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What is an open door policy? Should you have one?

In any business setting, open communication is important for a number of reasons. Employees who feel comfortable going to their managers are able to clarify any misunderstandings and confusion before they get out of hand. This not only goes for business and work or project-related issues, but interpersonal relationships within the office as well.

However, in some cases the needs of employees aren't met through their immediate managers or supervisors and they need to go above their manager's head. Companies that have an open door policy will allow them to do so.


What is an open door policy?
An open door policy is one in which employees go to senior management members with a variety of issues, whether it's company policy, ideas, or their own needs and wants. Many times, an open door policy occurs when the employee is having problems with his or her own manager or supervisor and doesn't feel like it can be discussed with them.

Should you have an open door policy?
An open door policy, in theory, is not a bad idea. But there are pros and cons to having one. Before deciding to have (or not have) an open door policy, consider the following pros and cons:

Pros:
 It takes away intimidation factors. If a manager is intimidating, bullying, or otherwise unapproachable, an open door policy gives employees somewhere to go. Left unresolved, these issues often become much more serious.
 Employee trust increases. When employees know there is someone they can go to if their issue with their manager remains unresolved, their overall trust in the company increases.
 The manager's problem solving skills increase. This goes for senior management as well as the employee's direct supervisor, since chances are, the senior manager will encourage the employee to deal directly with the supervisor if they haven't already done so.

There are many pros to an open door policy, but only one that is run effectively. When run ineffectively, or when abused by employees and managers, it can have the following consequences:
 Employees bypass their supervisors and managers. Instead of dealing directly with their managers or supervisors about a problem or issue, it may encourage them to always go above their head, when the problem could in fact have been solved by the supervisors.
 Open door policies take away mid-level managers' opportunities to solve problems. Instead, they possibly enable senior managers to be seen as the problem-solvers at the expense of other managers.
 It creates tension and possible problems. If a manager or supervisor finds out that an employee went over his or her head without first discussing it with them, it may look like the employee was trying to get his or her supervisor in "trouble" and could cause possible conflicts in the future.

Successful open door policies are ones in which the senior manager first makes sure the employee has addressed the issue at hand with his or her direct supervisor first instead of immediately jumping in and tackling the problem. If the employee has not done so, the senior manager should encourage the employee to do so, and then come back if the problem isn't solved.

An open door policy has the potential to be both beneficial and troublesome. If you do decide to implement one, make sure the guidelines are clearly outlined first so employees don't abuse the policy.


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Posted by DF
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