The Closed Office Door
It’s easy for workers to misconstrue the closed office door as the harbinger of some bad news for the excluded.
The picture above of a closed office door has many implications. The leader behind it may not intentionally be trying to send a message; yet, when the door closes, and no one can see what’s going on behind it, those on the other side will likely draw four conclusions:
Privacy. The person behind the glass wants total privacy as he/she is working on something vital. It may be a project or simply a phone call that requires no one listening in or disturbing it.
Performance. The person behind the glass wants to focus solely on his/her performance. Their work, although not secretive, requires total concentration and no help from others.
Peace. The person behind the glass wants peace — no outside contact, wants to be left alone, doesn’t want to socialize, doesn’t care about anything other than finding quiet time. Creating peace allows distance to come between everyone in the company, creating an us vs. them mentality.
Perturbed. The person behind the glass is mad; he/she is angry, anxious and doesn’t want to contact office members.
None of the four will ultimately yield positive results in the long term. In fact, according to Inc., a closed office door “freaks people out.” Based on research, it implies 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 bad news for the excluded. According to the article, “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.”
We all know people need quiet time, they need privacy, and at times the closed-door might be the only way to do it. So, what should the leader do to offset the negative implications of a closed door? It’s simple. Be transparent about why the door is closed and why it matters and find some alternative ways to achieve the same results without having to close it.
We ultimately want to make those around us feel included, and transparency is vital to achieving this. When we don’t close the door, we open communication channels, allowing team members to play their roles even more effectively.