The majority of managers would say they have some type of open door policy, suggesting that their people can come to them any time they have questions, need assistance or have a problem. And, like the open door policy suggests, their employees should feel comfortable to approach them at any time, since, as their manager, they are there to assist and support them.
This certainly does sound good in theory, doesn’t it?
Here’s the dose of reality. If you’re a manager who professes to have an open door policy, then why is it your people aren’t coming to you when they need you most? Why aren’t they taking advantage of you as a resource? Why are you often the last person to find out about an internal conflict, an issue with a client, a sale that’s going south or an employee who is taking another job elsewhere?
No, I’m sorry to say, you don’t have an open door policy or not as you perceive it to be. After all, every time you’re in ‘the middle of doing something’ (when aren’t you) when someone comes to you for help and you respond by saying, “Not now,” or “I’m busy” or “Call me about that tomorrow” or worse, “I’ll find you when I’m finished here” and then you never do follow up with them, what message are you now sending back? What does this sound like to your staff? A big fat blow off, that’s what. And that brush off can come in a variety of forms such as, “I’m not important, I’m not a priority, my boss doesn’t care.” This is the very reaction that you were hoping to avoid by instituting this open door policy in the first place!
There’s another inherent flaw in this policy. It simply isn’t efficient. Now, I’m not referring to your staff. For them to be able to get the support they need or their questions answered when they need it most is highly efficient. I’m referring to how this affects the efficiency level on the manager’s side.
Lets do some math based on this hypothetical situation. Most managers I come into contact today would admit their heavy workload is tough enough to manage. They do their best to stretch their time and their resources, as limited as they may be, as far as possible for them to do their job effectively.
Now, throw in the fact that this manager has an open door policy and the additional responsibility of managing several people on his team, as well as one new hire who needs the additional up front support and training.
Having an open door policy is the same as essentially scheduling a massive amount of interruptions throughout your day that divert you from your original course or intentions. And it is these interruptions that throw off your focus on each task that you attempt to complete throughout your workday. Compound this with the challenge I mentioned earlier, and an open door policy quickly becomes a losing proposition. Your staff loses and the manager loses as well.
So what’s the alternative? Well, rather than instituting an open door policy, what if you scheduled time with each individual instead? Rather than the new recruit coming to you every five minutes with a question, what if you suggest to them to make a list of their questions and requests in preparation for a meeting that you can schedule with the purpose of answering all of their questions and handling their requests in just one pre-planned conversation.
Moreover, your employees are going to appreciate and value this time more. They are going to feel valued and important, knowing they have this exclusive time with you which you have put aside. And as you close your office door to avoid any further distractions, you’re sending a message to them that they are a priority to you. Now they have your focused and undivided attention, instead of the few rushed moments you’re fitting into your already booked day which can also be tainted with interruptions from other people competing for your time due to your open door policy!
Now, you have less people coming at you with interruptions because you’ve retrained your staff to schedule a time with you in order to get those pressing questions and concerns answered and resolved.
Do the math. A few one to one meetings a week or fifty interruptions each day? Think of it this way. It’s not that you don’t have time for your staff. What you really don’t have time for are interruptions. Closing the open door policy is another strategy to dramatically reduce the onslaught of self imposed interruptions that can otherwise be avoided from the start.