What is one of the hardest things for me to do at work?  Close my door and say: “No, I can’t see you now, I need to get my work done.”

If I am in the office and not in meetings, I try to be available for my staff, other colleagues or students who want my attention.  Most are very good about popping in only with work questions or when they need clarification — it’s not social hour — so I feel even more compelled to give them my complete focus and respond.

My tone sets the expectation for others on our staff — it makes it acceptable to interrupt and undesirable to close the door to do projects. We all find ourselves coming in a bit early or staying a bit late to do the requisite paperwork or tend to other matters.  

I wonder what behavior creates the best kind of climate overall.  Would it be better if I set firmer boundaries and cranked out all my work during normal business hours so my staff would do the same or does the collegiality outweigh the extra time that is put in?  

Throughout my career, I have chosen the latter and will continue to do so.  An open door policy only works if there is someone on the other side of the threshold who is ready, willing and able to engage in shared problem solving and idea generation.  If you work with the door closed, you are keeping out your strongest assets and missing the synergy that comes from a collegial office environment.  

The “interruptions” from your colleagues aren’t keeping you from your work; they are your work.  Embrace them and the open communication flow that they foster.

— beth triplett

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