Open Door Policy = BAD Idea?

Many of us pride ourselves on an “open door policy” – keeping our doors open so our staff can approach us at any time.

Unfortunately having your staff coming into your office and interrupt you constantly is NOT a very effective working strategy for managers. Every time you are interrupted in the middle of a high priority project, it slows you down and it can take 20 minutes or more for you to get to the same level of concentration.

So how can we be there for our staff but still get things done?

Here is how to handle these staff interruptions and reduce them.

1. Are they going to the right person ? #

Did they go to their supervisor first? Make sure that your staff are going to their direct supervisor first. Their direct supervisor should be handling these problems. Staff should ONLY go over their supervisor’s head in cases where they are having a direct problem with their supervisor like sexual harassment or other behaviour in violation of the company’s rules.

2. Meet regularly with your direct reports. #

For people who report to you directly, set up a daily or 2-3 times per week meeting at a regularly scheduled time for 20-30 minutes each. Your subordinates should bring ALL their questions to these regular meetings unless there is an emergency.

3. Define “emergency.” #

The only time your staff should be interrupting you is for a serious emergency. Define emergencies as things like:

  • the office is on fire
  • your largest customer is about to drop your services
  • a multimillion dollar project deadline is today
  • etc. You get the gist of what I am getting at

4. Walk the talk. #

YOU should not interrupt your subordinates either. Show your staff that you respect their time by saving your questions for these regular meetings as well.

Dump the “open door policy” and get more done #

You will be surprised at how much difference these 4 small steps will make and how it will affect you and your subordinates’ productivity. I used this system with one of my clients who had taken over her father’s manufacturing firm and she was totally amazed at how it improved not only her productivity but the productivity of her staff.

As an added bonus, keeping small discussion topics until the regular meeting with each other provided time for small problems to solve themselves, additional information to provide more insight and more thinking time for better solutions.

If you need help implementing this system, contact me. – Garland Coulson, “Captain Time”

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