“Open-Door” Policy or is it an “Open-Mind” Policy?

As a manager, I have always had an ‘open-door policy’. Open-door policy, to me, meant leaving my door open or partially open to represent the connectivity I have with my employees and the willingness to be accepting and/or sharing without barriers.

Often, the open-door policy can challenge deadlines and productivity. If I am in the middle of completing an important task or email response that requires a focus on detail, uninterrupted focus is crucial. Early in my career, I found that the open- door policy often meant many unscheduled interruptions that impacted timeliness and quality of work. Even with the most polite interruptions, “may I bother you for a moment”, even if my response was, “give me ten minutes”, delayed productivity more than I realized.

My first lesson; if you have an open-door policy, be ready to say, “sure have a seat” and be ready to disrupt your train of thought or “I will have a moment just as soon as I finish this email but please have a seat or come back in 10 minutes” or “I am just getting ready for a meeting but can we talk later today”. All of these responses required an interruption to my train of thought. I also realized that an open-door policy often encouraged increased outside thoughts of other for reassurance. It has been said that once interrupted, it can take up to 8 minutes to bring our focus back to a peak flow of thought.

Second lesson; if you accept the interruption, be prepared to take your eyes off the screen or task at hand, make eye contact and actively listen. Multi-tasking is inefficient and insincere in my opinion. Also, employees can sense that lack of sincerity.

Third lesson; ‘open-door policy’ did not have to mean that my door was always physically open. An open-door policy was a statement message to employees that I will always make time to discuss concerns and work on solutions with whomever raises them. I learned that it was ok to close my door. This set a healthy boundary in respecting my time and the message I sent to my employees in valuing quality of work that I am producing for our team.

Fourth lesson; assessing my effectiveness and setting boundaries that are effective for my style of work was essential in succeeding. I know, my most productive time is in the morning. I know, that most everyone uses their morning to kick start their day which meant that they needed direction from me when they started their day. Also, I know, that most interruptions occurred in the first 2 hours of the work day.

It’s important to me that my employees feel heard and valued.  This experience taught me that I really want my employees to know that I have an open-mind for discussion and respect the concerns that they bring forward. I set a few rules that practice as it relates to open-mind (door) policy:

  1.  On average I leave my door open the majority of the time that I am in the office
  2.  I try to arrive to work before others so I have that crucial time in which I am most productive to complete important tasks.
  3. Take the time to shut the door during high priority tasks and simply let your employees know that you need the time to focus for the next little bit.
  4. Make a physical effort to turn from my computer, make eye contact and sincerely listen to the concerns of my employees.
  5. Realize that every task is not high priority and an open door can speak volumes.