implemented correctly. Conversely, it can easily cause challenges, especially if misused. Here are practices (rules and guidelines) for establishing or creating an effective open-door policy at work:

1. Set specific parameters/limits

Establishing an open-door policy without parameters can affect the management’s efficiency and productivity. Therefore, it’s good for management to set specific limits that serve them and the team members under them to prevent possible abuse of the policy.

For instance, an organization may schedule weekly meetings whereby employees and managers have a one-to-one dialogue. Also, the manager may encourage team members to book appointments rather than knocking on their office whenever an issue is not an emergency.

2. Be careful with time

Endless and random interruptions will easily compromise management’s and employees’ time and productivity. A leader should respond to employees’ concerns effectively and as soon as possible. This helps avoid wasting time on the same issue over and over again.

3. Encourage upward communication

In an open culture, employees will likely bypass the chain of command. Therefore, it’s good that organizations provide channels encouraging upward workplace communication.

4. Always listen intently

Managers can build trust and a solid base for open-door policy by listening intently to employee concerns. Employees should know that their employers hear them. One way of achieving this is by letting employees speak without interruption or discouragement, engaging them, and taking action.

5. Follow-up plans are vital

Another effective way to make an open-door policy successful is by following up on raised issues. Employees expect to see their leaders’ efforts to solve problems affecting them.  

If a concern is not addressed, there is a possibility it will reoccur. Even worse, employees may feel unappreciated, unsatisfied, and unengaged, leading to high employee turnover.


Bottom line

Open door policy is one relevant element of establishing a solid organizational culture that fosters collaboration between employees and management. More importantly, it creates a conducive environment for open communication, allowing employees to air out challenges or concerns they may face in the workplace. However, setting certain limits helps prevent employees or managers from abusing the open-door policy.

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Workpay is a HR and Payroll software company that offers time & attendance, payroll, human resource, leave, expenses and remote teams solutions to businesses across Africa.

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