Most managers I know have an open-door policy - although I think it's more a philosophy than a policy. My
observations have led me to believe there are more closed doors than open doors in the managers' wing of a building. As a day-to-day manager in radio, I also had an open-door standard, one that I posted inside my office. As part owner of Luce Performance Group, I still live by this standard today. Closing your door can create dissension in the ranks and cause gossip to run rampant. Yes, there are times you have to close it -
especially when disciplining your staff for non-performance. But in most instances, if you say your door is open, that's the way it should be left whenever possible.
Here is what I posted at the radio station for my staff to see (which held me accountable for making sure I did it):
What you can expect from Sean
- Six customer contacts daily (in person or by phone)
- Review weekly planners and account trackers
- Involvement in top 50 station accounts
- 60 percent of my time in the field
- Open-door policy
- Your input and involvement
- A never-give-up mentality
- Turn non-worked accounts
- Might not like what I say
- Have fun, share the rewards, and earn recognition
So what is an open-door policy? What are the criteria for keeping it open? When do you shut the door? Here are the policies of two general managers I consult.
JEFF PARKE, GENERAL MANAGER, KOLA-KCAL, RIVERSIDE, CA:
I usually arrive pretty early in the morning. I close my door for about the first hour of the day. During that time, most of my department heads and subordinates are grabbing a cup of coffee, or talking about Desperate Housewives. I'm still available during that first hour, but I'd rather it be by phone. This gives me a chance to handle my priorities before the day has started. I often do the same at the end of the day, from 4:30 on. This gives me a couple hours to wrap up the day, and handle my administrative and corporate responsibilities.
On a more philosophical basis, I close the door when employees want to come in and throw their manager or a coworker under the bus, or turn a quick question into a lengthy talk-show segment. My door is open for help, advice, guidance, and just about any other pertinent issues I can assist with. If someone wants to hang out his or her dirty laundry, or filibuster ad nauseam, I'm not open for that. When you're a known open-door manager, it's sometimes hard to draw the line. You don't ever want to cast off an "ivory tower" image, so you do have to listen and be available. The best way to avoid conflicts is to define your standards. For me, it would be, "I'm always here to assist and answer questions when I can, but when you've taken too much time, or deviated from the real issue, I will probably wrap up our session and bring it to a close."
Once my daily responsibilities are truly handled, my door swings wide open again. If anyone is still around, I've been known to hang out late and talk about anything and everything, from great movies to new recipes to classic football games. It's all good. Some of the best open-door bonding takes place during those times.
SUZANNE MYERS, GENERAL MANAGER, VERSTANDIG BROADCASTING, HARRISONBURG, VA:
In a station culture, I believe closed doors create negative vibes, while being accessible keeps me connected. Closing a door doesn't fit my style. However, when you arrive at work with a full day planned and people are "stealing" your time, closing the door becomes necessary just to get your work done. If I have projects that require concentrated time, I usually work off premises.
Shutting your door can shut down creativity and communication. One of the most popular lines from Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca was, "Round up the usual suspects." When communication breaks down at the station, the usual suspect is management and, more often than not, the doors are closed more than open. If your door is closed, your department heads' doors are probably closed also, which creates a "suspect" culture.