The Problems of the Open Door Policy

The Problems of the Open Door Policy

Your team needs you.  How much access do they have to you and your knowledge? When do you help them with their work and grow in their positions? – Many managers  check the box off by creating an “open door” policy. Are you one of them? You might think it makes you more engaged and helpful. If this is the only way you make yourself available then you are making an expensive mistake. Why?

Excellent management is active not passive.  If you wait for your team to come with you with problems, you’ve wasted time, energy and money for you, them, and the company.

A big problem with the open door policy is that it can lead to a chain of interruptions where you aren’t able to focus on anything else.  You will need to protect time to get your work done. When you don’t, you  may have to stay extra hours after everyone goes home and logs off for the night.

Whether your door remains open all day long or only for a specific range of time, your team’s personality styles will drive if and how they use your availability.  Most likely, your time will be dominated by extroverts that are inclined to talk while the introverts stay at their desk or lurk in the chat.  Some of your team may come to discuss their work, but many will stop by to talk about the weather, kids, sports and other hobbies. Perfectionists may come to chat but be reluctant to share their issues. 

Knowing about your team’s interests is important and shows that you care about them as people not just valuable resources for your company, but be aware of how you are spending this time. Don’t let these chats be plays for attention or discourage other folks from bringing you work problems. The responsibility is on you to set expectations and enforce boundaries that make sure all work related topics get prioritized.

When you aren’t waiting for them- Reach out. Check-in  with your team during the day/week.  These impromptu conversations can be a mix of personal and work related. Introverts will definitely appreciate your initiative and when you share a few things going on in your life.

But the most effective and efficient way to nip issues in the bud or easily troubleshoot and redirect efforts is for you to…drumroll please…have regularly scheduled meetings with them individually.  The best part is that you will talk  about their work, not just their problems so you will get to catch them at their best and promptly praise their hard work and results. These scheduled meetings with a clear agenda to review workload and resolve issues will let you proactively support your team and provide timely coaching. Guaranteed.

I know, I know….Life is messy and sometimes you are forced to react.  What do you do then?  You can keep your door closed and calendar open. 

Quick tip: Let your team know that you prefer that they schedule a quick (15-30 min) meeting to bring you up to date and get your help. Along with a quick summary of the issue in the meeting invite, ask your team to put a few notes about the urgency and impact. Then at the meeting, they should be ready to share where they are stuck,  what they have done so far, and any options and recommendations they have to resolve it.   Together you can discuss and make a plan to move it forward. They will have your undivided attention and you both will be prepared. It’s WIN/WIN!  

Follow these tips and you will make sure your intention of helping your team actually happens. Stay focused and engaged and your relationships will flourish.