What a Closed Office Door is Really Saying to Your Employees

While open floor plans can be found in all kinds of office settings, many management teams do their work in offices with doors that can close for private conversations. But there is a psychological impact of a closed door and a manager that sits behind it that should be considered. What are the implications of a closed office door? Is an open-door policy better? Should managers sit out on the floor with the rest of their employees?

Managers Versus Employees

A closed office door can distance a manager from the daily interactions with their team. It can give the impression that the manager is walled off from everyone else and that can create an us versus them mentality that can be harmful to a team effort. For organizations that say they have a flat management structure or a culture of transparency, a closed-door can be perceived at the opposite of the environment the company says they’re trying to promote. 

For the worker outside the closed door, it’s tough to ask for guidance or even know if they can interrupt. Privacy is one thing but if the door is shut often, workers will be less engaged with managers – and potentially less trusting. Managers typically cannot lead, provide mentorship, or offer support to employees if they are stuck behind a closed door.

Even worse, according to Inc., a closed office door “freaks people out.” Based on research, a closed office door is perceived as bad news or the desire to flaunt authority and power. It’s easy for workers to misconstrue the closed office door as the harbinger of some sort of bad news for the employees excluded from the room. The article stated:

“Because a shut door sends this message of division, people become scared not just of the hardship that could be coming, but of not being included anymore. We feel like we’re being shut out, discarded, or labeled as not good enough.”

While this may seem a little dramatic, it does mean that a closed office door can create division when, in fact, it may simply mean that the manager inside is on a call and doesn’t want to be overly loud and disturbing to employees.

Closed Door Alternatives

Let’s face it; there are going to be times when management needs to have privacy to do their job. But managers have alternatives to being shut in a closed office with an employee. For example, they can do a meeting in a conference room or over lunch. Taking a meeting outside during a walk could be a great way to relax, get exercise, and get a change of scenery. 

Online chats and instant message can be helpful, but these tools are tricky; crucial conversations should always be handled in person. Tone can easily be misconstrued in a written message. 

Managers can try to communicate with employees their meeting agendas that require a shut door, if possible. It’s a good way to acknowledge that the closed-door is sometimes a necessary way to conduct business. Let the team know when decisions are being made and create as much transparency as possible in the organization by creating open office hours when employees know they can stop in to seek advice. 

By all means, let employees know if the door is shut simply to allow for quiet concentration. People understand the reasoning behind cutting down on distractions. For more management tips get in touch with the experts at The Custom Group of Companies. Get in contact with us today!

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