Open Door Policy

“I just can’t seem to get anything done,” lamented Ralph. “It seems that, all day long, people just line up at my door with questions and problems they cannot solve. I spend more time working on their problems than my own problems.”

I asked Ralph how accessible he was. “Oh, I have an open door policy. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I closed my door.”

An open door policy sounds like an admirable leadership trait, when, in practice, it can create unintended results. An open door policy can actually train your team members that you are the fastest way to solve a problem. As the manager, you can become the shortcut that prevents independent research, arriving at new ideas, or formulating original strategy.

On the wall, behind the swivel chair of one of my favorite clients, is posted the following phrase, “What are you going to do about that?”

You see, an open door policy has little to do with the door.

4 thoughts on “Open Door Policy

  1. Michael Boren

    One of my favorite lessons from Vistage on how to deal with this issue is to always ask your employees the exact same questions when they come to you for advice.

    1.) What are your options?
    2.) If you had to pick one which one would you choose?

    If you ask them those same questions every time it will initially train them to make sure and come to you with all possible options and then subsequently it will train them to know that you will force them to make the decision / determine the solution on their own. Eventually they stop coming to you with every issue they run into.

  2. Ron Allred

    Last Fall, I suffered a stroke at my desk. Without an open door policy, I would be a vegetable. Because of my open policy, I’m fine, since an employee found me in time. Not changing the policy!

  3. Travis M.

    I don’t think anyone is advocating closing your door. Keep your door open, but when someone comes to you with a problem, don’t give them the solution, guide them to the solution. Think of it like the old proverb about giving a man a fish compared to teaching a man to fish.

  4. Aaron Drake

    I think you can have an open door policy in spirit, without it being literal. To me, “Open Door” means you can speak frankly and honestly to me about anything regarding the company. However, if good time management and productivity skills are taught, there should not be an endless parade through the manager’s door.

    If an employee interrupts to talk about a problem and I say, “Let’s meet about that at 2 pm.”, they usually will have solved the problem by then.

    Thanks for the thoughtful article!


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