10/27/2014 04:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Get Out of My Office!


Okay, so you don't ever say that, but how many times have you wanted to? It's one of the downfalls of the proverbial "open-door policy."

Too many people think such a policy means they can walk right into your office and talk to you about anything at any time. If that's what's happening to you, then it's your own fault. Open-door policies mean that you are -- or will make yourself -- available. It doesn't necessarily mean "right this minute."

You need to be very specific about what your "availability" means. If you don't, you will foster a situation where familiarity breeds contempt or, at the very least, lack of respect. So, now is the time to review, restate and reissue the guidelines of when and how you are available. You can do it formally in writing or more casually by passing the word through your managers and supervisors.

You must remember that the corner office is not the place for coffee klatches, grievance airing or general bitch sessions. Before you decide to be available for any person or issue, you need to determine why they're requesting your time. It helps if you have a gatekeeper, an admin or a number two, who is capable of fielding mundane and unnecessary personal visits.

I'm not saying hide in your office and let others deal with employees who only want a minute or two of your time. All levels of staff are important to the smooth operation of any business. It's a wise executive who makes time for them. But, it's a foolish executive, who allows his time to be squandered.

Casual conversations can be conducted as you go around to the various departments, before and after meetings, over lunch or in the break room, but definitely not by just stopping off at your office. Work is not home, where neighbors and relatives stopping by is usually a good or nice thing. Your office time is how and where you get the serious work done, and being interrupted for less then serious talks, no matter how brief, is very disruptive and hampers your concentration and decision making.

A method I have employed ever since I've had employees is to stroll around the work areas, first thing everyday and say good morning to each and every person, by name. We teach our children that good manners dictate that you say hello when arriving and goodbye when leaving and a little reminding doesn't hurt anyone. Greetings are a tangible recognition of others. It says that they matter and you recognize that and them.

This methodology I am sure is one of the reasons that my open door policy is respected for the most part. It is also one of the reasons that people feel part of the team, but more importantly, it's one of the reasons why there is so little drama in our workplace. I've found that by doing so, I give everyone the respect they desire. It also gives me the opportunity to reinforce the collegial culture that is at the core of our business. And, it gives the employees a chance to open a conversation that I can react to or instruct them on their next steps, including when and how I might be available to hear them out.

Don't let people misunderstand your "open-door policy." If you do, I promise at some point you will be busting to say "GET OUT OF MY OFFICE!"

If you would like to read more of Greg's published articles please visit the Lorraine Gregory Communications Group website

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.