Based on this question, I searched this site to see if there's any description of "open door policy." This question is meant as a place to describe

  • What is an "open door policy"?
  • Guidance on how to use an "open door policy" with...
    • a coworker
    • your manager
    • a second level manager
    • a director
    • a vice president
    • a C-level executive (CEO, COO, CFT, etc)
    • a director or board member
  • Also, is there a way to turn this into a wiki? I might just not have enough reputation points to do so...
    – atk
    Aug 27, 2013 at 13:38
  • 4
    No manager ever wants to say I have a close door policy, even when they do. Aug 27, 2013 at 14:02
  • 1
    This varies greatly based on the size of the company. I can go talk to the CEO of a startup and that's normal. If I tried that at a multinational it would be absurd.
    – Telastyn
    Aug 27, 2013 at 14:42
  • It means a bunch of people will be wasting someone's time when you need to speak to them about something important.
    – user8365
    Aug 27, 2013 at 21:12
  • @atk, to address your question about wiki, we try not to do that anymore. It leads to way too broad questions that would actually be better split up into multiple, separate problems that would be more targeted. With that said, we've got some good answers here! :)
    – jmort253
    Nov 12, 2013 at 20:35

2 Answers 2


An open door policy doesn't necessarily mean that everyone wants to hear what you have to say whenever you want to say it.

To me, as a senior manager, an open door policy is a virtual thing considering the remoteness of teams these days but towards my own team it means:

  • You can call me or email me with anything you're dealing with. Regarding walking in you should probably schedule something on the calendar though because if I just got done with three hours of meetings and am scarfing some lunch down before another meeting, I'm not going to be able to focus on what you have to say: it's just reality.

Towards my direct manager (the CIO) it means:

  • I can call, email, or stop in with any professional topic, or something personal if it impacts my ability to perform.
  • It does not mean that my boss is going to attentively listen to whatever comes out of my mouth. If what I want to discuss is complex, I'll send her some summarized materials in advance.

Towards people above my boss (President, and then CEO) it means:

  • I can schedule a meeting to discuss something with them.
  • My professional reputation is on the line. My job is to communicate well and maintain credibility and trust in my department. If I go into the CEO's office with a half-baked idea or even a full-baked idea but I don't get the message across, that reflects on me, not him.
  • 2
    Nice descriptive answer, here's a vote to get the ball rolling, Welcome to the Workplace!
    – user5305
    Oct 4, 2013 at 8:49

General Definition:

In general, the term comes from the idea that if the person's door is open, you're welcome to pop in, say hi and bring up anything relevant to the work or your mutual relationship. It's a way of saying "I won't be bothered if you interrupt me when my door is open". When an executive or upper level person who is several ranks of management higher than you says it to you, it also implies that you shouldn't worry too much about the power distance between yourself and this person, you should feel free to interrupt them anyway.

It's a general contrast to the old school formal way of relating to management by booking a meeting or having a formal invite to talk.

Differences in Relationships

Keep in mind that the general rules of office politics are not suspended in this situation. You're still communicating within the office context. That can be highly variable. Some offices are very casual, some are formal. Some have "high power distance" relationships (be very respectful and deferential to powerful people), some have "low power distance" relationships - where you can debate, argue, discuss and strongly question management.

General Tips

When it's your direct supervisor, you can generally have a long detailed talk about the work, the issues and how to solve them. Hopefully any relationship with your management involves you and your boss listening to each other sorting out how best to relate to each other and get the job done. There may still be a formality to the relationship, but it's essential to have a good working relationship with your direct supervisor and that generally takes time.

For most other types of people with an open door policy, these tips usually apply:

  • Ask if they are busy before popping in. People forget to close their doors in a moment of deep concentration, and they may want you to hold on for just a minute or two.

  • On first contact - keep it short and sweet - introduce yourself, say something positive, focus on anything that ties to your shared connection.

  • Make sure that you work the problems and criticism of current activities in a proper way. No boss likes to hear that you went to another person first with an issue that relates to his team. OTOH - if your boss says "hey, check with X on that" and X has an open door policy - then just head on over with that issue!

  • Be respectful of a person's time - if you have an issue that you want to discuss that will take more than 10 minutes, book a meeting with the person rather than waiting for their door to be open.

  • Find a balance in frequency - the more highly ranked the person, the less frequently you want to pop in and say "Hi!". One trick I've used is that I'd only pop in to say "hi" to the VP once a quarter, because there was usually a state of the business speech he'd presented and I could ask a meaningful question regarding the content. If I had not meaningful question in mind, I might not even pop in.

  • Watch for cues that your timing is off. If the other person is distracted or agitated, say a quick goodbye and come back later.

All sorts of people will have open door policies. Some do it because they read in a book that it was a good practice. Others do it because they genuinely like connecting with people across all positions in the company. Some types of roles almost necessitate it - HR and legal may be the most likely to have this policy in the hopes of encouraging employees to come forward when there are related issues.

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