| 28 May, 2020 | 5 Min Read

5 best practices for open-door policy leadership

Know the factors that hinder the success of many companies’ open-door policies. In addition, get the best practices successful companies used to make their open-door policy successful.

Effective communication between managers and employees plays a significant role in the successful running of a business. But difficulties in the form of the organizational hierarchy may prevent such communication from happening. To resolve this issue, innovative companies implement an open-door policy in their work environment.

An open-door policy is a communication policy a company enacts to encourage open communication in their organization. With this policy, employees can feel free to ask questions or openly communicate issues affecting them. This policy is designed to promote employee trust and make sure feedback reaches managers who then use it to make changes or improvements.

However, the open-door policy only works if it is implemented in the right way. To help companies get the best out of this policy, we have put together this article on the best practices for an effective open-door policy. But before that, let us look at the reasons some companies’ open-door policy fails.


Factors preventing the success of the open-door policy

The open-door policy may fail if not well put together. Here are the reasons many companies’ open-door policy are not effective:

  • Fear of repercussions: One major obstacle to the success of the policy is that many employees are afraid to speak up. According to Forbes, employees don't feel free to share important information with senior managers due to fear of punishment.
  • Not a literal open door: Many managers do not really understand how open-door policies work. They think implementing open-door policy leadership means their door has to be open all the time leading to constant distraction and interruption. As a result, such managers may have problems performing their duties effectively.
  • Dependence: An open-door policy may fail if the employees become too dependent on their managers for solutions. Instead of making tough decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions, employees will start depending on their team leaders for directions. This will impede such an employee’s development.
  • Abuse of policy: Ambitious employees may see the open-door policy as a means for them to impress managers. Using policy privilege, such employees might seek to disparage their colleagues or tout their accomplishments. Complainers may take advantage of the policy to constantly criticize company leadership.
  • Broken feedback loop: Broken feedback loop hinders the success of most companies’ open-door policy. Senior managers must take prompt action after receiving employee feedback When employees realize managers do nothing about their feedback, they are less likely to speak up next time.

Now that we know the problems affecting many companies’ open-door policy, we move onto the best practices companies can adopt to make theirs successful.


5 open-door policy leadership best practices that work

How to implement an effective open-door policy

  1. 1
     Get employees’ support
  2. 2
     Establish boundaries
  3. 3
     Proactive leadership
  4. 4
     Always provide feedback
  5. 5
     Listen to employees

1. Get employees’ support

Discussing and listening to employees is a starter step to gain their trust. Ask what they want out of an open-door policy or how the policy to be executed could be helpful. These conversations will guide organizational management on how to go about the policy.

Another way to boost employee confidence in the policy is to create a chain of command. This will help employees identify whom they can speak to whenever they have a problem or share insights. Having an always-available person to talk to also helps increase the policy's credibility and success.

2. Establish boundaries

For managers, the goal of having open-door leadership is to keep a pulse on the wellbeing of each employee. However, management must first set clear boundaries before implementing it to ensure employees know the right way to use it.

The management should give clear instructions about what topic employees can discuss. Certain conversations like office gossip should be prohibited to prevent abuse of policy. The company might also need to set venues for the meetings. In-person meetings are an effective way to derive maximum value from this process.

3. Proactive leadership

It is not enough for a company to put an open-door policy out there, employees have to practice it too. For this to work out smoothly, the first actions have to be taken by organizational management. Employees need to see their leaders ask for their feedback. This will inspire them to do the same among themselves.

Managers also have to be excellent observers of their team. Great leaders will know when morale is down among their team members and proactively reach out to them. This step will help eliminate the fear that some employees might have about speaking up.

4. Always provide feedback

Feedback should be embedded in your company’s culture. The push for regular feedback will show employees that their company is serious about its open-door policy. An effective feedback policy should be a two-way street. Management should openly communicate with employees when issues are reported and an explicit explanation of solutions.

5. Listen to employee

Lastly, putting efforts to listen intently to employees’ concerns or feedback as dismissing an employee’s feedback may prevent a genuine organizational issue from being resolved on time.

Also, the open-door policy leadership may wrongly encourage employees to believe only the manager can solve problems. By listening well, a manager will know how to drive the conversation toward solutions. This will discourage venting and encourage employees to come up with their own solutions.


Get started with our free Open-door policy template

The open-door policy leadership is a widely revered management practice used to enhance the company culture. To help you implement this practice, you can download the well-structured Open-door policy template right here.

This policy template will make it easier for you to strip away the barriers that prevent employees from feeling unheard. As a result, leaders will provide transparency and encourage open communication with employees. In turn, employees will be more comfortable speaking up about their concerns and ideas.

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