When to Shut the Door

We’re all familiar with the idea of the open door policy, an over-used but still popular term we use to communicate that our teammates can approach us with their questions or concerns at any time. Of course, many times what we say with our words and what we say with our actions reveal that our door isn’t truly that open, but we’ve discussed those open door slammers in a previous post.

Today, I want to tackle the other side of the topic: What if our door is “too open?” Is there a line we can cross where our open door policy becomes an open mouth policy? Are there times when our door should indeed be closed?

Sometimes, in an effort to be completely transparent with our teams, we tip the scales too far in the other direction – sharing too much information or exposing our teammates to situations that should remain private.

Here are five instances when it’s okay to shut the door:

  • When you’re leading, guiding, and directing another teammate. One-on-one coaching conversations should remain one-on-one, allowing the employee and you to share thoughts without the concern of other teammates overhearing.
  • When you’re having a critical conversation. Critical conversations are growth conversations, but the need to have one usually stems from an issue that the leader must address. Teammates shouldn’t know the dirt on one another. Respect the confidentiality of a critical conversation.
  • If what the team overhears will be a burden to them. This goes back to masking up. There are things, such as our negative moods or our disappointment in decisions made by top leadership, that we alone are responsible for bearing.
  • When you need to work without interruptions. If your door is nearly always open, it’s fine to shut it from time to time to get some critical work done. Of course, we do this sparingly though because as a leader, our most important job is to lead our people, and we can’t do that if we’re inaccessible.
  • When you’re on speakerphone. I’m still shocked at how often some leaders use speakerphone with their doors open. When you use speakerphone, be courteous of your teammates and shut your door!

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