June 13, 2012
Credit Union Management’s online-only “NextGen Know-How” column runs the second Wednesday of the month.
I was recently facilitating a leadership program, and one of the participants voiced a challenge she was having with her organization's open door policy. The organization's leaders felt it was important to always be available for staff and that meant always having their doors open, ready for an employee who needed them at a moment's notice. This manager was sharing that she was interrupted so much, she couldn't get anything done! I bet this challenge sounds quite familiar to you.
It's time for the "open door policy" to go. Let's take it out of our handbooks, stop boasting about it to employees, and discontinue our lectures to managers on how they need to be available at all times to create a family-friendly environment. The open door policy is one of the most inefficient organizational practices in business today. It promotes overtaxed managers, needy employees and ineffective leadership.
I believe the original intent of the "open door policy" was to create an environment of communication and collaboration, not an environment where people are constantly interrupted and get nothing done. Yet that is exactly the type of environment an open door policy perpetuates: inefficient work, scattered managers, micromanaged employees and poor results. The open door policy is robbing leaders of the precious time they need to actually plan and get work done.
One of the worst places you can work is in your office. Most leaders are interrupted constantly all day—by the phone, employees, email and other people just "stopping by." What leaders really need is time and space to focus, plan, create and think. And this might mean working in more "unconventional" ways like in a coffee shop, a conference room, or even at home. Heck, it may mean closing your office door sometimes!
Employees don't need their leaders to be available 24/7. They don't need their managers to be nearby in case they need something. In fact, an open door policy encourages employees to come to their manager for unnecessary issues. It creates more work and more dependent employees.
What employees really want are managers who are approachable and supportive. They want managers who will set clear expectations, provide timely feedback and get out of the way. They want leaders who spend planned, meaningful time with them to coach and develop them.
So, close your office door and get some things done. Better yet, close your email and put your phone on do not disturb. Take two or three hours to do meaningful work. At the end of the day, I bet you'll feel a sense of accomplishment and success like never before.
Laurie J. Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, consultant and founder of Envision Excellence, LLC, Rockville, Md. She was also an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or email@example.com.