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Submitted by dpiedrahita on


Fellow managers and professionals, I'd really like your opinion on office doors. Someone's office door is closed, you don't have time on their calendar, and there's no emergency or safety issue. Yes or no, is it acceptable to knock?
And, does your answer change if the question is "yes or no, would you knock?"

scm2423's picture

For me, I would say do not knock unless it is important and urgent.  My office door is open with the exception of two reasons:

  1. I am on the conference call or video conference and I do not want to be disturbed or I do not want to disturb those around me
  2. Someone has closed it because we are speaking about a confidential matter.  I may have closed it, my boss may have closed it or my directs may have closed it, but this was done for a purpose.  Please respect that.

I do not close my door because:

  • it is too noisy in the hallway, 
  • it is too cold in the office,
  • I have too much work to do, or
  • I am having a bad day and I want to be left alone.

Of course this is just how I work.  If the person whose door we are talking about had said knock at anytime, I would follow that guidance.  In my mind I would be questioning why the door is closed if they do not mind the interruption.

As a manager I want to be avaliable to my people so I keep the door open when I can.  I can always push back and say it is not a good time, but I would want to see what they needed to talk about first, just in case it is important or urgent.







Wayne1's picture
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If the persons office door is always closed then by all means knock, but if the door is open the majority of the time then wait.

Similar to SCM2423 my door was always open with rare exceptions. However, I have worked with several managers whose doors were always closed regardless of what was going on. If I needed to speak to these people I would knock, sometimes this was just to go for a coffee other times it was to get their input on something. 


duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

In the scenario you outlined, I'd just go ahead and ask the person.   "In the future, How do you prefer I communicate with you about questions or items which aren't an emergency?   Should I just knock and come in or would you prefer I schedule time with you?"  

Odds are they'll say "just come in" - but If they prefer scheduled time and you feel you need to speak to this person daily, ask them if you can put a "professional update" in their calendar once a day at a time that works for both of you.

My 2 cents anyway.  Although, I think people who close their doors for no good reason are sending a really bad message.  But you can't manage others, so....





acao162's picture

I rarely have my door closed and there is a window, so you can see if I am in a meeting or on the phone. If the door is closed I am either trying to complete a task that requires quiet or dealing with a confidential matter.  I am the head of HR, so there are times when I need a closed door.

I find it incredibly rude for someone to simply open the door and poke their head in.  Again, there is a window.  Please knock & I will either motion you to come in or say "come in".  Maybe what is on the desk is not meant for your eyes & I have a moment to put it aside. 

I will generally communicate when I need to be unavailable and then make a point of leaving the office & checking in with the staff hourly or so.  Good to get up and stretch as  I refresh the coffee cup.  That way I am available on my terms & don't need to be interrupted.

When it is a closed door for quiet's sake, I will also communicate - I am taking calls, please interrupt if you need me, etc, I just need a little silence to get through this next (length of time).

Poking your head in without knocking will have me providing negative feedback, even in an emergency, since it takes less than 10 seconds to be polite.  It would be pretty awful to walk in my office uninvited to find me working on your lay-off notice, wouldn't it?

dpiedrahita's picture
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S- I think you're on point reasons for not closing your door!

Mark- I would LOVE if someone would do that! That's thoughtful and aware of one's personal preference. In my case, I'm sensitive about my time. Always willing to give it to people I know respect it, but I have a hard time when people wander in with low importance stuff and can't get to the point. I'd love for someone to ask so I can have some person-specific ways of handling it. I whole-heartedly agree with closing the door for no reason. 

ACAO162- so you're saying acceptable to knock if the door is closed but be prepared to get a "no, not right now" or "give me a few minutes"?



edzaun's picture

 I was a bit surprised that no one has mentioned O3's as a reason for a closed door and it got me thinking. I know the guidance is "private, not public" and private means anyplace where someone has to deliberately snoop to over hear.  So, my question is mostly for the men here and I would  also be interested in female opinions.


Do you do O3's with the door closed? I do, and I have been advised never to be behind a closed door with a female co-worker or direct. The reasoning is this will limit my exposure to sexual harassment charges.  I discounted that advice because I maintain a professional relationship everyone. At least I think I do.  The person who gave that advice tends to twist most scenarios to wild and convoluted outcomes, so I chose to ignore it. All my directs understand O3's are one of 3 reasons my door is closed and the only common one.


So, what do you think? Am I taking a risk?  Do closed door crossgender meetings, one on one, make you nervous or uncomfortable? Would it be better close the  door almost all the way but not quite?


My gut says do what I am doing and ignore the latrine lawyers but this thread got me thinking....




Ed Zaun

DiSC Profile 7-3-1-2

mrreliable's picture


I understand your point, and we can end up in a bubble wrap cocoon if we worry too much about "what ifs." However, I'd caution against feeling too secure that because you maintain a professional relationship, everything will be fine. Most people are decent and honest, but it only takes one to obliterate another person under the right circumstances. Set-ups can happen, and it won't make any difference how professional you have behaved.

I was in a situation where I worked with a mostly-female group. Gender did not seem to be an issue with most of the interactions. However, there was one woman whose behavior I didn't trust. I mentioned to my wife, "I'm going to make sure that I am never anywhere with her without someone else in the room." On several occasions I walked the long way around to make sure I was never in close proximity without being in a group.

One of the other managers wasn't so careful, and, you guessed it, was accused of sexual abuse that supposedly occured when the two were alone in the hallway. The authorities were contacted and the situation blew wide open. Fortunately, under questioning, the accuser gave highly inconsistent statements about what had happened, and the investigation fairly quickly determined the accusations were false. The manager may have dodged a bullet, but there is probably a cloud over his reputation to this day. A smarter, more savvy accuser would probably at least have drawn out the process much longer and caused much more damage.

My point is that this issue is much like business litigation. You can be squeaky clean, do everything right, go to Church every Sunday, and help little old ladies across the street. That won't do you any good in defending yourself against a frivolous lawsuit or a charge of sexual harrassment.

Personally, I do have one-on-ones with female directs. I trust them, and don't panic when we need to have a closed-door discussion. However, with regular one-on-ones I close the door most of the way, but leave it open about six inches. I think this makes them (and me) more comfortable, and the office doesn't get stuffy.

And no, it's not appropriate to knock on a closed door unless it's an urgent situation. The person has the door closed for a reason. Knocking is like saying, "I know you have the door closed for a reason, but I don't care. I want to talk to you so I'm going to interrupt what you're doing." You might as well pull up in their driveway and start blowing the car horn.



acao162's picture

D - If I have said I'm having "quiet time, but interrupt if it is urgent", then my staff know it is ok to knock.  I get a 30 second summary (or less) of the situation & then make a decision - now or in 5 minutes.

If i have said "no interruptions please", the office better be on fire, under attack or the head boss is on the phone.  Otherwise, I meant "no interruptions please"

But again, I find that I must communicate the expectation every time.  If I do, I get perfect compliance. My door is very rarely closed and it is pretty easy to walk out of the office, say "Please, no interruptions for the next hour" or conversly "I'm going to close the door for a bit to work on project X.  If you need me, come and get me.  Can you hold (or don't worry about holding) my calls."

As time goes on, my staff have learned what "can" wait an hour and what "cannot". It has also helped make them more accountable for their work, instead of running to me every 5 minutes.  Second, hidden bonus!

In fact, I've never had to bring this up in an O3, coaching or even feedback situation.  It is an expectation that you will follow my directions and people do.

edzaun's picture

 Mr.  Reliable,

Thank you for your reply. I had discounted the advice due to the source and will re-think it.  Since all my directs know about O3's, perhaps posting a sign on the partially closed door will be enough.



My apologies: I also realized, in re-reading this thread, I usurped it without answering  the original question.

My answer is: No, it is not acceptable to knock without sufficient reason. My door is closed for O3's, conference calls. and when someone comes in and closes it for their own purposes.  It may not stay closed for the last reason. I never close my door to work on something without interruption. My outputs, though valuable to the plant as a whole, are not that time-critical. An hour either way is not significant.  Others may have more time-sensitive outputs.

Sufficient reason is defined by me, not the intruder. There is little indeed that cannot keep for an hour at most, including news of a corporate takeover.  Really, what would you do in the first hour after learning that news? If you have something that important, you are already too far behind.  If emails can wait two or three hours without harm or other things can wait until I am out of a meeting, so can most news or requests simply because I happen to be in my office with the door closed.

It is exceedingly rude and completely unacceptable to knock and then open the door without an invitation.

If I need to speak to someone with a closed door, I always ask myself, "Would I break in if I knew the site manager were in there?"


Ed Zaun

DiSC Profile 7-3-1-2

scm2423's picture

 I leave it up to my directs as to as to if the office door is closed for our one-on-ones.  If they leave it open and I have something confidential to discuss I close the door when we get to that subject.  It is funny some of them close the door every time even if its not confidential, I am okay with that.  

I have not considered that I should not be alone with a female colleague.  Yes I guess this opens me up to some risk.  I guess in the spirit of maintaining professional relationships you have to live with a little risk.  If it came to a point where I could not trust the individual I think I would avoid that situation but that has not happened yet.