Do you have an ‘open door’ policy or is your door always open?  Is this a formal company policy or your personal management style?  As a manager, leaving your door open for staff to drop in with questions and queries or to chat through the latest project can be very beneficial.  If you have a company open door policy, this can also work very well for improving overall communications.  There are many positive aspects to having an open door policy but there are a few down sides which you would be wise to consider.

Do not expect that by having an open door this can supersede company systems or formal policies, such as whistle blowing or grievance.  Formal policies are still required, but by having an open door, communication throughout the company will be improved.  This may in turn, reduce the need for any action under the formal policies.

Does your open door policy mean that you are literally, open to all comers?  Would you be happy for the shop floor staff as well as the most senior executive to drop in to see you?  This will give you an opportunity to listen to lots of invaluable information and most staff welcome the opportunity to voice their opinions and be heard.  There will be many occasions when having an open door will present you with some early warning signs that everything is not well and to give you an opportunity to nip problems in the bud.

However, being available can be very time consuming and a real drain on your time.  There will be times when you have to close the door so that you can concentrate on that vital piece of work.  This means that your time management has to be excellent to get the most out of these informal, contacts.  The answer may be as simple as letting everyone know when you are available for anyone to ‘drop in’ e.g. every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

There is an argument that by having an open door policy, as commonly interpreted, this fails to build the ability of the line manager to solve problems close to where the problem occurs.  Staff may get used to bypassing and raising problems or ideas with more senior managers, rather than discussing the matter with their immediate line manager first.  This reduces opportunities for developing problem solving skills and could be interpreted as undermining the role of the line manager.  You can still be ‘open’ and improve the skills of your managers by listening to the problem raised by your staff and then referring it back to the manager to solve.

As a manager, you have to feel comfortable with an open door style, which may also mean an open mind, to listen attentively to the ideas and concerns of your staff.  Most importantly, it gives your staff the confidence that you are there when they need you.  But don’t just listen.  If you make promises to ‘sort it’ then make sure that you take action.  A broken promise can undo all the good work you have done so far.

If we can help you with your open door management style, give us a call on 01736 339 384 or email