The business term:”open door policy” is that real or just a term?

I recalled hearing this phrase “my door is always open for you”; a term that resounded from every single environment I have worked. Talking to other co-workers as well as friends, all had the same experience in their previous workplace. It seems that all managers or business leaders have this “open door policy” as a concrete statement.

The “open door policy” is a statement that should reflect a position of respect in sharing opinions in the workplace. But we all know that sometimes this is not the necessary case.

According to an article from Harvard Business Review  Leaders often have an inflated idea of how easy it is for others to speak honestly to them. Our two-year research study, including interviews with over 60 senior executives, as well as workshops and case studies, illuminates a glaring blind spot: We simply don’t appreciate how risky it can feel for others to speak up. This is because, if we are in a powerful position, we often take power for granted. As a member of a privileged in-group, we forget what it is like to be in the less privileged out-group.Consider the phrase “My door is always open.” It contains a number of assumptions. First, people should meet you on your territory, rather than the other way around. Second, you have the luxury of a door. Third, you can choose when to close or open it.”

Funny enough the term “open door policy” was created by United States Secretary of State John Hay at the end of the 19th Century, dealing with several countries. It stated the principles for protection of equal privileges trading with China. (

Yes, a long time ago… and even at that time the “open door policy” had its bumps in the road. Today the term is almost misused by managers. As a matter of fact it became just a term. Not a reality.

'Come in, come in. My door is always open for you!'

Although it is a fact that most companies, especially successful ones, encourage directors and managers to create an environment that is receptive to receiving opinions; however like the HVR article mentioned “If you are wondering why others aren’t speaking up more, first ask yourself how you are inadvertently silencing them.”

At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the leaders to have that sincere “open door policy” that will help the company and its employees to achieve success.

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