The open-door policy is one of the many new developments that most organisations have decided to incorporate into their day-to-day proceedings. At first glance, this seems to be an initiative that can be beneficial to both employers and employees but is that entirely the case? In the words of the famous poet William Shakespeare “All that glitters is not gold,” the same applies to open-door policies. This is not to say that it is a bad initiative however, if not properly designed and structured, it can end up not serving the intended purpose and cause harm. This brings us to the question of what is an open-door policy and is it vital to have one, from an HR perspective?
An open-door policy is an initiative where supervisors, managers, or anyone in a position of power or seniority create an open line of communication between themselves and anyone under their department. This would apply where an employee has a proposal they want to share or a concern they have about anything that may be affecting their job. In some instances, it even goes beyond work related matters, this is to say employees would be able to relay personal matters as well. In this case, the superior would act as a counsellor, outlet, or confidant. This is generally driven by the fact that employees just want to be heard which involves someone listening to them thus building trust. This denotes the organisation’s culture. Can this really turn south?
Failure to set the tone: As people in supervisory or senior positions, it is important to make known what is acceptable and what is unacceptable under this initiative, at the very beginning or as soon as you become aware of the misconceptions. It is a known fact that people have different personalities, which means that our interpretations will also differ. Therefore, if for example you do not wish your open-door policy to include personal or social matters or to be relayed at a certain time via a particular process, then make this known. Failure to do so may lead to chaos where anything and everything is brought to your attention, at any time using any tone. This could then make such supervisors resentful of this or even worse stop the consultations altogether. How do you think the employees would react to this and how would it then affect your corporate culture?
Failure to honour the key principle of listening: During open-door policy consultations the key thing is to listen. This involves awarding the employee the attention they deserve and most importantly listening to what they have to say. Bad listeners are usually also closed-minded individuals and according to Bob Nelson “An open-door policy doesn’t do much for a closed mind”. You will fail as a supervisor to comprehend what your employee is saying thus failing to assist them accordingly. How would that make them feel towards you and the organisation?
An open-door policy is one of the factors that determines an organisation’s culture and it is key to the HR relations of any entity. When properly implemented, it can gradually reduce disputes, grievances, and dissatisfactions in the organisation. However, it can otherwise create an atmosphere of disorder and resentment in the organisation, if not properly managed.
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