Professional Development

The open door policy

Operating an open door policy is a practice I learnt from one of my academic mentors and was immensely useful during my postgraduate and doctoral studies. As a result, I decided to adopt this practice as well. So far, I’ve continued to benefit from this practice because it makes the process of collaborating and discussing with colleagues a lot less daunting. In addition to building stronger relationships with colleagues and sub teams, open door policy can also facilitate deliberation and decision making, without necessarily compromising on quality. For students, the open door policy also provides tremendous benefits as it becomes easier to reach tutors and get academic advice. However, I’ve quickly learned that this policy, like with most things, comes at a price!

Open door policy can literally mean having your door open so that anyone can come in at any time. In some cases, you don’t necessarily need to have your door wide open but you make it clear that anyone can approach you at any time, to talk about anything. In my case, I announce this policy to students at the beginning of the module and reiterate this whenever the need arises. Within my department, everyone is friendly, helpful and approachable; so it is common practice to talk to colleagues about anything at any time. However, this means that sometimes, I’ve struggled to do everything I planned to do for that day in order to accommodate this. On some occasions, I’ve had to work outside traditional office hours in order to ensure that certain things are done, especially when they have a time line attached to them. I’m sure my colleagues and those who operate this policy also face similar challenges. So, is it then better to scrap this policy altogether or do we just extend this policy only to colleagues and not to students?

Well, this is not a question that can be answered in one sentence. I believe that there is much benefit in operating an open door policy but this might not be sustainable for some people in certain situations. There are also suggestions that open door policy could be a bad idea. Nonetheless, like with most things, sacrifices have to sometimes be made in order to get the kind of results we aim for. In my case, open door policy sometimes means shelving my plan for the day but it also means supporting students, networking and interacting with colleagues, etc. Now, would I want to close my door and miss out on these opportunities? Certainly not, at least not anytime soon.

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