What is an open-door policy?

An open-door policy is much more than propping open an office door, although that certainly is a start. (I would be very suspect of an individual who always keeps an office door closed.) Colleagues, administrators, other division or department employees, customers or students (who really are customers) all must communicate with you. And one of the most important communications involves face-to- face or one-on- one communication. Have you ever sat down to write a letter, an email or even to “tweet” a message to someone and thought, “I really don’t even know this person. How should I begin this email?” You do not want to appear too forward or presumptuous, but you need to communicate something. Such thoughts may be entirely appropriate and even necessary. However, they do slow down efficient communication.

Why is an open-door policy important?

Now, by contrast, suppose this person who we will call Joe, even though new to the organization, had engaged you in conversation several times in the hallway, usually kept his office door open and just this morning acknowledged you at the door and invited you to come in his office. Joe created a very friendly atmosphere and even shared some important information with you about the project you are currently pursuing. You were only there less than five minutes. Now you are sitting down in your own office. You think of a very important idea or question about your project and want to query Joe. You start typing an email, “Hi Joe, about that project you mentioned…” You get right to the point and efficient and effective communication is taking place.

The above scenario might involve any of the colleagues, administrators, other division or department employees, customers or students referenced above; or it might involve still others. However, the scenario certainly underscores the importance of something as simple as an open-door policy. Additionally, Joe will similarly be able to communicate back to you.

Are you approachable?

But such efficient and effective communication may never have taken place, or even been possible, if Joe had not had an open-door policy – both physically and by the atmosphere, he created when he invited you into his office. Are you like Joe? Or, are you so caught up in your own little world, with your own myriad of problems and concerns, that you really do not have time for other people? Or, do you give this impression even though you really do have time for other people and want to be approachable? Either way, other people at your work are not going to engage and communicate with you the same as they would with Joe.

Develop a rapport with people. The benefits will far outweigh the value of the time invested. Even when you are extremely busy with your work or special project, let other people know they are important enough for you to take time out of your busy day to acknowledge and spend at least a few minutes with them.

Although there were other notable professors in my many years as a college student pursuing college degrees and during my tenure at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, there are only two, who really stood out as exceptionally approachable and extraordinarily effective teachers. These were Mr. Gray at Frisbee Junior High School in Kittery, Maine, and Mr. Rhodes at Robert W. Traip Academy also in Kittery, Maine (who later taught Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, NH). If anyone reading this ever attended these schools and knew these individuals (who undoubtedly have passed on now), I am sure you would agree. They immensely enjoyed their work, were extremely knowledgeable about their subjects (health and history) and were highly respected by students, parents, colleagues, nd administrators. And they consistently employed and open-door policy.

As always, your comments are most appreciated and welcome.

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