When Open Doors need opening

“…and just so you know, I have an open door policy…”

Also known as, “when the shit hits the fan, come tell me before anyone else”.


“come and talk to me about anything, I’m here to help you do a great job”.

Well ok then. But what about when that open door has some unwritten rules?

– come and talk to me when there’s a problem, and make sure you have a solution
– if you’re going to whine I don’t want to hear it
– if you haven’t made an appointment in my diary I’m going to turn you away
– I don’t have the time to just chat

Hmm. Now we’re starting to get a sense that this open door isn’t so open after all. There are caveats and there are expectations.

You might not be like this. You might have a genuinely open door. Even better, you’re sitting with your team in an open plan office. But that’s a not what we’re talking about today.

It’s a good thing, and I applaud those who truly have an open door. But I don’t take their word for it. I want to see them displaying behaviours which support it.

“Hey Bob, was working from home yesterday useful for you?”
“Hey Bob, I have an idea I want to run by you, let me know when you’ve got five mins.”
“Hey Bob, it’s about time to start planning for your review. Put some time in my diary and we’ll make a start on planning for it.”
“Hey Bob, I’m going to book some time for us to talk about the timelines for your project because I’ve noticed your workload and I’m concerned we might miss delivery.”

These are good conversation starters. When I hear and see those, I’m a happy bunny. It tells me that managers are attuned to the needs of their people, they are actively showing them support, and not sitting back waiting for people to come to them.

They’re not just saying they want to be inclusive and develop you, they’re actively making it happen. The reward for doing something like this comes from a series of other things which that manager has helped to enable. And by opening the door for people to walk through, here’s the kind of thing they get in return
– people are taking proactive steps to improve the work they do
– people are talking to each other at work because the manager has shown them it’s ok to do it
– people are procrastinating within unspoken limits
– people are supporting each other to get the job done
– people are advocates for the team and for the company

I like being part of teams that do this.

Go on, you can do it too.


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

2 thoughts on “When Open Doors need opening”

  1. I have often spoken, well, not often but occassionally spoken, and not actually spoken about, per se, more referred to Open Door policies as being a deriliction of mangerial duty.

    There is a horrible passivity about it.

    “Get on with your work but tell me when there is a problem.”

    Effective management and leadership needs the active engagement that you outline in the second part of your article above. It is a characteristic that is all too rare.

    Great blog Sukh, as ever, Way to go.

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