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Why Every Small Business Needs To Implement An Open Door Policy In The Workplace

Posted by Insightlink on 05/24/22

Things get lost in translation. Intentions grow more muddled as the chain of command lengthens. The truth is that the larger the business, the less connection there is between a business’s officers and its employees.
This diminishment is an inevitability with massive corporations like Walmart or Amazon. Can the CEOs of these corporate giants feasibly respond to every single employee’s needs? Not Likely.
However, for smaller businesses, management can do much more to strengthen the bridge that connects them to their employees. This article will explore why every small business can benefit from an open-door policy in the workplace.
Open Door Policy
What, Exactly, Is An Open Door Policy?
Open door policies are a set of workplace standards that encourage employees to openly communicate their concerns, voice their opinions, and express discontent with senior management directly and without fear of retaliation from higher-ups. As the name suggests, upper management keeps their door open to any employee who feels they need to be heard.
When well-implemented, open-door policies help:
  • sustain employee morale
  • reduce employee turnover
  • lessen the impact of boundaries between employees and senior management
  • Improve communication between employees and senior management
One Glaring Issue With Open Door Policies
Open door policies help create a workplace culture that values transparency, openness, and trust. But upper management actually needs to listen for this system to work. Otherwise, these policies come across as calloused, contemptuous attempts to placate employees by pretending their voices are heard.
Real open-door policies have a notable impact.
Open Door Policy Advantages
Let’s break down some of the material, financial, and institutional advantages of maintaining an open door policy.
1.   Allows For Open Communication
If an employee can walk into their manager’s office and be given the time of day to voice their concerns, express their discontent, or give a ground’s eye perspective on an issue, then both the employee and management stand to benefit.
Oftentimes management thinks of itself as separate from the rest of the workers, but the workers have a vital perspective that managers need to make decisions that result in a happier, healthier, and more productive work environment.
2.   Gives A Voice To Victims of Workplace Harassment, Bullying, Abuse
Open door policies help victims of workplace harassment circumvent the usual chain of command. They help victims report their problems directly to senior management, bypassing lower managers who might be instigators of the abuse or who may wish to suppress reports of harassment to make themselves or their team look better.   
3.   Helps To Dispell Rumors, Gossip, and Disinformation
When employees can ask upper management directly about their prospects or upcoming changes, they receive information directly from the source. Open door policies help keep employees accurately informed and reduce the impact of rumors, gossip, and disinformation.
The bilateral flow of information between employees and management help reinforce transparency and the free flow of ideas in the workplace.
What True Open Door Policies Help To Prevent
Open door policies can help to prevent larger institutional breakdowns by helping managers identify problems while they are still in utero. For example, if there is a glaring logistical issue that only employees on the ground are experiencing, upper management might be completely unaware until it is too late.
As a direct line between employees and upper management, open-door policies help management identify nascent problems that could devastate earnings, employee retention, or other essential factors.
Logical Limits Of An Open Door Policy
There are logical limits on how effective an open-door policy can be. As alluded to in the intro, open-door policies become less effective as a company scales up in size. Following the law of diminishing returns, as a company grows, the benefits of an open-door policy become less and less obvious and may turn detrimental.
One obvious fix to the scaling issue is to change the scale of the open door itself. Affixing limits to the open door policy to stop at the department level might be an appropriate solution to the scaling issue. This way, the chain of command can remain intact, and the upper management in one department isn’t burdened by on-the-ground issues in a completely unrelated department.
Ways To Start Implementing An Open Door Policy
However, for smaller companies, open-door policies are still viable options. How can a company start incorporating open communication into its work culture?
1.   Listen
Actually listen to your employees and be ready to deal with all sorts of conflicting responses. It might take time for employees to warm up to an open-door policy. Trust takes time to build, and you need to understand how a lack of trust early on might affect employees’ responses.
2.   Set Boundaries
Be reasonable about the amount of time you can offer your employees. Obviously, you cannot provide all of your time to hear your employees’ criticisms and concerns. However, you definitely need to block out some time for the occasion.
3.   Set Protocols
Additionally, you should have protocols in place for when employees report harassment, abuse, inappropriate behavior, or other concerning issues. Having responses ready to go gives your open-door policy some teeth when it comes to responding to employees’ needs.
About the Author
Roni Davis is a content strategist, blogger, and legal assistant operating out of the greater Philadelphia area. She writes on behalf of the Villari Firm, a medical malpractice lawyer in Philadelphia. 
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