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The Open Door Policy

The Open Door Policy

Sharlyn Lauby | HR Bartender

June 23, 2010

One of the craziest office environments I worked in was a corporation where no one could have a door on their office. They were trying to send the message that they lived and breathed the open door environment. What a debacle. It didn’t take long to realize that corporate counsel needed to have a door. Once they got a door, slowly other people got doors. Half of corporate had doors; the other half didn’t. Talk about corporate double-speak … sigh.

In my last corporate job, we did a pseudo version of hotelling. Everyone had a laptop and just worked wherever there was space. You could share an office with someone you needed to collaborate with or set up space alone if you had appointments. It was very convenient and allowed the company to lease less office space without completely eliminating it. I wouldn’t be surprised if more businesses don’t explore this concept.

But the lesson I’ve learned along the way is it’s not about having an office or cubicle. It’s about being approachable. If you want to be approachable, then you have to learn how to manage your door.

Use it when you need to. Obviously, confidential conversations are door closed moments.

Leave it open otherwise. No one was allowed to screen people who wanted to see me. Just walk right in. And I would invite the senior leadership team to come visit me. I had bosses who loved to hang out in my office (and eat jelly beans.)

Recognize unspoken messages. I found closing my door sometimes sent the unspoken message “something’s up.” On one hand, that can be a good thing. And on the other, it might cause alarm when it’s not necessary.

The debate about office space is just starting but one thing is for certain. Don’t let your office door manage you.

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