Shut the Door on the Open-Door Policy

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cute fluffy cat on floor near open door

Most leaders employ an open-door policy. I’m not sure if they do this because they want to or because HR tells them to or if they heard or read somewhere that it’s a “best practice.”

What do you think? HR directive? Best practice? Or it seems reasonable and shows you are an approachable boss?

I’m not buying any of it.

We all know what the “open-door policy” means. It means…

My office door is always open, I’m always in there, and I don’t want to be bothered. So make an appointment.

You know what I’m talking about. Consider this typical scenario.

You’re in your office, and Felicia knocks on your open door. You’re busy, so you keep you eyes focused on your screen, and you ask, “Yes? What’s up?” Felicia says, “Oh, I see you’re busy. I’ll come back later.”

Not exactly as welcoming as the “policy” might suggest.

Yes, your door is open, but you, on the other hand, are not. You have made it quite clear that you do not want to be disturbed. In fact, you didn’t even break your gaze from your screen to acknowledge Felicia as she entered your office.

Probably not the most welcoming approach, and definitely not the tone you want to set to build engagement and performance among your team.

Ditch the open-door policy. Don’t even utter those words in any of your meetings communications. Do not pretend to be accommodating if you’re really not.

Do this instead. Be honest with your staff. Tell them you are going to be available. Tell them you will do so by walking around (if you’re in the office) or you will check in more often (if your team is remote) to see how things are going, how they are doing, and how you can help to make things better.

In fact, I’d like to rename this policy. Instead of an Open-Door Policy, state that you now have an Open-Floor Policy.

  • An Open-Floor Policy allows for freedom of expression, idea, and opinion.
  • An Open-Floor Policy invites team members to ask questions, share concerns, and feel involved.
  • An Open-Floor Policy develops trust and belonging between and among you and your team.

Being open and available sends the message that you are interested in what each team member has to say, you plan to listen, and you intend to act. It lets everyone know that they are important, they are essential, and they are valued.

So, how will you create an atmosphere of availability? How will you create an environment of engagement? And h ow will you create a culture of collaboration?

Be the boss who always looks for more. Be the boss who walks across the floor. Be the boss who leads outside the door. Set yourself apart from your peers. Move beyond the open-door policy. And expand your leadership reach with an Open-Floor Policy.

Your Mindful Moment:

Managing from your office won’t get you on the cover of any magazine. Getting out and leading in the trenches will most definitely make a scene. (In a good way.)

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