What Is An ‘Open-Door Policy’?

by | Feb 2, 2022

Promoting open communication within a business can be tricky, especially if executives are far removed from the general workers. Many solutions to this common problem produce varying levels of success, but we will talk here about one specific policy. Known as the “open-door policy,” it’s designed to promote communication between employees without their positions creating a barrier to dialog.

open-door policy

What Is An Open-Door Policy? 

In practice, an open-door policy is designed to promote freedom of expression. It allows employees to communicate openly with their supervisors about any issues they are having. This policy can also encourage them to voice concerns with senior executives if they do not feel comfortable speaking with their immediate supervisors.

Should I Institute An Open-Door Policy At My Business? 

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That all sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, a lot of companies have vague open-door policies with no practical protocols behind them. Worse yet, some companies make conflicts worse by mismanaging them. They don’t address feedback in a timely manner, or they penalize employees for bringing problems to their attention. If a policy isn’t backed by guidelines, infrastructure, and practice, it isn’t much of a policy at all.

However, if done properly, an open-door policy can be great for your business. These policies can promote accessibility, communication, fast access to information, and closer working relationships. This all works toward promoting better morale and a stronger company culture overall.

What Should I Consider When Setting Up An Open-Door Policy?

Before jumping headfirst into an open-door policy, you should consider several things first. If it’s set up properly, your business will continue functioning smoothly while promoting communication. We recommend you do the following:

  • Set Up A Clear Process 

Your team should know whom to contact and what the complaint process should look like. This can’t be a vague sentiment like “You can always come to us.” Instead, it should be a clearly laid out plan. Clarity and consistency are essential in this case.

Kevin Vance, Miami employment lawyer at Epstein Becker Greene states, “It’s important … to [have] a streamlined approach where employees know they can go to a certain set of … managers, who are well trained in how to process complaints and who do so consistently.” This will help to set up your policy for success in the long run.

employee manager
  • Communicate With Your Teams 

After setting up your policy, it’s important to communicate it with your teams. The best way to do this is through a formal meeting followed by providing written documentation that outlines the process. Also, a clear person or set of people should be identified for staff to reach out to. If they have any questions, comments, or concerns about the policy, they’ll know where to turn.

  • Provide Accessibility 

An open-door policy isn’t worth much if it isn’t accessible. Make sure you are providing channels and time for your employees to utilize the policy if necessary. This can be as simple as having a designated email channel for receiving concerns. Perhaps create a sign-up sheet for appointments to discuss issues with department leaders. You should do whatever would work best for your business and employees so everyone knows how to reach out.

  • Keep Clear Documentation 

When employees come to you through the policy’s protocol, keeping documentation of the complaints is imperative. If an employee or former employee ever attempts to take legal action against your business, you need to know a few things. These include what their complaint was, when it was made, who was involved, and how it was handled and when. Ideally, you would have this documented in an ongoing digital database so it can be easily accessed and updated. It may even be worthwhile to ask employees to make all formal complaints using specific forms. These can provide explicit documentation of the incidents in question.

So, now you know a bit more about open-door policies and how to set them up, is one right for your business? If done properly, it can do wonders for improving business communication, workflows, and morale. All it takes is some careful consideration, documentation, and implementation.

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