The hidden cost of the Open Door Policy


Regardless of whether you are working from the office or from home, operating with an open door policy may seem like a good idea… but is it really?

Being available may have been drummed into you as the right thing to do, but there’s a hidden cost.

When you have lots of people demanding your attention, or relying on you for direction, the day’s and weeks can easily slip by without achieving much at all.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of being busy without being effective when you are at everyone’s beck and call.

Many mid-career professional women tell me that being responsive, available and having an ‘open door policy’, is what they think they need to do to get recognised as a leader.

But this isn’t true.

In fact, working in this way can harm your career progression.

In order to be seen as an effective leader, you need to focus your time and attention on those activities that have the biggest impact.

Effective leaders don’t just buzz around helping everyone else meet their goals. They have strong boundaries around their time, protective of their energy and intentional about their outputs. 

While effective leaders still support their team, they do so in a way that is structured and on their terms.

I want you to know that it’s okay to not jump to respond to people’s requests and queries. 

When you work reactively like this you:

  • Open your focus and creativity up to constant interruption
  • Get caught up in the day-to day doing in your workplace (as opposed to the bigger picture strategic and innovative thinking that leaders do)
  • Work extra hard, putting in long hours without always achieving the results required.
  • Keep yourself and your career stuck, and put roadblocks in the way of your progression.

Here’s some ways you can continue to support your team while also staying focused and getting seen as the leader you truly are.

1. Carve out time to respond

In most instances, nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait. I suggest carving out a pocket of time each workday to respond to people’s requests and queries. 

With a few hours passed you may even find that many of them have been resolved, without even needing your input. 

It’s amazing how time and space can encourage independent critical thinking!

2. Be okay with saying “no”

Just because someone asks you to respond to a question or support them with something, doesn’t mean you have to.

Sure, your role may mean that certain responsibilities lie with you, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t say “no” to things that lie outside of this, or, where appropriate, first encourage your team, peers or stakeholders to come up with a solution themselves.

Very often, we teach people how to treat us. If you are always available, you can rest assured that people will take the pathway of least resistance and get you to do the heavy lifting! 

3. Keep your eye on the prize 

When you’re a helpful person who prides themselves on being a team player, it can be easy to press pause on your work to support others. 

And while this is admirable, it’s not always serving your career.

To help you uphold your boundaries, say “no” and stay in your lane, I encourage you to keep your eye on the prize.  The prize really is about doing the work that matters most to you, your team and the organisation.  By doing this you will ultimately get recognised as a leader and receive the promotion you deserve!

I know it’s hard to turn down people’s requests for help, or tell them they have to wait.

But remembering why you’re doing it and how your career will thank you for it, can really help!

You can still have boundaries and be a respected and much loved teammate or manager. In fact, these boundaries will make you an even greater role model!

Want to learn more about how to reclaim your time and energy so you can focus on the bigger, more strategic elements of your role? My 8-week group coaching program for mid-career professional women – IGNITE – could be just the thing for you. Click here to find out more




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