Opinions vary regarding management’s open door policy. Some feel this is a way to have full knowledge of what is happening within the company walls. Others are concerned that it is a time sucker since managers and leadership have a lot on their plate already.

What is an open door policy? That is when you invite your employees to visit you anytime of the day with their concerns, questions or ideas.

Employees are often in favor of this policy, both with supervisors and human resources, because they lean on leadership and they desire to have a resource when they face issues or have ideas.

However, even if employees view it as an opportunity, few gravitate toward their manager’s door. Why?

  • They might fear repercussions if they speak up.
  • They do not have a rapport with their supervisor.
  • Their concerns or ideas do not have any follow up.

Managers and leaders view the policy as a way to be more aware of the challenges employees face. At the same time, if employees are consistently at your door, it makes it tough for you to fulfill your obligations.

What is the balance to an open door policy? And how can you make it more effective and productive?

Set limits

As a manager, your role is to manage your people. Make it a priority to get to know your employees. The challenge is that there are some employees who require a bit more hand-holding. Focus your energy instead on employees who work hard and are adding value to the organization. Don’t ignore your other employees, but avoid spending the majority of your time listening to their problems.

Some managers set specific time limits for open door “office hours,” which may be feasible if you have a multitude of tasks to attend to. However, avoid becoming strict with this time period as things sometimes need immediate attention.

Go to the employees

An open door policy works well in theory, but in reality, it becomes work for the employees. They have to come to you and as mentioned above, this is seldom the case. An article by Harvard Business Review pointed out that communication becomes lost when adhering to the strict office open door policy.

Visit with your employees, especially in their own environment, whether it is in the warehouse, or at their desk or cubicle. Have coffee with them. The best way to know what employees are thinking is to build a rapport with them in a relaxed setting.

Show them you are willing to make the effort to listen to them. And assure them their concerns will not have repercussions. Encourage them to speak freely by asking meaningful questions.

Be approachable

The easiest way to have employees open up is when you go to them. But whether you visit with them in person or respond to their emails, your tone of voice and email responses should always be professional, calm and approachable. If you want your employees to speak freely and be honest, your body language also needs to show you care about their thoughts.

Employees desire to be valued for their hard work and their talents. They need to know their ideas, or challenges, are being heard. And you want to be alert to ideas that have potential.

When you talk with your employees, avoid distractions, take notes if necessary, and repeat key items after the discussion.

Then, follow through. If challenges need to be addressed, do so with the appropriate departments or people. Follow up with your employee so that he knows how the situation is being handled and what he can expect.

Situations that warrant discussion and solutions vary, but your goal is to be aware of how your team is doing, what is not working, and how to best use their individual talents.

Want more tips for workplace communication and boosting employee morale? How about a FREE gift to go along with that? “Creative Corporate Communications” is a monthly alert to help you build trust in your organization. Join the club here.