skip to main content

Open Door Policy

Do you have an “open-door” policy?

Open Door Policy

An open-door policy means, literally, that every manager’s door is open to every employee. The purpose of an open-door policy is to encourage open communication, feedback, and discussion about any matter of importance to an employee.

When a company has an open-door policy, employees are free to talk with any manager at any time. They are also free to approach or meet with the senior leadership of the organization. They do not need to worry about only discussing concerns, asking questions, or making suggestions in their own chain of command.

Companies adopt an open-door policy to develop employee trust and to make certain that important information and feedback reach managers who can utilize the information to make changes in the workplace.

An open-door policy is normally a part of the employee handbook.

Problems with an Open-Door Policy

I have an open-door policy.  If the door to my office is open, anyone is welcome to come in and talk to me.  If it’s closed, I’m busy.

Technically, I am following the ideals of corporate open-door policy—encourage communication, feedback, and discussion.

As a practical matter, however, my open-door policy, and open-door policies, in general, do not achieve what they intend.

First of all, managers are not sitting in their office waiting for an employee to come in and talk.  For me, I’m just as busy when the door is open as when it is closed; the only difference is the door is closed when I dealing with fairly sensitivity information.

So, when an employee wants to talk, they knock on a manager’s door and enter their office.  Good managers will stop what they are working on, change their train of thought, and focus on the employee.  Most managers, unfortunately, will simply give half their attention to the employee and continue to think about what they were working on before being interrupted.

Of course, you could require employees to make appointments, but that defeats the intent of open-door policies and open communications.  When employees need to talk, they need to talk the minute they are ready, not at some future scheduled time.

For open-door policies to work, managers need to be trained, so when they are approached by an employee, they put everything on hold and make the employee the most important issue of the moment.

Second, most open-door policies are simply that—the manager’s door is open for business; whoever wants to come in, come on.  There is no encouragement nor culture developed to let employees know how and why the door is open.  A manager’s door is opened, so what?

Managers need to continuously let employees know they are available for the employees, not just in the manager’s office, but anywhere they need to meet where they feel safe to engage in an open conversation.

Finally, the concept of an open door policy sounds like the employee must come to meet their manager.  It is encumbered on the employee to meet their manager, and that apparently all is well if no employees come forward.

Communication is two-way.  If managers are not hearing from their employees, they need to go to the employees.  In fact, the mangers may learn more about their operations if they would spend time on the front lines of the organization shoulder to shoulder with the men and women they are charged which managing.

The Bible

God has an open-door policy.  Revelations 3:20 says.

 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

The difference between the corporate world’s open-door policy and God’s is that He is knocking at our door.  He wants to help us.  He wants to have a conversation with us, get our feedback, and enter into a discussion about our problems.

We don’t have to go looking for God; He is always there ready for us.  And whatever our problems are, we will have His full attention and know unquestionably that He is concerned about our well-being.  We know he loves us.

As managers and entrepreneurs, we all need an open-door policy.  But our open-door policy needs to follow the example set by God, where we walk out our door and go to our employees.