Benefits and reasons for failure of Open Door policy

by Ashvini on September 28, 2011 · 5 comments

in Managing Team effectively

This is the part of series of articles on “How to manage team effectively”

If you have ever worked in a corporate world,you  would know about the term “ Open door policy”.

Open Door policy

It means that employees are encouraged to walk in a manager’s room and discuss grievance with her right on the spot.

Wikipedia says this about Open Door Policy

Such a practice is viewed as a morale booster by letting employees feel as if they’re able to openly speak with their boss about numerous issues face-to-face, rather than by other means, such as e-mail or voice mail.

Open door policy is one of the best policy to manage a team if implement right. Here are some of the benefits of Open door policy

Open door policy elevates image of management

The management is perceived to be transparent and open. The employees are thus more motivated and know that their grievances will be handled in the right way

Open Door Policy is informal and leads to lesser confrontation

Given the informal nature, it does not force people to take positions compared to formal inquiry. In a formal inquiry punishments can be exemplary and thus people are forced to take sides and defend their position. Often this may leave a bad feeling with everyone involved in handling the grievance.

Open Door policy allows people to explain their point of view without being afraid of the outcome.

Open Door policy is faster resolution :

Most of the time grievances do not need to go through formal procedure. They can be resolved by immediate superior. Faster resolution means employees get back to work much faster and with lesser grudges.

Open Door Policy avoids escalation of issues:

Managers dread the time, when employees approach Human resource department for their grievance redress. It may leave a question mark on their management career too. Open door policy often can prevent such an escalation.

Open door policies are thus excellent means to achieving the harmony in the team by reducing conflict, faster redress and with lesser or no grudge against anyone.

However, open door policies may come to nothing if not implemented properly.A badly implemented open door policy can cause harm to organization’s reputation .

Let us see some reasons why open door policy may fail to achieve its objective:

#1: An open door policy, that is just a show off to media or employees

A policy that is implemented only as show-off to media or employees will never achieve its objective. A badly thought, poorly implemented Open Door Policy may often waste managers’ time and lead to lower employee motivation,an effect, totally opposite to what was intended.

#2: An open door policy that is the cause of frequent interruption to the manager work schedule

A manager who is constantly interrupted by employees will see a decline in her productivity. If the manager allows the employees to walk in without a prior appointment ( which sometimes is difficult in close knit teams), it may cause distraction to the manager’s work lowering her productivity. One of the famous management Guru, Peter Drucker once said that interruptions should be limited and frequent interruption cause decline in productivity.

#3: Employees who are not proactive and take every problem to manager

Employees who think that every problem should be discussed with managers may be misusing open door policy.  Sometimes, a problem may be solved by a colleague of the employee(For e.g. technical assistance). But instead of approaching him/her, the employee approaches the manager who appears open to listening.

A manager may not be able to help the employee in all cases. She may direct the employee to a team member more suited to resolve the problem. However, the employee could have been more proactive and solved the problem herself by approaching the right person herself.

If there are frequent interruptions like this , a manager may be forced to scale down the policy.

#4: Employees may hesitate to go to manager who does not seem open.

Employees who do not trust their manager will never use open door policy. Because of past incidences, which indicated that manager is not honest or open or that the manager did not resolve the policy,the employee may be hesitant to go to her.

#5: Managers who are not prepared to handle the idea of open door policy

Some managers may not like the idea of open door policy because it causes interruptions to their work. However, they have to go along  with it so that they are not perceived as obstructionists . They might even resent the idea that employee may bypass them and go to their superiors for redressal.

It might them become counter productive to have an open door policy.

However having a good open door policy is a good thing despite the problems mentioned above

In the next post, I will talk about Open Door policy that serve these three objectives

  • Honest
  • Workable
  • Productive

So have you been involved with any aspect of open door policy? What did you like about it? What did you dislike?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Veronica Cervera@south beach condos October 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Open-door policy has always been a great policy in the workplace. Not only that it allows employees to voice out their grievances openly, it also gives management opportunity to know and assess first hand what’s going on. A lot of strategies and solutions could be derived from this. However, many managers actually fear this and find it ineffective. Wherever you look at it, the key is to address and resolve the problem. And one of the best ways to do is having an open-door policy in place.

Aswani September 30, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Great post again. Ashvini…there is an open door policy here in our company and I have been making use of the same on a number of occasions. I am really in favor of such policies as I feel it is very useful and effective. Maybe you correct in saying that it can hamper manager’s work but then what looks to be a more better solution than having it all discussed with your manager, the ultimate decision maker. Nothing to hesitate, just go ahead with your concerns. I have done it so often without irking my Boss. Believe me…it pays off positively if done sensibly…!

Mouh September 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm

I think it is generally good to have a open door policy but put some limitations on it. As you said, you can talk to employees all the time. It’ll surely hinder your progress and strangle your productivity. I think if you’re going to implement this policy, you need to make things clearer at the outset about the nature of problems employees can discuss. This way you make sure they don’t interrupt your work schedule.

In my experience, most managers “implement” this policy just to show off. It there is you ask for it but it is not really implemented.


Rohit Batra September 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Thanks Ashvini for sharing “Open Door Policy” I didn’t knew it’s meaning earlier..

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