An open-door policy is meant for safely encouraging workers to come to their managers with questions, concerns, and new ideas. However, when leaders or employees misuse its intended purpose, problems can start. To receive the full benefit of an open-door policy, high-level leaders must do two critical things:
- Set boundaries. The last thing you want is for employees to interpret your availability as free license to vent at will, or as "therapy time." Yes, you want to be accessible for meaningful and even informal discussions and to keep a finger on the pulse of what's happening with team members. Just make sure there are clear parameters in place and that the discussion is kept professional and work-related.
- Coach employees to come prepared. Employees should come ready to answer three questions before they walk in the door of a high-level leader's office:
- What is my specific problem--in the present moment--not in the past?
- Does my current problem affect just me, or does it affect other team members or departments?
- What are two or three possible solutions to this problem?
An open-door policy is especially important as a company grows and begins to distance itself with its many layers. Being open sets the tone for employees to feel like they're all "in the journey together," which increases morale and lets employees know that they're part of the team.