Imagine your supervisor emails, writing that she needs to speak with you. When entering her office, she asks you to close door before you sit down.
Your first thought: This can’t be good.
Regardless of the subject of the meeting, the mere mention of a closed door is likely to send a wave of dread and panic over you—even if you’ve been doing a great job. Turns out, there’s a psychological reason for this, explains Glenn Geher, professor of psychology at the State University of New York at New Paltz, in a recent article for Psychology Today.
“Our behavior is largely shaped by the nature of the audience in front of whom we are acting. The world’s a stage. And our behavior changes as a function of which stage we are on at any given time,” Paltz writes. “We behave differently in closed-door versus non-closed-door conversations, partly because these contexts change the nature of the audience.”
Geher cites three main factors that might prompt someone to close the door at work—all of which are negative in that they divide people into “us” versus “them” groups. They are:
- Delivering bad news
- Wanting to gossip
- Desire to show power
So what’s the alternative?
Here are some suggestions, courtesy of Inc. magazine:
- Position furniture in your space so it’s harder for sound to travel out of the room
- Use a walking or off-site meeting
- Use a secure online platform such as a chat room.
- Have a pleasant nook in your building that provides some privacy but does not have a door.
Your employees will thank you.