my boss told me to stop closing my office door when I’m on the phone

A reader writes:

Is it unprofessional to close your door when making a professional phone call?

Some background information:

I am 23. I do not know much about professional etiquette, other than dress and showing up on time. I have been working for the same small company for 4 years. Previously, I was part-time and just did data entry, with little contact with other employees and managers. A few months ago, I was promoted to full-time. My job involves close work with the vice president, inter-office paperwork, and lots of correspondence with other companies. Most of the correspondence is done through email, but there are quite a few phone calls as well.

My issue is that I am a bit self-conscious about making phone calls. I do not want someone to walk in and out of my office while I am on the phone. I find it distracting as they go around looking for files or wait on me to finish. I began to shut my door whenever I had to make a call, and then opened it when I was finished. No one else in the office does this. I did this on two separate, not consecutive, days.

On the first day, the office manager asked me if I was having personal issues or family problems. When I asked why, she mentioned that I had been closing my door. I then explained that I was making phone calls and that it was distracting when someone came in and out. She simply laughed and said okay.

However, on the second day (about a week later), the office manager spoke to me again. She told me “You’ve got to stop closing your door when you make phone calls. It’s unprofessional. If it bothers you when someone comes in, tell them ‘in a minute.’ Okay?” I thought about that for a second, but simply told her okay.

I would have understood if she had told me that it was office policy or something, but I have a hard time believing it is unprofessional. Believing that would mean that any company I work for would feel the same way, just like every business universally feels the same way about showing up on time, but like I said, I have limited knowledge about professional etiquette. What are your thoughts?

It very much depends on your office culture. There are offices where closing your door to take calls is the norm (either to keep from generating noise for others or to block out others’ noise) and there are offices where it’s not really done. Based on what your manager said, your office culture is one where people don’t generally close their doors, at least for routine phone calls and/or at least in your type of role.

In that specific context, I wouldn’t say that it’s unprofessional, exactly — it’s more like, well, not professionally mature to do it just because you don’t want people to overhear routine phone calls. Lots of people have to make phone calls in front of others as part of their work, and you just have to kind of suck it up and get used to it. The fact that you’re uncomfortable with it isn’t reason not to do it; it’s just a flag for you to work on getting more comfortable with it (which is probably as simple as just doing it and waiting for the discomfort to lessen over time, which it will).

And, when closing your door is out of sync with your office culture — which is what your manager seems to be saying — people are going to wonder why you’re walling yourself off, and if something’s going on, and why you’re having so many conversations that you don’t want overheard.

And that’s an appropriate thing for your manager to give you feedback on and ask you not to do.

Honestly, I’d probably do the same thing if I had a junior staffer who was closing the door every time she was on the phone so that no one would overhear her. If it was for a different reason, like that it was otherwise hard to hear the person on the other end of the call, I wouldn’t — but if it were about discomfort? I’d want her to get over that, if we were in an office where shut doors weren’t common.

All this said, there are ways to signal that you don’t want someone lingering in your office while you’re on the phone. For example, you can try putting your hand over the receiver and whispering, “I’m going to be a while” or “I’ll come let you know when I’m off.” All but the most clueless people will take the hint and leave.

{ 375 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Gwen

    In my experience, the only time coworkers close their doors for phone calls are if the call is going to be especially long (a conference call or, since I sit next to a PR director, an interview), and it’s primarily to not bother the people sitting around them with the noise, not so other people don’t bother them.

    Reply
    1. the gold digger

      Or when the person in the office has the phone on speaker.

      I have closed my boss’ door before because he was so darn loud. I would have closed my own door, but – I didn’t have one.

      Reply
      1. hermit crab

        This is how we do it in our office — the unspoken rule seems to be that the door is generally open if you are using the phone on a handset or headset, but the door is generally closed if you have it on speaker.

        Then you get those people who are a few doors down from each other and have phone have conversations where they’re both on speaker at full volume! But that’s a different issue.

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        1. Clever Name

          Some people in my office do this. It’s really interesting hearing the same conversation 4 times at once.

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          1. Rita

            Two people at my office did this last week. Neither has an office with a door to close, just in two different areas. They were spread out far enough that the sound wouldn’t carry over between them, but my office happens to be right in the middle. There was a 1 second delay between hearing someone talk, and then hearing them come out on the speakerphone on the other side. It was pretty funny though, and luckily the call didn’t last long.

            Reply
    2. Koko

      Yes, both of these things. Everyone in my office closes the door for phone calls, but I also can’t think of a single person with an office I know who uses the handset to make calls. Everyone uses speakerphone so they can have their hands free to type and navigate documents on the computer. It would be incredibly disruptive to the people who sit in cubes outside the offices to have to overhear our phone calls all day long. (The cube occupants–mostly interns and assistants–do use handsets or headsets for their calls.)

      Shoot, I even close my door and use speakerphone when I’m calling in a take-out lunch order so I don’t disturb the interns around me.

      Reply
        1. Windchime

          Same here. Every person in the office, including managers (with offices) has a cordless headset. Yet we still have managers who leave their doors open and shout into their speaker phones.

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    3. Mike C.

      This is what I was thinking. To me, it’s incredibly polite to close your door and it makes me think this office manager is crazy.

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        1. Dice-K

          The poor OP closed his/her door TWICE in FOUR YEARS and got called out for it?!? Absurd. In my opinion, it is professional and polite to close one’s door during phone calls.

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      1. Bea W

        People even in offices use either a handset or headset and will close the door unless it’s a short conversation so as not to be disruptive to those of us in cubes within ear shot. I just thought the boss’ request was weird and calling closing the door during a phone call “unprofessional” was just bizarre.

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        1. Three Thousand

          I agree that it sounds weird, like you’re telling them you want the option of eavesdropping on their conversations.

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    4. Marcy Marketer

      Are you serious? I ALWAYS close my door when I’m on the phone. First of all, there’s a general work area outside my office and it can get loud and hard to focus on the call. Secondly, I’m always on the phone with our software company and I usually put my phone on speaker while I click through the issues on my computer. How is it weird to close your door while making business calls? I just don’t get that at all.

      Reply
  2. Jamie

    Hmm, I close my door for calls as well but I’m in finance and sometimes I’m discussing client account information. And also, like the OP mentioned,
    it limits distractions. It never occurred to me that it could come off as unprofessional.

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    1. Elysian

      Yeah, it is common practice to close the door for class in my office. I frequently take calls on speaker phone, so will always close my door for that so it doesn’t bother my coworkers. Though I also deal with confidential client stuff and sit near the front door, so I don’t want anyone walking into our lobby to hear me anyway. If it’s a quick call I might leave the door open, but most of the time I close it and that is in sync with my office culture. Some people don’t close their doors, but its more of a personal preference/if you’re on speakerphone. A coworker and I actually complain occasionally about a third person who sits near us and doesn’t close her door, but is very loud on the phone. Sometimes I’ll even close my door if someone else is on the phone and didn’t close theirs, but is loud enough for me to hear!

      Maybe part of this depends on the length and nature of your calls, as well as the culture in your office.

      Reply
    2. Charlotte

      In my office, we all close our office doors when we take and make phone calls. We are attorneys and in a rather quiet office, so we close the doors to limit distractions to ourselves and the other attorneys and to keep client confidentiality (we often take our calls on speaker phone). I echo that it has not occurred to me that it could come off as unprofessional! In fact, I’d be inclined initially to think it rude not to close one’s office door when on the phone…so this makes me think it is in the realm of knowing your office culture and industry.

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      1. sam

        It definitely depends on office culture – in my law firm and in-house lawyer world, it would be highly unusual not to close your door when you’re on a call. Especially since we all end up on speakerphone for our hours-long meetings.

        That being said, there was a brief period when I worked in a cube and it wasn’t an option. I learned how to use a hands-free headset and the mute button. But it was still incredibly weird when you and three of your cubicle-mates would be on the same conference call, and you could hear the lag between when someone spoke in “real-time” versus when their voice came through the phone.

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    3. Karowen

      I’m with this crowd. I don’t discuss anything particularly private, and I’m not normally on speakerphone, but I know I can get loud and the noise in the hallway outside my office can be deafening when you’re straining to hear someone who is speaking very softly.

      And then there were the days when I had to shut the door and put a sign up to stop my boss from running into the office and yelling “BAM! BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM!” and expecting me to engage with her – while I was actively talking on the phone. (NB: The sign was a last resort after continually asking her to not be an idiot, and it didn’t even work.)

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    4. Sadsack

      Me, either. It is a personal preference and if OP always opens her door right after the call, why would it matter? Maybe this is a culture thing, but I think it is a pretty stupid thing to be offended by.

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      1. Anonsie

        I don’t know, I’m honestly surprised there’s anywhere people would find it weird and unacceptable to close the door when on the phone.

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        1. The Other Dawn

          Me, too. I’m surprised anyone would even care, unless you have someone who keeps their door closed all the time because they either don’t want to appear available or want to be on personal calls all day.

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        2. Maxwell Edison

          Likewise. If Catelyn is worrying why Ygritte closes the door when she makes calls, Catelyn obviously doesn’t have enough to do.

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            1. College Career Counselor

              I suspect that closing the door to make calls is viewed as “being on personal business” and another way of “stealing time from the company.” Having the office door open while you’re on a phone call allows this office manager to monitor whether or not the OP is doing work.

              And, evidently (to your point) it’s more important for this office culture for the office manager to be able to monitor that than it is for the OP to conduct business over the phone in a quiet and unobtrusive manner. I just think most of the people here (who, judging from the comments on open office plans/loud co-workers, like their worktime peace and quiet) think the office manager is being unreasonable. Particularly when this behavior (which on the face of it is relatively innocuous) is labeled as “unprofessional.” It’s not unprofessional. It’s contra the prevailing culture, which is not the same thing as unprofessional.

              Reply
            2. AGirlCalledFriday

              I understand wanting people to succeed in the corporate culture, but I was surprised to hear that you would consider doing this as well. I would have imagined that you would have thought such a thing to not be that important, as long as the employee was getting their work done. Also, for some people, speaking on the phone is a difficult thing – much more so than email. I’m an outgoing introvert, I can speak in public and I can talk on the phone but because I don’t feel comfortable unless I can read social cues, I find phone conversations exhausting and unnerving. I am definitely an employee who would want to close the door in order to be comfortable. And really, what’s so wrong with someone feeling uncomfortable being overheard when they are on the phone? Some people can make sales calls in the bathroom, some can make them in a closed office. So long as they both close the deal, does it really matter? In fact, I’d argue that being comfortable would result it the employee being happier and more productive.

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              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                If closing a door is going to be perceived as weird in a particular office and if the only reason the person doing it is because of awkwardness around the phone, I’m going to coach them on what they need to do to succeed in that particular office.

                I’m a huge fan of closing doors. But if this office isn’t, that matters. She’s really junior; she doesn’t have the standing to push back against something like that, if her main reason for it that she feels weird about people overhearing her work calls. Her manager did her a favor by letting her know if it’s out of sync with their culture.

                We can debate whether that culture makes sense, but that’s a different thing (to me, at least).

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                1. AGirlCalledFriday

                  I very much agree that if the workplace culture makes open doors standard, it would look very odd to have a newly promoted employee closing their door. But, I’m not actually seeing that this is against the workplace culture. What I’m reading is that we have an OP who has been working at this same small company for 4 years. She worked there part-time (maybe while going to college?) and now is working full-time with an office. Depending on just how small and collaborative this company is, and if she had been working under this manager the entire time, she might not even be viewed as a *junior* employee the same way a new hire would be. It’s possible that no one closes their doors at this place – but it’s also equally possible that the office manager has known this employee for over 4 years, and this is the first time the door was closed and it was noticed. It’s also possible that while others may close their door, the office manager does not want this particular employee to do so because of her personal preference. We just don’t know, because we don’t have the details.

                  Ultimately it doesn’t matter, because the office manager has stated a preference and it’s on the OP to respect that accordingly. But – unless I’m missing something here – that’s not tied to her being uncomfortable talking on the phone or an attempt to cultivate her.

                2. Kiwi

                  I disagree that this is culture (as in a “normal” office culture). It better resembles micromanagement. Some managers cannot cope with employees who prefer to competently perform assigned work in a different style to that of the manager (e.g. making phone calls with the door closed) and simply MUST have the employee come around to their way of things, even if that may reduce productivity and impact morale. As the employer, that is their right. But it’s not normal enough behaviour to deem it “cultural”.

                3. AcidMeFlux

                  “….. I’m going to coach them on what they need to do to succeed in that particular office….” ok, so she’s new and she has to suck it up. But the way it was handled still seems creepy to me and a lot of other people. Which means it’s worth discussion.

                4. Human Resources Manager

                  But her question also asked if this behavior is unprofessional in general (or at least that’s how I took the question). And it’s just not, I think that needs to be made clear. It may be against the norms for this particular workplace but it’s not an unprofessional thing to do in general.

                5. Sarah

                  FWIW I agree with you on this – especially if she’s doing the door closing in a nervous way. I can see why a manager might not be listening to every call, but would still feel more comfortable being able to occasionally overhear how the employee is doing, especially if she’s never worked in this kind of role before.

      2. V2

        Of course it depends on the culture, but if that’s part the culture, it’s pretty inexplicable. I would wonder if they trust their employees. Keeping your door closed all day? Yeah, I can see how that would be a problem, but having an issue with someone closing it just to take a call? Anal retentive, at best.

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        1. Anonsie

          The biggest thing that’s throwing up a flag here for me is that the LW did it one time and they were immediately starting to ask if she had some sort of personal business to deal with, then acted like she should know better than to do that in the first place.

          This is markedly different from “hey Jane, I noticed your door was closed the other day. I don’t know what you were working on but we really want to keep all the doors open around here because x and you should make sure to do that also.” In the actual scenario, they saw her door closed and immediately started speculating on how she might be up to something and then started asking what her personal issue could possibly be that necessitated the closed door.

          It’s not that they don’t want her door closed, but the fact that they seemed to find it suspicious and started off by requiring an explanation after the very first time they ever saw her do it. I get an uncomfortable feeling about the implications of that.

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          1. AMT

            Right. Even if open doors are the norm at OP’s office, I find it very strange that it’s such a huge deal.

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          2. Dice-K

            +100

            It was weirdly nosy to pry after only one/two door-closing incidents, for what I assume was under half an hour each. If I was dealing with a personal family issue, for example, I would want the right to close my door for 15 minutes to give someone a call during my break, or just to cry and pull myself together. If I knew that my office manager would pry into my business just because I closed my door for a short stint, I would feel uncomfortable and stifled at work. It’s so weird that the OP is being monitored and questioned to this degree. That is not normal office culture.

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        1. Sadsack

          Exactly. Maybe the manager said that because she wants OP to get over her fear of talking in front of others? It seems impossible to think of a plausible reason that this became part of their culture.

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      3. Althea

        I think it’s the word. To me, it’s a little weird to call it “unprofessional” even in a culture where it’s not done. It’s like saying wearing a shirt and slacks (as opposed to a suit) is categorically unprofessional. It’s not – it’s just not acceptable in that culture. I feel like “unprofessional” is reserved for something generally not accepted in most/all office cultures, like taking tons of personal calls or dating your manager. The word says to me “(all) professionals do not do this.”

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      4. Mephyle

        I wouldn’t say I was missing this, but I question why it is part of the culture that it is all right to (potentially) bother other people by exposing them to hearing to your phone calls and to (potentially) bother clients by exposing you to distraction from coworkers coming into your office and engaging with you while you are on the phone.

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        1. Monodon monoceros

          Yes, exactly this. I close my door when I’m on the phone because I want to focus on who I’m talking to. I think it’s actually unprofessional to have to be whispering to your coworker that you’ll talk to them later (i.e., get the hell out). The other person can hear you whispering, and I’d think they’d be annoyed that your focus was not on them, but rather the weird colleague who has just entered your office even though you’re clearly on the phone (?). Seriously, I find that more unprofessional than closing the door. If I need to talk to my coworker, but she’s on the phone, I don’t even go into her office. I check back later.

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      5. Ad Astra

        You’re right that the OP should do what her manager asks her to do and comply with the office culture. I’m just genuinely surprised that this sort of culture is common enough that you don’t find the request strange. I think some of us are getting caught up in how we don’t care for the culture rather than acknowledging that, yeah, your advice is the best way to go.

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      6. Koko

        I think people get that it’s a cultural answer but were expecting an answer more like, “Your boss is weird/this isn’t how most offices are run, but this is apparently how things are done in your office, so it’s best to go along with.”

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        1. Hotstreak

          Yeah, it sounds like this is OP’s first Job, and she shouldn’t think that closing the door for calls is taboo in most offices.

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        2. Abby

          Yup. The response just sounds like, “suck it up, this isn’t your manager being weird, this is you failing.”

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      7. AnotherAlison

        Lol. I read the OP’s letter, the response, and just nodded along thinking, “Yep, makes sense.” I am kind of blown away to come back & see how many people are on the other side of this.

        I was trying to figure out why this seemed so normal to me and not everyone else. One guess I came up with is that my office and our jobs are mostly project-oriented. Most of the people who have offices are somewhere on the project management ladder or the people-management side (dept. managers). We’re all supposed to be accessible and collaborative. A closed door doesn’t fit that culture. Now, I used to sit near the legal department, and they kept their doors closed probably 50% of the time, but no one questioned that because it makes sense that they’re on confidential phone calls or reading docs that requires concentration.

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        1. Bea W

          I work in that environment as well where everyone works with the door open, but it’s also considered polite to close it when you are on the phone for more than a couple minutes. People will quietly walk over and close the door for you if you haven’t done it yourself. It’s because the offices open up onto blocks of cubes, and everyone can hear everything, and also a way of communicating you don’t want to be interrupted.

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          1. AnotherAlison

            I think that, for us, it communicates that you *can’t* be interrupted. Door closed is like Code Red Do Not Disturb mode. I normally close my door 95% of the way for shorter calls, or calls where I don’t care if someone pops their head in. If it’s a long call or I have several people in my office on the call, I shut it all the way.

            All that said, I can’t say we have any “door police” in our office. It’s never been an issue where I’ve had someone say, or have said to someone else, to keep their door open or shut. People shut others’ doors here, too. It’s not a big deal, but open is more common than shut.

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      8. themmases

        I think office layout probably plays a big role in this.

        Open layouts and cube farms are very, very common and they shape the culture where they’re implemented unless the people who work in them are very oblivious or inconsiderate. For the many people working in these types of offices, it’s basic politeness to keep noise down. Other aspects of the work or culture such as need for confidentiality or valuing openness and accessibility are beside the point.

        It sounds like the OP doesn’t work in such an environment. If they have an office with a door despite being very new to the workforce (and it seems like they are in a support role if their office houses documents that others feel the need to come in and dig through), then their office affords an unusual level of space and privacy. It’s unlikely there is anyone trapped in a cube outside OP’s office who would be bothered by their phone conversations. In that case, it becomes more of a culture issue– “we leave our doors open here”– because leaving your door open in *this* office isn’t impolite.

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        1. Brightwanderer

          I actually wonder if the missing link in this question is that the OP DOESN’T have her own office with a door. For example, she’s working in a room with 2 other people, and on both these occasions she’s waited for them to leave, then shut the door (in my office that would be pretty weird – you’re forcing other people to hesitate about whether or not it’s okay for them to go back to their own desks). Or maybe she’s working in a cubby-office/reception area with a door, but it’s always supposed to be open, but she’s closing it. Or some other variant that is making the office manager think “this is NOT your space, you don’t get to close it off like that”? It seems slightly odd that OP would have her own office at this point in her career.

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          1. AnonAnalyst

            I posted something similar to this down thread, but this is what I was wondering as well. Especially since this came up after she closed it for a few minutes on two occasions, and the OP mentioned that people seem to feel free to come in and start looking for things if they need them while she’s on the phone. I’m wondering if it’s a space or an office that they’re also using for another purpose (like, where all their filing cabinets or office supplies are) that everyone needs access to that OP just happens to work in – but not OP’s office. There is a difference.

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            1. sjw

              I definitely picked up on the fact that other people coming in and out to get files distracted her. I once worked in a law firm that was in an old historic home, with weird space configuration. Although I technically had my own “office”, it was also a pass-through to different parts of the building, plus a large bank of filing cabinets were in my large, spacious “office”. It was usually private, and people were respectful and quiet when I was on the phone, but closing a door would have been completely unacceptable.

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      9. Kate M

        But to say it’s not professionally mature to do it? That seems so weird to me. Even if it is the office culture, I find no particular reason why it SHOULD be. I mean, I know there are office cultures where people play pranks on each other all the time, and you might have to get used to it, but that doesn’t mean it should be part of the culture. If you’re just saying, “this is what you have to do to get ahead in this office,” I get that. But I would also think it was really weird for someone to be offended by a closed door for a call.

        I mean, what if I were on the phone with my doctor? Or a million other reasons? Or even I just can’t concentrate without my door closed? It wouldn’t make sense for me to tell my boss every time the exact reason I have my door closed, and then let them figure out whether it is acceptable to them or not. I don’t get the difference in what you seem to think a legitimate reason is and someone just be uncomfortable, when the outcome (closed door) is the same.

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        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          But to say it’s not professionally mature to do it? That seems so weird to me.

          No, only if the reason you’re doing it is because you feel awkward about people hearing you make routine work calls. There are loads of other reasons to close your door that are 100% professional and normal.

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          1. Saurs

            It’s not exactly abnormal to feel self-conscious performing a rote call (working on script to solicit information, book appointments, pass on small bits of information, etc.) in front of an audience of more experienced people; that kind of “acting” is difficult for a lot of people, even with practice. I understand that because the OP is young and relatively new to the workforce (but four years in this company), you want to encourage them to de-sensitize themselves to reduce the awkwardness they’re feeling, but that’s always going to be impossible for a number of people and if the job isn’t sales, where extroverts are meant to excel, it ought not to be regarded as a performance issue or something one can will oneself out of.

            How the office manager interprets intra-office culture and customs is a different matter, though.

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            1. Saurs

              Also, performance here, when they’re phoning people this frequently, is important. Self-consciousness doesn’t require therapy or need to be corrected. It’s okay if the OP feels they perform better with privacy.

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      10. Ygritte

        Because it’s kind of like saying “Well be sure to sneeze into people’s faces if it’s office culture.” It might be office culture, but it seems weird to outsiders because common courtesy dictates that you don’t sneeze into people’s faces. Here you’d be staplered to death for taking a phone call without having the door closed if you were lucky enough to have one.

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      11. YogiJosephina

        I don’t get the impression anyone is missing it. We absolutely understand it’s the office culture. But what we’re saying is that the culture is…well, quite frankly, wrong. And should be challenged/examined if possible.

        A lot of really, really crappy stuff flies in offices, especially in the US, in the name of “culture.” That’s not really an acceptable excuse for policies that are just silly. Of course you pick your battles, but there comes a point where the onus has to stop always being on the worker to just suck it up, and start being on the company to change the culture in a more positive way.

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        1. pop tart

          The point is that this person’s manager wants her to work through the problem of feeling awkward should anyone overhear her on the phone. NOT whether or not having an open or closed door office culture is professional or not.

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          1. AGirlCalledFriday

            I believe we are inferring that, but it’s not stated in the post. We know that’s how the employee feels, but we don’t know the manager’s motivation here because she never stated it to the OP.

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      12. Calla Lily

        We’re not missing it and don’t need it bolded, thanks. We’re focusing on the second part of the response which doesn’t appear to fit with most of our experiences, including mine. Why do you keep arguing with everyone new who disagrees instead of conceding that maybe this just wasn’t a great response?

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        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I didn’t mean for it to come across that way. Earlier today, I was seeing a lot of “my office doesn’t work that way,” which is a valid observation but doesn’t mean that some other offices don’t.

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        2. JB (not in Houston)

          It doesn’t look like arguing to me. It looks like clarifying.

          Mostly what I see is people (including me) chiming in to say it’s not unprofessional and not out of the norm in their office to close a door. That is a perfectly legitimate point to make for the OP, but as an argument goes, it’s arguing with something Alison didn’t say. It does look to some of her readers (including me) that a number people are reacting as though Alison said that it was unprofessional to close a door or that there were no legitimate reasons to do it. Then again, your reference to the “second part” of her response is vague, so I’m not sure what part you mean. Maybe I would agree with you if I knew which part you were talking about, but as it stands I’m not seeing it.

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    5. NJ Anon

      That too! I am also the “sort of” hr person because we don’t have one so it could be confidential. I am a director so I guess people wouldn’t think twice about it if my door was closed.

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    6. Beebs the Elder

      This must be so office-based . . . I expected Alison’s response to be “Your boss is a nut!” so it was a real surprise to hear that it would be a concern for her, as well. I don’t always close my door, but I certainly don’t think anything of doing it (or seeing someone else do it). But . . . follow the norms where you are!

      Reply
  3. CrazyCatLady

    I hate making calls in front of other people but sometimes you just have to do it and the way to get over it is, like Alison said, by doing it.

    If I know it’s going to be a long or very important conversation I will sometimes close my door, but it’s not something I do regularly.

    Reply
    1. Myrin

      That’s what my intuition would have told me! Then again, I’m neither in an office environment nor in the US, so I’m not really the best person to judge that.

      Reply
    2. LMW

      Me too! I wish I worked in an environment where doors could be closed for calls. I frequently book conference rooms just so I can take a call with the door shut.

      Reply
    3. Spooky

      Same here! I greatly prefer it when people close their doors while on calls – otherwise, it gets distracting very quickly!

      Reply
    4. LQ

      If you’re loud or if you’re going to take it on speaker phone (don’t) or it’s going to be excessively long, yes close the door. But nearly everyone in cubes has to take calls, and most call centers are in cubes, and they do fine. It would be weird if the manager who sits near me got up and closed her door for every single phone call she made. And I think that is true at a lot of places of work.

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        I wonder if it depends in part on how much you’re on the phone! Here, we close the door for it…and here, we’re almost never on the phone.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          And how long the conversations are, I imagine. If you are regularly closing your door for 20 seconds, that could definitely come across as odd.

          Reply
          1. LQ

            Yeah this is a big part of it. If you’re closing your door for 1-2 minutes, especially if you are making a lot of calls but opening the door between for just a few minutes it that would be very strange.

            Reply
        2. JB (not in Houston)

          I agree. In my office, we close doors unless the call is very short. We aren’t on the phone all day, and the office is pretty quiet, so it’s very, very noticeable if someone is on the phone–and distracting. The person who doesn’t close her door annoys the rest of us, but she’s also very loud and tends to have longer conversations.

          Reply
      2. Elysian

        That’s true about call centers, but I think in most calls centers that have headsets that are (at least supposed to) cancel some of the external noise. I would think that would play a role.

        Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          And really, anytime I’m talking to someone who’s in a call center, I can hear the other calls and it’s annoying. It’s non-ideal, and added to everything else I’ve ever heard and experienced about call centers, I sure wish we could come up with a different business model. But that’s another story.

          Reply
      3. The Cosmic Avenger

        Yes, but I can’t hear well when there’s a lot of background noise, and it’s all from the other end at noisy call centers. Technically they can do their work, but IMO it’s not actually very professional, even though it’s the way most call centers are run today. I wouldn’t say they “do fine”. But then my office is very quiet, as we have a lot of writers and programmers. Even the call center staff have cubes with high walls, and shouldn’t have hardly any background noise audible to the customer.

        Reply
        1. LQ

          I think so much of this is culture too. If you are in a culture where you are expected to deal with that noise that’s different. And I would hope that if the OP had a specific person they were talking to who was having trouble they’d specifically say, Wakeen was having a hard time hearing with the ambient noise so I’ve been closing the door to talk to him.

          Reply
          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            Yes, and I agree with Alison that unfortunately the OP just has to suck it up and deal if that’s the norm in that office. I just wanted to point out that in the race to the bottom, the standards for many call centers have been dropping for decades, but plenty of businesses still do it right, like when I call my credit union I never hear any background noise.

            Reply
    5. Kyrielle

      That is what we do here – the person on the phone closes the door and reopens it when they’re off. If they don’t, every other door in the vicinity closes.

      In my old office, which had some cubicles, you would only close your door for a call if it were private (personal, or company but contained confidential data) or if you were having trouble hearing or were afraid the general noise from outside would impact the caller, though.

      So IMO, this is partially office culture also – but then, Alison did note if you’re in a culture of open doors or not. At my old job, we were, and so many being in cubicles meant that there was always noise anyway. Here, we have more a culture of not impacting others’ work. (Though doors *don’t* close for in-person conversations usually…interesting. Just phone.)

      Reply
    6. INFJ

      I agree. OP doesn’t mention this in the letter (that closing the door is courteous to others). However, if I were her manager and saw her closing the door during phone calls, I would assume that was the reason why, and not think twice about it.

      The fact that it’s raising any eyebrows at the office (without the context of the underlying motive of insecurity) is kind of puzzling to me.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I think it goes to office culture. In an office where lots of people did this, it wouldn’t stand out. But it’s clearly not what people do in her office, and so it’s coming across as out of sync with their culture. Throw in the fact that it’s because she feels awkward about people hearing her on the phone, and I can see why her manager recommended that she get over it.

        Reply
        1. Mike C.

          But telling her to “get over it” doesn’t make any sense to me. So what if no one else closes their door or if it’s “not otherwise in their culture”? Is it causing harm to the business in some way? Is it prevent other people from working?

          What’s the point of even having a door if it’s never to be closed?

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            It’s not that it’s never to be closed. It’s that her manager doesn’t want her closing it for routine calls just to avoid feeling awkward about being overheard because she feels awkward about the phone. That’s not unreasonable, in a culture where a closed door signals Out of the Norm/ Something Important Is Happening.

            Reply
            1. Mike C.

              That really doesn’t feel like a legitimate business reason to tell someone not to close a door, especially in the face of numerous business reasons to keep the door closed – fewer distractions, better OP confidence, etc.

              Look, the “culture” this manager is enforcing goes against reasonable business norms pretty much anywhere else and is actively working against the OP and her coworkers. If you must say, “follow your manager because they’re your manager but this is dumb” then fine, but just falling back on “well that’s the culture, so it’s a justifiable request” doesn’t feel sufficient to me. There are tons of things we can point out as cultural that we have changed in the workplace because they were dumb, petty or terrible practices.

              This example certainly doesn’t list among the worst, but it fails along the same logical lines.

              Reply
              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                I really don’t think it’s that unusual for junior positions. I’ve worked in plenty of places where if a very junior person kept closing her door when no one else did, it would come across strangely.

                Reply
                1. Steve G

                  At one of my longest lasting jobs, a few new people would go to a conference room to make calls, as we worked in cubes. It was considered weird. You said you were fine working with a sometimes high-maintenance customer base in person and over the phone, but now that you were hired you are so self-conscious that you can’t even do simple calls to set up appointments and confirm data for a new account? How can you take on more difficult work if you consider those type of calls daunting?

              2. INFJ

                I agree. Also, I’m pretty sure the letter doesn’t specifically say that the manager knows that OP is closing the door because she feels awkward. In fact, the reason she gave to her manager was that it’s distracting, which sounds reasonable to me.

                Reply
              3. Althea

                I don’t know that it’s a totally necessary thing, but to me it means they want their staff very accessible internally. Which also means it’s a priority over external calls, or that it’s better to interrupt routine phone calls when your manager/coworker needs you. I don’t think that’s inherently wrong, just a different sort of priority. It’s more flexible, though it might drive people nuts if they like to have a well-planned schedule.

                Reply
              4. pop tart

                It is not unreasonable to ask that a person become comfortable making routine phone calls that are part of their job description without closing the door every time. Her manager is simply saying that she wants her to feel more confident in her abilities, it is not just “culture.”

                Reply
            2. Betsy Bobbins

              I guess I’m confused, is the office manager the OP’s boss, or the general office manager? If it’s the OP’s boss then I wholeheartedly agree with you, but if it’s the general office manager I’m not sure I do.

              The OP never told the office manager she was uncomfortable being overheard, just us readers in the preface to her letter. She told the office manager she found it distracting when someone came in and out, which feels reasonable.

              Reply
            3. Sadsack

              Hmm, I suppose this is an indication thatOP lacks self confidence and that should be a concern to her manager. At first, I thought the manager, but I guess I can see the point. I cannot see, “we just don’t close doors for calls here.”. Sorry, but if it is seen as unprofessional just on principle, then that’s just weird to me.

              I also find it strange that anyone stands in her office waiting for her to hang up. When I approach someone, seeing her on the phone is my cue to come back in a minute, not to stand there and stare at her.

              Reply
              1. Windchime

                The OP mentions people come into her office and rummage around, looking for things while she is on the phone. I would personally find that very distracting, to be talking on the phone while someone is moving stacks of papers around or digging through my file cabinet. I would have a hard time concentrating on the conversation.

                Reply
            4. PontoonPirate

              But she didn’t tell her manager she felt awkward; she said she didn’t want to be distracted by people walking in and out and going through her files. I think that’s a good reason to close your door when you’re on calls, even for a junior-level position.

              If she’s on the phone, she isn’t in a position to help those people with what they need, and they clearly haven’t gotten the hint that it’s weird to stand around someone’s office whilst they are on a call.

              Reply
            5. AGirlCalledFriday

              But we don’t know that this is why the manager has asked the OP to not close the door, per the post. The OP mentioned that she feels awkward, but the manager did not give a reason why. Maybe the manager just doesn’t like the doors closed because she wants people to have easy access to whatever files might be in that office.

              Reply
          2. LQ

            The manager didn’t say it could never be closed which is a weird thing people are taking away from this. The point of having a door when you shouldn’t close it for routine phone calls would be to close it for private conversations, long phone calls or conference calls, small meetings, working when silence is needed in a louder office. The manager didn’t ban closing it totally.

            Reply
            1. Katie the Fed

              Yes – exactly this. The only instruction is not to close it for routine phone calls. There’s nothing to say she can’t close it for confidential discussions. But those should be pretty few and far between – I’m a manager without an office/door and it’s rare I need to find an office for something confidential. Same with my manager. And if I do it’s clear there’s Something Big Happening.

              Reply
              1. Mike C.

                Why should they be few and far between? There are tons of efficiency reasons for keeping a door closed, and one can certainly change the meaning of a closed door from “Something Big Happening” to “I’m Just Trying To Get Work Done” or something similar.

                Reply
                1. Katie the Fed

                  But she’s clearly not in the position to do that. If she was, the office manager wouldn’t be talking to her about it. When she’s more established she can try to challenge those norms but this isn’t the right time.

                2. LBK

                  But the OP doesn’t have the political capital to do that. Given the OP’s low position on the totem pole, the fact that she seems to be the only one out of sync with the office culture here and the fact that it’s far from an unreasonable request to leave a door open, she’d basically be making this her hill to die on if she pushed the issue.

                  I think she can make one more concise attempt to make her case and if the answer is still no, she needs to get over it.

                3. LQ

                  There are also tons of reason for keeping a door open, from “I’m here to help” in a department that has been traditionally seen as cold and unhelpful to “I’m not better than the rest of you because I have a door and you don’t” from a leadership team that had been seen or had been in an us vs them management vs staff struggle. (And that might apply even if the OP isn’t management but has a door.)

                  Having leadership have doors closed and perceived as not open to feedback, not like staff and not willing to deal with the things their staff have to deal with day to day doesn’t really seem like you.

                4. Koko

                  Exactly, this seems like a solution in search of a problem. Yes, there are tons of situations where you don’t *need* to keep the door closed, so if you don’t have a door I’m sure you won’t bother booking a private room for most things. But if you have an office with a door, and it helps both you and everyone around you concentrate better when it’s shut, why not shut it? Why are we looking for criteria by which to determine whether shutting a door is justified? There just doesn’t seem to be any need to develop such criteria.

                  Personally, I listen to music all day. It helps me work at a good clip and keeps my general mood/spirits high. So my door is shut all day long, rather than me either having to wear headphones all day (which can get uncomfortable) or have my music spilling out onto unwilling victims’ ears around my office.

                  By the way, because I think some people might make the “approachability/availability” argument, I should note that we’re a LEED building, so our offices have all-glass walls and glass-inset doors, thus it’s purely for auditory privacy, there’s no visual privacy. If I see someone approaching or if they knock on the glass I always pause or mute my music and smile and wave them on in. I can see perhaps if the office was totally visually screened that having the door closed all day might read differently than just seeing me in my soundproof glass bubble typing away.

            2. INFJ

              If we’re taking OP at her word, the two closed-door occurrences were a week apart. That’s not routine. If she’s not allowed to do it once a week, then I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to deduce that it’s generally not allowed.

              Reply
              1. Dice-K

                This. I’m still bothered by the fact that the office manager is prying into the OPs business for something that is not (yet) a regular occurrence. The OP might become paranoid that the office manager is closely monitoring her actions, and that if she does indeed have a personal issue that necessitates closing her office door, the office manager will be frowning upon her and judging her. That sucks.

                Reply
                1. Blake A

                  This is also what caught my attention. She only closed the door on two different occasions, which is not a regular occurrence especially taking into account she’s been there for years. The fact that her manager even noticed it looks to me like she/he is keeping a close eye on the OP.

        2. heismanpat

          Honestly, an “office culture” where a manager makes a big deal out of this isn’t a place where I’d like to work. Why even have office doors if you aren’t allowed to use them in appropriate situations? I hate when coworkers are on the phone and I have to listen to their conversations, and I hate when I’m on the phone and somebody “hovers” over my desk. Both situations are distracting, and a “closed door” is a clear indication to not disturb the person right now.

          As long as the person isn’t shutting their door most of the day, I don’t see why this would be a problem at all. That office has issues.

          Reply
    7. sab

      Agreed! Our acoustics in our office suite are terrible, so I try to shut my door so as not to be noisy and distracting to others.

      Reply
    8. MashaKasha

      This! At my current place we have several locations across the country, with everyone at those locations working closely together – which requires a lot of conference-call-type meetings – often using a speaker. Everyone who has an office with a door, closes it when they’re on a conference call. Otherwise none of us would get any work done with all the noise. In fact I’m sitting right next to a higher-up’s office and he’s on a conference call as I type this. The door is closed. It doesn’t occur to anyone to think of it as unprofessional. Guess company cultures are way more diverse than I thought. I admit I like the one we have here.

      Reply
    9. Shell

      My brain’s audio processing isn’t great. I filter out background sounds really well; if it’s not rap or heavy metal music or anything really aggressive-sounding I can work through most phone calls, background noises, etc. without registering it. It’s great in an office because I filter out basically everyone else who’s not yelling; it also has the side effect of making me 1) need/strongly prefer having subtitles for movies and 2) completely incapable of listening to audiobooks unless I devote 100% of my attention to it, and by then it’s easier to read the damn book anyway.

      But for people who aren’t like me (the majority of people, I’d guess), keeping the door closed does help noise and concentration a lot. I get that Alison is saying that this makes OP–who’s a junior person–look odd compared to others more than it is Objectively Unprofessional, but it seems harmless enough that I’m surprised the office manager thought it needed correcting.

      Reply
    10. Sarah

      I’ve only ever worked in open-plan, shared, or completely solo offices, so this is a genuine question – I get shutting doors making outgoing calls, but how does it work with incoming ones if you can’t reach the door from your desk?

      Reply
  4. Ad Astra

    Huh. Alison’s answer surprises me. I wouldn’t think it was strange if a coworker closed her door for a few minutes, regardless of the reason. And I’d be sort of glad I didn’t have to overhear her conversation, because I find that distracting. And I wouldn’t want someone walking in and out of my office while I’m the phone, either.

    Reply
    1. Chocolate lover

      Ditto. But I also work in an office where we regularly shut our doors for meetings with students or employer partners, so a phone call would be no different.

      Reply
    2. AnonymousaurusRex

      Yeah, I was surprised by this answer too. I work in an open office now, but at my old job I closed my door to make calls all the time. Mostly this was to avoid interrupting the work of those around me. I wouldn’t do this for every call, but if I knew the call was going to be lengthy and/or potentially have any sensitive info, I wouldn’t hesitate to close my door.

      Reply
    3. Zach

      Agreed, too.

      In my office, everyone closes their doors when on the phone unless it’s a quickie. We do work with the government and for industry, so that’s a little part of it. There’s a bit of a culture of need-to-know going on.

      When I make a phone call, personal or professional, I usually go to an empty conference room to do so. Our office is very quiet and in my opinion, no one needs to hear my business.

      Reply
    4. Nina

      Same. I get that OP’s manager doesn’t like it so it needs to stop, but I really don’t see the problem with this. There are certainly times when I wish people would shut the door. I’m not seeing how it shows a lack of professional maturity, either.

      Reply
    5. YogiJosephina

      I completely agree. 98% of the time I agree with Alison, but this is part of the 2% where I really, really don’t.

      You have an office. An office is your space. It comes with a door. It’s your right and your prerogative to decide you want quiet and privacy while you’re on the phone, and I find it actually quite unreasonable/ridiculous that any manager would chastise you for that.

      This is a really silly micromanagement. And if everyone is sitting around making comments and whispering and wondering about you when you close your door for phone calls, clearly they’re not paying enough attention to their own work. How you choose to take calls and what those calls are about is none of their business. And quite frankly, if I had a manager who fixated on stuff like this, it would give me pause about them.

      Not to mention, it is LEAGUES more considerate to your workers to close your door when you’re on an extended call. Gives them peace and quiet.

      The employee is not the one who needs to learn to “suck it up.” Demanding that someone MUST learn the skill of making calls in front of coworkers is…weird to me. That’s not a dealbreaking, important “skill” to know and likely will have absolutely no impact on the quality of said coworker’s work. Why should he not be allowed to use the door that is part of HIS office if it makes him comfortable just because other people want to make false assumptions and be nosy? Absolutely nothing about that is unprofessional.

      Rather than asking him to not do something that is totally reasonable to do, ask your employees not to make unreasonable judgments about someone being “walled off” or “secretive” just because they like their privacy, mind their own business, and do their work.

      Honestly, many of the stories I read here make me SO, SO glad I no longer work in offices. The politics and culture of so many of them just seem so insanely out of whack.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        But it goes to office culture. She’s a junior level staffer, the norms of her office are not to do this, and now her boss knows that she’s doing it because she feels awkward about being heard on routine calls. That’s very different than working in an office where it’s the culture to close your door.

        Reply
        1. Mike C.

          Maybe the norms are just dumb? Just because no one else closes the door doesn’t justify never closing the door in the future. Why is it such a big deal in the first place to close the door?

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Maybe the norms are dumb, sure. But they are the norms in her office (as in many offices; hers is not some bizarre outlier on this), her manager has asked her to stop, and she’s a junior level staffer who’s not in a position to take a hard-line stand on this. What would you have her do, refuse to comply?

            Reply
            1. V2

              No, of course not, but I’d be keeping my eyes open for evidence of this either being an isolated quirk or part of a wider culture of strange rules that make people feel uncomfortable without any benefit for the business.

              Reply
            2. Kate

              No, but I would be clear that this is a norm *in this office* and that in general, closing your door for a call is not unprofessional. ie, if she changes jobs this may no longer hold true. My main issue is with the manager’s wording – it’s not unprofessional, the manager just doesn’t like it (which is certainly her prerogative, even if I disagree with it)
              Also, if OP were higher up on the totem pole, I would say to push back harder against this, because I think it’s ridiculous. It she needs fewer distractions to make her calls, that shouldn’t be an issue, unless there are other performance issues, in which case the manager should deal with those.

              Reply
        2. Sunshine

          I agree. I would wonder what someone at that level was talking about that they deemed “important” enough to need closed doors. Obviously it wasn’t sensitive information, or the managers response would be different. I’d be on board with coaching someone to develop a comfort level with the phone. And I’d quickly get to the point of “suck it up”.

          Reply
          1. plain_jane

            As a manager with a person newly on the phones, I might want to have an ear out for their side of the conversation to make sure it was going ok.

            Reply
            1. The Other Dawn

              Even though I’m on the side of “What’s the big deal with closing the door?”, I can understand this reasoning. There have been lots of times where I’ve listened to some in-person and phone conversations a new employee is having in a cubicle outside my office. I had an ear out to make sure she wasn’t giving misinformation.

              Reply
            2. Kate

              But when I do that I actively sit in (or call in) on calls and then provide feedback afterward. Having a junior employee leave the door open so that you can overhear their conversation just feels odd to me. Either I trust the employee to make the calls or I don’t (in which case I need to be doing more than listening in from outside their office)

              Reply
            3. Well

              While I agree with Allison’s overall take (that it’s fine and appropriate for her manager to tell her not to close the door just to avoid discomfort/distractions, if that’s the culture there) this is slightly different.

              If this is why the manager wants the door open, she should just say that (or, as Kate says below, specifically ask to sit in). Calling it unprofessional is unfair to her employee if this isn’t really about professionalism, it’s about giving the manager opportunities to see/hear her in action.

              (As a side note, if I were this manager and told her that, I’d make damn sure that the first few times I actually gave her any feedback it was positive stuff, so she didn’t mentally flinch every time I walk past her open door.)

              Reply
        3. Tomato Frog

          I feel like her motives shouldn’t be important; at issue should be whether or not it has any adverse effects on her work or in her workplace. It’s certainly her manager’s prerogative to tell her to keep it open, but I’m not taken with the idea that you’d tell her to keep it open if her motive was discomfort, but let her keep it closed if she had given a different reason.

          Reply
        4. AGirlCalledFriday

          But we don’t know that it’s not the norm. Maybe other people do close their office doors. We just don’t have enough information, unless there’s something in the original letter not posted here. But it seems like there is a lot of inferring about why the manager is doing this or that and what the culture is and it’s just not explicitly stated.

          Reply
      2. Just another techie

        I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s really silly micromanagement given OP’s reasons for wanting the door closed. What happens when she moves on to her next job and it’s an open-plan office? Or if her employer moves buildings and puts everyone in half-height cubes? Is she going to avoid jobs that require her to use the phone in front of her colleagues?

        I do wonder what the office manager would have said if OP had, say, a hearing problem or an aural processing disorder, and needed the quiet in order to function on the call. But just being uneasy about being overheard really is something OP needs to overcome.

        Reply
        1. Sarah

          Yes, office culture aside, if she wants to be able to have the best career, she shouldn’t be limiting herself to such specific office environments so early on in her career. Of course, if it was because of a disability, I’d expect (per UK law) employers to make reasonable adjustments, but “I feel awkward” or “I get distracted if people come in to look for files” are things that it would be helpful for her to get over as soon as possible.

          Reply
      3. Sparkly Librarian

        ALL OF THIS. My knee-jerk reaction was along the lines of, “I could never work in that place! What a horrible culture for anyone who ever needs privacy!! Something like that (expressed through office culture) would cause me to start looking for a better fit.” YogiJosephina is much more articulate.

        Reply
      4. Anonicorn

        The letter doesn’t suggest any micromanagement or that the manager chastised her. The way that OP herself worded it, her manager was simply cluing her in that closed doors aren’t part of their office culture.

        And where does the letter say that other coworkers are nosy and making assumptions that the OP is secretive and walled off? Did I missing something?

        Reply
        1. YogiJosephina

          I was more going off of Alison’s response there, that she risked people thinking she was trying to hide something or be walled off from them.

          “You’ve got to stop closing your door, yo,” seems kind of like chastising to me. But who know what tone was used.

          Reply
      5. Meg Murry

        My question is, but is it really OP’s office, or is it a shared space where OP happens to sit? OP mentions that it is distracting for people to walk around looking for things, which makes me wonder if it is more of a reception space or outer room outside the VP’s office, as opposed to a private office. Or if part of the paperwork OP was talking about doing or people looking for is in inboxes or on files on the walls that people pick up themselves. For instance, I had an “office” where people had to pick up and drop off certain forms to me, so unless I was doing something truly private my door needed to remain open, and I used the half-open door as a signal of “I’m working on something that requires concentration and prefer not to be distracted by chit-chat, but you can come in if you have something work-related to discuss with me.”

        If it really is OP’s private office and other people don’t have a reason to come in there, then yes, she should be able to shut her door from time to time without worry, especially if it’s just for a few minute phone call, and possibly the office manager is being a busybody. But if OP is preventing other people from being able to access items in her office space that they all need, or keeping them from being able to drop items in her inbox or picking up items that she has set out for them, than she shouldn’t be shutting the door except when truly absolutely necessary, and a run-of-the-mill phone call doesn’t fit the “absolutely necessary” criteria.

        Although if people wandering in her office is distracting to her, it might be worth looking into other solutions, like an inbox mounted to the door or next to the door, or moving display racks with paper handouts and forms to the hallway, or even just re-orienting her desk for a less distracting view.

        Reply
    6. Not Today Satan

      I’m also turned off by the “having personal problems?” question. It’s weirdly passive aggressive.

      Reply
        1. Well

          I mean, there are a lot of terrible bosses out there, but I think it’s reasonable to assume good intent. If one of my relatively junior directs who doesn’t handle very many sensitive conversations started spending more time with her door closed, I’d probably ask about it. I like to think I’d word it better – more along the lines of “hey – everything okay? noticed your door’s been shut more often lately” (accompanied by concerned tone/expression, not accusatory) and not leap specifically to personal problems/medical issues, but it’d definitely be a change in behavior that would catch my attention.

          Reply
        2. LawBee

          Because it’s the culture in that office that the doors stay open during phone calls – so it’s not a leap of logic to think that a phone call behind closed doors is a personal issue. Whether it was appropriate for the boss to ask that question is a different matter, but her assumption makes sense to me.

          Reply
  5. Cafe Au Lait

    What about shutting your door halfway? Enough so that your eyes don’t catch people moving around, but it’s still open.

    At my OldJob, the librarians were mad that one part-timer shut her door almost anytime she had office hours. She felt that people could knock, but it ruined the “open door” feel that everyone else worked towards. Everyone else “shut” their doors halfway to signal they were there, but working on a detailed project.

    Reply
    1. Becky

      Lol, all the office doors on my floor are sliding doors that are all glass (with two full glass panels completing the wall). Open or closed, you still see people passing by. I think the executive suites have actual closing doors, but the rest of the entire building? lots and lots of glass. Including the conference room with glass on three sides affectionately called “the fishbowl”

      Reply
  6. Ms Information

    I close my door for lengthy scheduled calls and post a note on my door saying “on a call until X time”. Wouldn’t close my door for shorter calls but could. However, if closed doors aren’t the norm in this office OP shouldn’t do it. She could talk to her manager about techniques for good phone practices in their setting and/or watch how others are handling it. And be happy she has an office with a closing door to create this issue in the first place. Workroom and cubicle dwellers don’t have this challenge. :)

    Reply
  7. AnotherAlison

    Alison’s advice is in sync with the company culture at my job. I got used to making calls in front of people because I spent almost 10 years in a cube. With having an office, I still leave the door open for one-on-one calls and only shut if for speaker phone calls/conference calls as a courtesy to others around me.

    Reply
  8. insert pun here

    Oh man, I would LOVE IT if my coworkers would close their doors while on a phone call. I mean, short calls, fine, no big deal, but long involved discussions? Yes, shut your door please.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      Especially on speaker. Someone here has loud speaker calls with his door open and it drives me nuts. We got gift cards for Admin Professionals Day and I used mine to replace my headphones that broke. I’d be lost without those things, as I sit in a cubicle area surrounded by phone support people.

      Reply
  9. Kelly L.

    I think closing your door can be useful if (like Jamie mentioned) confidential info is being discussed–in my office, there are certain conversations that pretty much have to be had with the door closed–or if one’s office-mates are wont to make tons of noise, which is also sometimes true around here! I wouldn’t see it as immature in itself. I think this boss is either afraid that the calls are personal, or afraid that the OP is making mistakes of some kind on the calls. Unfortunately, there may be no way out of that other than just keeping doing well until she starts giving you more of the benefit of the doubt.

    All of that said, it’s really annoying that people come in and rummage around your office while you’re on the phone. Alison’s suggestions for that are good. I’m also wondering if you’ve accidentally become the Keeper of Some Office Supply that could be moved somewhere else. For example, at one job I had people ransacking my workspace for staples and paper clips constantly, and raiding “my” stash instead of the office stash. I started putting the office stash in a different place, a little farther out of my stomping grounds. It took a while, but people got accustomed to it.

    Reply
    1. INFJ

      I think that is playing a role, here. It’s not specifically addressed, but the boss may want OP to keep the door open so that others in the office can still access files or supplies.

      Reply
      1. Ann

        But it seems like the boss is OK with the OP asking people to stay out of the office while he’s on the phone. (If it bothers you when someone comes in, tell them ‘in a minute.’) He just needs to wait until they actually approach the office; he can’t preempt them by shutting his door. That seems odd to me, but if I were the OP, I would just go along with it.

        Reply
    2. themmases

      I think the discussion of door closing pushes a lot of people’s buttons regarding noise, personal space, and respect in the office.

      I know it pushes mine because I did have a situation in an old job where there was pressure to keep the door to my shared office open. I earned that office after 2 years of essentially working in a hallway where people would sign in and start working on my computer if I got up, interrupt me for the most random stuff, *lean on my chair* while I was sitting in it while they stood around having non-work conversations… You name it. The door was great for my productivity and frankly, my mental health. My office mate and I did push back, and we eventually won because the person who made this unfair, essentially petty request found a new target and forgot they ever even asked about our door.

      I would bet a lot of people have had an annoying work situation that a closed door either helped or made worse, and that makes it hard to focus on just the OP’s problem. I know it does for me.

      Reply
  10. mno

    I prefer doors being open, or just partially shut to indicate. As an organization open to the public, it helps us get extra eyes on the ground, and provides support overall. Our mission and job is for the public, and it helps all of our staff to remember that.

    Reply
  11. Ros

    In every office I’ve been in, it’s generally considered polite to close the door if you’re going to be making any noise that might disturb anyone else – phone calls, but also conference calls, conversations with colleagues, etc. For me, the person in the next office having a loud phone conversation that everyone overhears would be rude, and the person who closes their door so as not to disturb others would be considerate and professional.

    That said, a) it’s clearly a difference in office cultures, and there’s value to conforming to the office culture you’re in, b) sometimes people are going to overhear you on the phone, and it’s absolutely to your benefit to get more comfortable with being overheard, and c) I’m Canadian, working in a Canadian office… we tend to place a whole bunch of value on knowing how your presence impacts those around you.

    Reply
    1. Judy

      I’ve worked in large offices in the US for my entire career. There have been times I’m on conference calls for 4+ hours a day.

      If I have a door, and either I’m the one presenting and talking all the time or there is disturbing ambient noise, I will close it.

      When I’ve not had a door, I’ve just handled it, but it can certainly be hard for the listener on the other end of the line to have lots of background noise, especially when English is a second language for them. It also can be difficult hearing a person who has an accent in a noisy environment.

      I can’t imagine not taking advantage of the door when necessary. Why not just take away the door, then?

      Reply
  12. CJ

    I’ve never really though this was unprofessional. I’ve done it before as well for external calls to customers, vendors, etc. I wouldn’t do it for an internal call unless it was going to be an extended discussion (which happens maybe twice a year with someone who is currently out traveling, but we still need to discuss important topics). And when I do it, it’s because I value the time I’m providing to the person on the other line and don’t want to get distracted or have interruptions, etc.
    I am also surprised by this answer. I think it is fine to do.
    However, I will say, I agree with Alison’s “suck it up and the discomfort will get better over time” strategy. If you are closing the door just because you feel awkward on the phone, that is something you need to overcome…even if it is just for your own sake. I wonder if the OP has challenges just talking to people in person as well? It’s almost the same thing… and this is coming from someone who was once in her shoes. I just pretended that I was talking to someone in person and after a couple of months, phone calls are no big deal.
    TL;DR: I don’t think closing the door is a big deal. I do it. However, getting comfortable with making phone calls is an important skill that the OP should work on.

    Reply
  13. BRR

    It may not be office policy but it’s office culture. I would typically find closing your door polite both to your coworkers so they don’t have to listen to your phone call and whoever is on the other end of the phone in case their is background noise. I consider this an exception though because it sounds like you hold files in your office others need access to.

    If it’s terribly distracting you can do the whisper thing or possibly swivel to not look at who is in your office but it sounds like having a phone conversation in front of others is something you’ll need to just get over for this job.

    Reply
  14. KT

    This must very much an office-culture thing. Leaving your door open at any office I worked at during a call would be seen as wildly inconsiderate/unprofessional–closing the door while on a call was ‘what was done”. I would think someone who left their door open tremendously rude.

    That said OP, your office’s culture is obviously very different and your boss has given you useful feedback to better fit in.

    Reply
  15. T swizzle

    Wow, I thought that was the reason we had doors? Why have doors at all if you can’t shut them when you would like some privacy as well as not to disturb others.

    Reply
    1. cardiganed librarian

      Yes, I thought that was one of the benefits of offices! Might as well have a cubicle if you’re not allowed to close the door.

      For what it’s worth, in most places I’ve worked, the privileged few who had offices kept their doors closed all the time.

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m going to quote what LQ said here: “The manager didn’t say it could never be closed which is a weird thing people are taking away from this. The point of having a door when you shouldn’t close it for routine phone calls would be to close it for private conversations, long phone calls or conference calls, small meetings, working when silence is needed in a louder office. The manager didn’t ban closing it totally.”

      Reply
      1. Kate M

        But the OP said that they were two calls, days apart. That doesn’t seem like it’s a routine thing. Is she supposed to clear it with her boss ahead of time every time she’s expecting a call from her doctor or something?

        Also, the OP said that her boss stated that she had to stop closing her door when she made calls. Full stop. I mean, maybe she left out a part where her manager said routine calls or something, but the OP’s letter DOES make it sound like the manager said the door could never be closed.

        I understand the point that this is the way the office culture is, and sometimes you just have to suck it up and deal with bad office culture. But it seems incredibly weird to me to say that closing a door for even a routine call is unprofessional or “professionally immature.” I would hope that as adults, everyone could trust people to do their jobs without micromanaging.

        Reply
        1. Well

          There are plenty of places I’ve worked where a closed door signals that you’re working on something important that cannot be interrupted and/or should not be overheard by other people. Funder meetings, sensitive conversations, scheduling a medical appointment with your doctor, a grant proposal that’s due two hours from now, etc.

          If closed door at the OP’s workplace signals “I’m handling something important/sensitive — let me know if the building’s burning down but otherwise do not interrupt” and the OP is a relatively junior employee closing the door for routine conversations, I can see why this has raised flags. If there are five people with her role and four of them leave their doors open 95% of the time, that’s going to be odd — regardless of the reason.

          It’s communicating either:

          1) that she has an inflated sense of the importance of what she’s working on

          2) that she may not actually be doing her job, since her job isn’t supposed to require closing the door (and instead she’s talking to friends/playing solitaire/taking a nap/etc)

          I’m not saying OP is doing either of those things. And maybe the manager knows those things aren’t true. But the manager also probably knows that everybody else walking past the OP’s office *doesn’t* know that, and is trying to help her with office norms.

          “I would hope that as adults, everyone could trust people to do their jobs without micromanaging.”

          I think the flipside is that I’d hope as adults everyone can make relatively small concessions to office norms when they start at a new organization. It’s not like her manager is asking her to get comfortable with working weekends because it’s the ‘office culture’, or to attend ‘optional’ evening happy hours, or to participate in the office-wide marathon team, or whatever. She’s asking her to leave the door open while she makes routine calls. This is not an insurmountable Everest.

          Reply
          1. Kate M

            I’m not saying the OP shouldn’t do it, or that this is the hill to die on. But to act like this is unprofessional is what I think everyone is getting hung up on, because it absolutely isn’t.

            Also, since when are calls something that can be interrupted or not important? I don’t want to be interrupted when I make work calls, so I close my door. If it’s for 20 seconds, then I can understand that it might be a little weird to have your door closed for a half a minute, but I wouldn’t make a big deal about it.

            Also, going back to the letter, it is no where it is suggested that the OP is doing this routinely. It was twice, on nonconsecutive days, and the manager made a statement about it after the first time. Asking (after one phone call) if the OP is having trouble at home or something is what would come off to me as unprofessional. That’s none of the boss’ business. What if she were on the phone with her doctor or something? Is she supposed to tell her manager that? If she had her door closed all day or personal calls were interfering with her work, then sure, ask about it. But after ONE phone call? Nobody is saying that she shouldn’t conform to this office norm. But we are saying that it’s an extremely weird office norm in most places, especially if a big deal is made after taking one phone call.

            Reply
  16. Erin

    I think this office culture thing that must be specific to your office.

    In my office, I’d say people close the door when they’re on the phone about half the time. I assume it’s an important conversation with a client and they don’t want to be interrupted, and if it’s something else it’s none of my business. Frankly, as someone in a cube surrounded by offices, this is *much* preferable to them taking a call on speakerphone where I can hear every word.

    Your office sounds different, though. Since you haven’t seen others doing it, and your manager has spoken to you about it twice, I would (unfortunately) stop.

    I sympathize with you in general because I too am uncomfortable on the phone and cannot handle interruptions. I hate speaking on the phone in front of other people period, not just at work.

    You know how when people know you’re on the phone with a particular person, and they’re like, “Oh hey tell Daria such and such?” I can’t handle that. I literally can’t process what you’re saying and what the person on the phone is saying at the same time. If that happens in a work setting I get really flustered.

    Here’s what I would do though: When you’re on the phone, position yourself so your back is to the door.

    Reply
  17. bassclefchick

    I’m a bit confused about this answer, actually. I actually think if you have a door to your office and you have frequent phone calls you SHOULD close the door. Especially if you are discussing sensitive client information. I think it’s basic common courtesy to you coworkers to shut the door when you’re on the phone, not only so you don’t distract your coworkers with noise, but so they get the subtle signal that you’re busy right now and they should come back later.

    But then, I’ve been in offices where everyone puts their conference calls on speaker phone and you can hear the entire thing even when you’re not supposed to be on the call.

    And I REALLY don’t understand the younger commenters here saying they aren’t comfortable on phone calls. I just don’t understand why a simple phone call causes such anxiety. I’m genuinely confused by that. But then, I think those that have only known cell phones are missing out on the great satisfaction of slamming down the receiver of the phone when you’re mad!

    Reply
    1. Colette

      I grew up before cell phones were common, and I’ve never liked making phone calls. It always feels like I’m interrupting the person I’m calling. I’ll make them, but it’s rarely my first choice.

      I’m also of the opinion that you should close your door if you’re making long calls, or calls involving sensitive information – but that doesn’t seem to be the norm in the OPs office.

      Reply
      1. Chocolate lover

        I also grew up before cell phones were that common, I was about 30 when I got my first one. I cannot stand the phone, it makes me anxious too.

        Reply
      2. Kelly L.

        Same here. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 30, and I still just don’t prefer the phone for much of anything.

        Reply
    2. Ad Astra

      I’ve never been comfortable making phone calls in front of other people, and I definitely count among the younger commenters. For me, it’s mostly about having a loud phone voice and feeling very conspicuous when my phone call is interrupting an otherwise quiet room. I also don’t like receiving phone calls because they force me to stop what I’m doing and answer the phone rather than getting to it when I’m at a stopping place.

      Maybe growing up with a lot of alternatives to phone calls (email, IM, texting, social media) has increased our reluctance to make phone calls in public, while people who’ve been in the workforce much longer had to get used to it a decade (or more) ago.

      Reply
      1. bassclefchick

        That’s a good point! For me, it’s just quicker to pick up the phone and ask a question. There are certainly lots of other ways to communicate today and maybe I’m just a dinosaur that thinks phones should mainly be used to make a phone call (or text).

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Hopefully this doesn’t sound too harsh but the only reason it’s quicker to pick up the phone sometimes is because it forces the person you’re calling to rearrange their priorities to attend to you. Calling someone basically says “drop whatever you’re doing to help me instead” – which sometimes may be exactly what you want, but I’d think twice about how considerate it is for something where you could wait for the answer.

          Reply
          1. Windchime

            I disagree with this. Picking up the phone says, “I’m signaling that I would like to speak with you.” If the person being called is busy or doesn’t feel like talking on the phone, they don’t have to answer. People seem to think that at ringing phone is a demand; it’s not. It’s a request. When my phone rings, I will determine whether or not I take the call. They can leave me a voicemail if I don’t answer.

            There are times when it’s just better to pick up the phone. If I’m having an endless email conversation with someone, it can usually be fixed with a quick phone call.

            I have to admit that I don’t understand all the phone phobia I see expressed in this forum (not just today). Maybe it’s because I grew up in the age of landlines, but speaking on the phone seems (to me) to be just a routine part of life.

            Reply
            1. LawBee

              “People seem to think that at ringing phone is a demand; it’s not. It’s a request.”

              yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

              Reply
              1. Ad Astra

                Yeah, but if I don’t answer your request now, I have to call you back later just to find out what it is instead of simply finding the email in my inbox and answering at my leisure. And don’t get me started on voice mail…

                Reply
            2. themmases

              Oh, I really disagree with this. Unless I were meeting or talking with someone on the phone at that moment, I would never screen a work call. And I would definitely never want to be *seen* just deciding to not answer a work call. I would think that behavior reflects relaly poorly on someone who does it. Setting your phone to go to voicemail for a limited time when you need to concentrate is fine, but many of us have detail-oriented work where we need to concentrate most of the day. And unless one coworker really abuses the phone, there is no way to know if the problem is urgent without first picking and up and being interrupted.

              Reply
            3. bassclefchick

              This is it!!! This is exactly what I was getting at! Thank you, Windchime. It’s all about the perception. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was 30 either, but that’s because they weren’t very popular at that time and were way too expensive. I’ve always had access to a phone so the perception of the phone being a demand to “drop everything and deal with me now” is foreign to me. It’s like Windchime indicated – “I would like to speak to you because this email chain is getting ridiculous and a 5 minute phone call is a better option”.

              Reply
            4. LBK

              If you don’t expect people to answer the phone when you call, why wouldn’t you just send an email in the first place? The exception to this being a complex issue that requires talking out, and in those scenarios I too will reach for the phone (although my preference for those conversations is for face-to-face if possible). Otherwise I don’t understand the point.

              Reply
              1. JB (not in Houston)

                Because sometimes it’s easier and faster to say the words, even to voicemail, than it is to type something up, especially if it’s something that might be taken the wrong way in writing but not spoken. I am an email person who doesn’t care for the phone, but sometimes I still prefer to call someone, even if I think they probably won’t pick up.

                Reply
              2. Windchime

                I didn’t say I don’t expect people to answer the phone when I call. They will either answer or they won’t; if they don’t answer, then I assume they are busy or away from their desk or otherwise not answering. If it’s important, I’ll leave a voicemail.

                I don’t have the type of job where I’m expected to always be immediately responsive to phone calls. I realize that many people don’t have that luxury and feel that they have to answer every time it rings. But that’s not how my job works, so that’s how I treat the phone–someone is requesting to speak with me in person. If I’ve been playing back-and-forth email with you all morning, then I will most likely answer. If I can tell that you are an outside call (and thus probably a vendor), then I’m not answering.

                Reply
            5. Not So NewReader

              Time was when a ringing phone actually was a demand. Well, depending on the family you grew up in, of course. I was surrounded by people who felt planet earth should stop if the phone rang. This is back in corded phone times, no caller id, no answering machine. You missed a call from your loved one in the ER, your loved one was up the river, unless this person knew your neighbor’s phone number.

              This is actually kind of funny in a warped way: My husband answered the phone as he was running through the house to accomplish a particular task. He was annoyed therefore he was abrupt on the phone. He asked me to apologize to that person later. Not kidding- I patiently stood there and explained “We have an answering machine now. If you know you are too busy to answer the phone, let the machine get it.” [We had had an answering machine for years. Old habits die hard.]
              We both grew up in homes where the phone MUST be answered. “You must always speak when spoken to.”
              Not so much, anymore.

              Reply
        2. Ad Astra

          I work with a lot of “It’s quicker/easier to pick up the phone” people and it drives me nuts. I have to remind myself that just because I prefer to express myself through writing doesn’t mean everybody else does.

          Reply
          1. LawBee

            My secretary hates to call people, which I can generally work with. But emails are super easy to ignore, and they get lost in inboxes, and most of the time I would rather she just pick up the phone and call.

            If I need the answer to my question, “I’ve emailed them three times about it and haven’t heard back” isn’t a good reason why the work isn’t done. It’s a very passive way to do work, and in my environment and world, it’s not enough.

            Having said that, I have a coworker who calls me on my cell for everything, and it makes me crazy – so there are times when email is better.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              How can you say above that a ringing phone is a request, not a demand, but then here imply that phone calls are not as easy to ignore as emails? To me, if an advantage of a phone call is that it can’t be as ignored as easily as an email, it’s because you expect people to answer.

              Reply
            2. Windchime

              I have a coworker like that, too. I don’t answer the numerous cell calls. The reason they keep calling your cell could be that you have trained him/her that a call is the quickest way to get a response.

              Look, most of the time I prefer email. But there are times when a voice conversation will get the job done a whole lot quicker, and that’s when I pick up the phone. If the person on the other end interprets that as a “demand”, then I guess I can’t do anything about their interpretation of what a ringing telephone means.

              Reply
    3. LBK

      Phone calls are intrusive and put people on the spot. I find them really inefficient when they’re unplanned and sometimes, frankly, they’re kind of rude unless it’s a truly urgent matter. The only time I find it useful is if I have something lengthy/complicated to discuss with someone, I’m not able to meet with them face-to-face and we’ve already agreed to discuss it on the phone. That way I can have everything I need for the conversation available to me and I can make sure I’m not in the middle of anything else.

      Reply
      1. bassclefchick

        I never looked at it that way, LBK! Thanks for that insight! I don’t think phone calls are intrusive or rude, but I am apparently in the minority on this topic. I guess I see using the phone as a normal part of doing business and it’s no big deal, but clearly that is not a universal viewpoint.

        Reply
        1. Chocolate lover

          I don’t automatically think phone calls are rude, but they can be intrusive – the phone ringing can be disruptive and interrupt the flow of things. Especially when someone calls every 2 minutes, but I’m in a meeting and can’t answer, but the ringing goes on and on. The “rude” part assumes there is some kind of obligation to answer it, but to me, I’m no more obligated to answer a ringing phone than I am to answer an email or text immediately.

          They still do make me a bit anxious though. I spend so much of my time talking to people, using email can be a nice buffer to get work done, but have some quiet time to process information.

          Reply
          1. Windchime

            When my phone rings like this and I can’t answer (or don’t want to answer), I just put it on “do not disturb”. And then it stops ringing and isn’t intrusive any longer.

            Reply
            1. Chocolate lover

              In this case, I was actually thinking of my work phone :) My personal cell phone is always on silent at work and I just ignore it. I’ve turned down the ringer on my work phone, but I don’t want to actually turn it off, if for no other reason than I’ll never remember to turn it back on.

              Reply
              1. Windchime

                Yeah, I have enough trouble remembering to turn my cell phone back on after work, let alone my work phone. I would probably never remember to turn that back on.

                Reply
        2. Ad Astra

          I don’t think you’re in the minority, but I guess it’s hard to say. There’s definitely a huge office culture component to it. In some offices, even people who’d really prefer to email have learned that calling is the best way to get what they need.

          I’ve learned that if my boss says “Call Percival about this,” I’d better call Percival no matter how much I want to email him, because my boss values the right-now answer. I, on the other hand, value the ability to work on other things while I’m waiting on an answer.

          Reply
      2. MashaKasha

        Ugh, I feel the same way about phone calls that are not planned meetings. Nine times out of ten, the call is to ask me to provide information (or sometimes a solution) that I do not have off the top of my head and am embarrassed to spend time looking for it while keeping the other person on hold. When my phone rings and I know I don’t have a phone meeting or conversation planned, I know it’s going to be “I’m calling you to drop everything and respond to my last-second request, and you won’t know what that is until you pick up the phone”. Pretty frustrating! Either way, with IM available everywhere, I do not see what the need is for a phone call anymore. If you have an impromptu request, just IM me and I’ll either give you your answer, or a time frame when I’ll have one for you.

        Reply
        1. OfficePrincess

          Or the ever popular “I got your email, but I only skimmed the first line. What do you want? Explain every last detail to me right now even though you were planning to use this time to do something else.”

          Reply
          1. MashaKasha

            Oh yeah, I’ve done that. Deer in the headlights look doesn’t translate well over the phone, so I’ve had to go with “let me look it up and get back to you in X time”.

            Reply
      3. LawBee

        how are they rude? It’s a method of communication, just like any other. And before email etc., it was the best we had. I get annoying, but rude?

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Because (assuming you actually expect the phone to be answered) it forces the person to immediately attend to you. Like I said above, it’s rearranging someone else’s priorities for them

          Note that a lot of this is just because of the social conventions around the phone. The phone is not meant to be treated as asynchronous – so while you can do pretty much anything you can do with an email (ignore it, take a day to respond, tell someone you can’t deal with it now but will get back to them, trade calls back and forth, etc.) there’s more of an expectation that you won’t. It’s considered more rude to do those things with a phone call than an email, and using that to basically force someone’s hand into responding is really pushy to me. You even say yourself that you prefer your assistant phone because it gets better responses – to what do you attribute that?

          Reply
          1. Cat

            But the fact that the norms are that you respond to phone calls is precisely why it’s not rude to phone – because we have norms that it’s okay to phone people when you want to talk to them about something in a timely fashion.

            Reply
            1. JB (not in Houston)

              I understand that norms are changing, but it is technically not rude to not answer the phone, precisely because you are not interrupting someone by calling them and you can’t expect them to stop what they are doing for you when it’s convenient for you but not for them. In business, it’s a little different. But though different rules comes into play, that doesn’t make it rude to not answer. It might very well be not doing your job or a violation of an office norm or something else that could cause problems, but it’s not *rude.*

              Reply
    4. themmases

      I’ve seen this topic come up a lot on AAM but I don’t believe it’s generational. I think the availability of additional tools such as chat and email have just given people options and made us realize we prefer them to the phone. The phone isn’t the only or even the best way to reach people quickly anymore– in many situations it is just a preference. I don’t find it weird that given tons of options, phone calls aren’t the universal preference. Since people are free to comment here anonymously, I think we are also seeing a lot of comments from people who would never make a big deal of this preference at work, any more than they would publicly complain about every other little thing at work that doesn’t suit them.

      More to the point though, since there are many communication options in most offices, and since we know that many people don’t like phone calls– whether they have anxiety or just don’t care to be interrupted unless it’s urgent– the smart and kind thing to do is just ask oneself before calling if an email or IM would suffice. I think in the near future, calling when it isn’t urgent and other methods were available will be considered rude.

      Reply
    5. nona

      I think this conversation, with explanations, has come up a few times here.

      At least where I live, cell phones have really only been this common for the past 10-15 years. I doubt there’s anyone here who really grew up with cell phones.

      I used to be nervous about phones because of issues with an ex. Turns out that a few bad experiences can make things uncomfortable. But that all happened on a landline, and I did have the great satisfaction of hanging up a few times. :)

      Reply
    6. Hollis

      Different people are uncomfortable with different things. Life is a rich tapestry! My coworker is in her 20s and hates writing but is very comfortable talking on the phone. I like writing and find the phone useful in some cases but awkward and uncomfortable in others (sometimes I get angry phone calls from people who it’s not actually my job to deal with, people who in fact I’m technically not even really supposed to talk to at all, but it’s hard to do what I’m supposed to do — refer them to my manager — when my manager is often unavailable). So, yeah, when I have no idea if someone’s going to be yelling at me when I pick up the phone, it’s a little anxiety-inducing. I still DO it, but it’s not exactly some ~mysterious Millenial quirk~ why I would prefer not to in an ideal universe.

      Reply
  18. Katrina Bass

    Huh. Interesting. I also come from a finance background, so maybe it was different for us, but we shut our doors a lot when making calls. I also had a colleague who insisted on making every friggin’ call on speaker and I would close his door for him because it was obnoxious.

    Reply
  19. LawBee

    I feel you, OP. I’ll close my office door if I’m on a call where I’m not completely sure of my footing, because I don’t want to sound stupid to the other people in the office – who aren’t paying attention to me anyway because they have their own work to do.

    But I agree with Alison. I don’t know if I’d call it unprofessional, but if the office mores are to keep doors open unless it’s confidential, then I would have to suck it up and force myself to deal with it. It’s yet another of those “know your office culture” situations.

    Reply
  20. TCO

    No one would think twice either way in my workplace. The default is open doors, but some people close their doors for calls or meetings, some don’t. Sometimes closed doors indicate a confidential conversation, but I also tend to do it for any longer phone calls as to not disturb my coworkers–sound really travels in our office setup. Sometimes people just close their doors to reduce distraction. I haven’t worked anywhere where door-open-vs-closed status had any political ramifications so it’s interesting to hear that other workplaces care so much about this issue.

    Reply
  21. mess

    Wow, this answer surprised me too. I take quick calls at my desk (I’m in an open office) but always book conference rooms for regularly scheduled phone meetings. I’m a loud talker and do it more out of courtesy for others around me (again, open office). The few people who have offices are higher ups and they always close their doors to take calls. Exact same situation at my old office too. Huh!

    On the other side… if someone’s door WAS open and I came in and then saw they were on the phone, I would leave immediately. I also think it’s weird that your coworkers are just standing their or rifling through your files. Maybe it’s because you are more junior?

    Reply
    1. INFJ

      I also find it odd that anyone would interrupt a colleague on the phone. I think we’re missing some context in which OP’s office houses Very Important/Frequently Needed files.

      Reply
      1. Kelly L.

        Yup, it wouldn’t surprise me if OP just got this office when she got promoted, and that they maybe were low on space and put her somewhere that is also being used for something else.

        Reply
      2. AnonAnalyst

        I’m wondering if the OP is in an office or other space where they’ve stored files and documents in the past. I wonder this because she talks about people coming in to retrieve files, so I’m almost picturing some space that has a door but is essentially a space that everyone uses and needs access to that just happens to have a workspace for her.

        I would agree that the office manager’s wording wasn’t the best as it’s not inherently unprofessional to close the door, but it does seem to be the culture in this office, unfortunately (and I can sympathize with the OP, since I have a voice that carries, so I HATE making phone calls in my open-plan office). Having said that, I’m also wondering if this isn’t technically the OP’s office and is just a space with a door that the OP is working in, and the complaint is partially about other colleagues not having access to stuff they need from that space when they need it.

        Reply
      3. Sarah

        Yes, as someone said upthread too, the fact people are coming in and out while she’s on the phone makes me think it’s not so much a private office, but an office only she works in, but is the place where All That Stuff is kept.

        Reply
  22. just laura

    I think it’s the office manager, rather than OP’s manager who gave the advice. That struck me as a little meddlesome.

    Reply
    1. INTP

      I agree. I’m wondering if this is something that OP’s coworkers, manager, and others care about, or a case of a busybody office manager who happens to not like closed doors.

      Reply
    2. Yet Another JD

      +1. Unless the office manager *is* your boss, this seems like she’s just meddling. If she’s not the person you report to, a quick convo w your actual supervisor seems in order. Or maybe just try to surreptitiously observe your colleagues and emulate them?

      Add me to those who prefer closed doors for the reasons already mentioned, and have exactly no patience for those who barge in when I’m on the phone. But OP, if that really is your office culture, it is possible to get used to calling in an open environment. I have had jobs where I did this and though I hated it, I kept at it and muscled through.
      Good luck building that muscle.

      Reply
  23. Sally

    Huh. I used to work in a cubical in Customer Service, so I’d take 50+ calls a day around people doing the same thing. I got used to the background noise. Now I work in an on office in IT in a much quieter part of the building. I typically close my door if I’m either making a call or have a conference call I intend to put on speaker phone, because it just seems like the polite thing to do. If an unexpected call comes in, though, I don’t usually get up to close my door. But I don’t make/take a lot of calls now, and this seems to be in line with what the more established members of my department do.

    Reply
  24. Sara The Event Planner

    I really sympathize with your discomfort, OP! It look me FOREVER to feel comfortable making phone calls in front of coworkers. In my first cubicle job, I would actually put off making phone calls until the lunch hour or when the people around me were in meetings. Luckily, I’ve gotten almost completely over it, mostly just through practice. I know it sucks, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel. Take a few deep breaths first, and focus and making your voice sound steady and authoritative. Your mindset will follow. Have a go-to greeting (“Hi Joe, this is Jane calling from XYZ Company; how are you today?”) and practice saying it out loud when you’re alone. It may also be a good idea to write down a few key points (even a word-for-word script) and keep it in front of you while you talk.
    In short: fake it ’til you make it! I promise it will get easier :)

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      Yes, I agree, some of it is just getting used to the sound of your own professional voice. We are all used to our regular chatting voices, but our professional voices can take a bit of hunting to find.

      Reply
  25. Marissa

    I was surprised by Alison’s advice as well, but I too am a young person at my first full-time job; so I never considered this being an issue at other workplaces. I work in a very small, quiet office, so everyone closes their doors for client calls because the whole office can hear you talking and it’s distracting to everyone. We have an open-door policy (unwritten rule), but most people close their doors when they’re very busy. I usually don’t follow suit when I’m busy because I find my office gets stuffy, but I base my phone etiquette off of my coworkers’ examples. I do, however, close my door during my lunch hour because I like to eat at my desk and listen to music/podcasts. No no one has ever told me this is unprofessional, but I am now second-guessing this practice…

    Reply
    1. JB (not in Houston)

      I wouldn’t second-guess yourself. It’s not per se unprofessional. It’s just not the norm of the OP’s office. It sounds like it’s fine where you work.

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s not unprofessional; it seems like people are taking away from the post that I think it is. To clarify:

      1. It’s not unprofessional.
      2. It is (in my opinion) professionally immature (which is a different thing) to not want people to overhear you on routine work calls because you feel awkward about it. It’s normal and natural to feel that way when you’re new to it, but it’s also something you should strive to get past.
      3. There are many other reasons why it does make sense to close your door (not wanting to disturb others, being on an important or sensitive call, etc.).
      4. On all of this, when you are a junior level staffer, paying attention to culture norms is good for your career and how you are perceived.

      Reply
  26. Anonymous Ninja

    Interestingly, if we have a client call, we must book a room with a door, but then almost all our calls involve multiple people and speaker phone, so the rule is put in place to reduce distractions.

    Reply
  27. I'm Not Phyllis

    I TOTALLY get this. I strongly dislike making phone calls when there are people around me … I don’t know why, it’s just a thing that I have. Unfortunately in my new job I have no office door to close (oh, how I miss that door) so I’ve been coming up with other ways to manage this. I try to wait for a “quieter” time in the office, like when people around me are in a meeting or go to lunch. If this isn’t possible, unfortunately, you might just have to suck it up and make the calls with your door open. If your boss has already spoken to you twice about it, I wouldn’t force them into a third discussion.

    Reply
  28. Naomi

    I usually close the door when I’m making a phone call, just so the conversation won’t be distracting to others (there are cubicles right outside my office door), and so I can focus on the call.

    Reply
  29. JC

    I feel that this isn’t universally unprofessional, but can be considered so depending on your office culture. Your boss has told you what the deal is in your office culture.

    I personally do usually close the door when I am on the phone, even when I’m not on speaker phone. I do it because I work in a relatively quiet office and don’t want to bother others, and I’m not on the phone too often, so my door is still rarely closed. This is ok where I work, but obviously is not ok where you work.

    Reply
  30. Jennifer M.

    I’ve never worked in an office where it was unusual to close your door for a call. I don’t do it every time I have a call, but if it seems like it is going to be a long one or if the topic warrants I’ll close the door (I often speak with clients and/or discuss personnel issues). Also I do a lot of overseas calls using VOIP or Skype and sometimes the connections are crap and raised voices are required. Door definitely closed for that.

    Reply
  31. Amanda2

    I always close the door when I make a call that I expect to be longer than just a 30 second call to someone in my building. I do it because I am in education and often my phone calls can be private- talking to parents, counselors, etc. To me, it’s awkward to be talking to a child’s parent on the phone about something sensitive and having to use hand signals or other types of shoo-ing away gestures when someone just walks in. I think it would be more unprofessional to leave the door open. It can also be hard to hear in my office with the door open.

    Reply
  32. Clever Name

    I think this is really dependent on company culture. If you boss has said you need to keep your door open, you need to keep your door open. In my office, it’s acknowledged that things get really loud at times. Like cackling laughter and loud talking that is almost shouting (yeah). I definitely do not want a client to hear raucous laughter in the background when I’m on a phone call, so I shut my door. Luckily, it’s understood and accepted. It sounds like your workplace is quieter and it’s not necessary to shut your door. I totally understand feeling self-conscious on the phone. I’m that way too. I have to psych myself up to make a phone call. It’s been really helpful to write down a script of what I want to say, even if I don’t actually read from it when I make a call.

    Reply
  33. JC

    Alison, I wrote a comment that didn’t seem to post when I hit submit, and now I am getting a “duplicate post” error message when I try to repost. Not sure what’s going on.

    Reply
  34. SystemsLady

    I’m stuck in a cube farm with loud sales people making calls on speakerphone (so they can take notes or…something) when I’m in the office. Wow do I wish they had doors to close!

    Just want to reiterate that what you’re doing isn’t unprofessional – it’s actually the thing to do in quite a lot of offices. With office culture, you just have to follow the cues, and looks like in this case yours is firmly against closing doors.

    Reply
  35. Esperanza

    I find it really strange that this would be considered unprofessional. In my office, we close doors for calls all the time. It’s considered polite to minimize the noise, and it allows for more privacy.

    If someone told me to stop closing my door, I would feel that they WANT to overhear me / be able to monitor what I’m saying on the phone. I suppose that’s a manager’s prerogative, but it would tell me that my boss doesn’t trust me. And I don’t want to work somewhere that I’m not trusted.

    Reply
  36. Mockingjay

    I’ve had something similar happen to me.

    I had a shared office with a colleague. I sat near the door, which was across the breakroom, so I saw and heard everyone traipsing in for coffee and snacks.

    One day I closed the door to concentrate on editing a document. (Colleague was happy to have door shut too. He had to make a lot of client phone calls, and the hallway was always noisy.) Within 15 minutes I had both my supervisor and the director in my office, demanding to know what was wrong and what I was doing.

    Completely blew my mind. “Umm, I was concentrating on the important document you wanted me to finish?”

    Mind you, both these persons closed their doors routinely.

    Sometimes the culture is “do as boss says, not as boss does.”

    Reply
  37. Allison

    Geez, I never would’ve thought of it as inherently unprofessional. In this case, it’s out of sync with the rest of the office, which to me would be the main issue. If I had an office I’d probably close the door to make calls out of courtesy to others, not out of self-consciousness or a need for privacy. But if you’re violating the office norm, that’s an issue. It could make people wonder what you’re hiding.

    I’m rarely on the phone at work, because I avoid jobs that have me getting on the phone often. At my first job my coworker (not manager, an equal who had about half the experience I did) told me I wasn’t pleasant enough on the phone and I needed to word things differently if I wanted a better report with the other department we worked with. Before that, my parents would sometimes give me feedback on how I sounded on the phone, even if I was talking to a friend or boyfriend, so I too have been self-conscious about my calls in general. I called my mom at from a pharmacy the other day to coordinate plans while waiting for a prescription, and I was terrified that some of the older customers be mad at me for not being respectful enough! It’s not so bad at my current job though, since it’s been years since someone’s commented on how I spoke on a phone call.

    Reply
    1. Allison

      I guess where I was going with that last paragraph, and sort of rambled, was that I totally get being self-conscious about your phone presence. But if your manager is reasonable, the only feedback you’ll get is helpful, constructive feedback!

      Reply
  38. AnonyMiss

    I think it’s a culture thing. I work in law, and in most cases, I close my door due to privacy concerns. At OldJob, I actually sometimes needed to hunt down an empty office to do some calls, because we had an ethical wall between me and my cubicle neighbor… I was working with the attorney firing an employee, and representing the employer in the appeal process, and she was working with the attorney advising the hearing panel for the appeal hearing, so we were not allowed to even accidentally share information. (California public labor and employment law is odd.)

    And even without that… I’d prefer the less distraction and less background noise (our corridors carry sound very well) for me and my nearby coworkers alike. We have a lot of people listening to music pretty loudly, racing file carts, and the like (your usual office shenanigans in a government law office). I also like to have my speakerphone on for conference calls, so that I can type notes at the same time.

    Reply
  39. Kate

    I disagree pretty strongly. I’ve worked in the private sector and in academia for the past 12 years. I have always closed my door for any call that will last longer than about 5 minutes, as do my colleagues. 3 reasons:
    1. Professional courtesy – it’s distracting to my coworkers to have to listen to our discussion
    2. Confidentiality – particularly because I usually take longer calls on speaker (this has also been the norm in my workplaces)
    3. It’s distracting to *me* to have people walking into my office during a call. This is particularly the case when I’m leading a conference call, but even if I’m just participating, it can be a distraction. For the same reason I typically turn away from my computer while on a call, so that I’m not distracted by incoming emails
    This has been the professional norm everywhere I’ve worked, and I would really question a manager who has a problem with it. If there’s a performance issue, the manager should address that, but otherwise, it shouldn’t matter if the OP closes his/her door for a call (and frankly, if I was their coworker, I would thank them for it).

    Reply
    1. Spooky

      Plus, 4. It’s distracting to the person you’re actually on the line with, who can hear the background noise.

      Reply
      1. Knit Pixie

        +1

        Yes. What I don’t get about this whole thing is that most of the time when people are working from home background noise, or the possibility of being heard by others, is generally not tolerated… Why should it be different in an office – office?

        I prefer to take and make my calls in places where I don’t have to shout or constantly repeat myself. Unless it is part of the job and to be expected, I’d find it odd that people’d apparently feel the need to have constant access to me, so much so that I would not be permitted to close a door to make a phone call. Conversely, I also prefer not to have to hear other people’s phone conversations; I don’t think the onus should have to be on me to ignore them.

        I will mention that the jobs I’ve had generally required me to preserve confidentialty, so it could be that I am conditioned this way.

        Reply
  40. Mike C.

    Closing your door when taking a call is not unprofessional under any common definition or understanding of the word.

    Reply
    1. Katie the Fed

      But it’s not the norm there. And much like the discussions we’d had about interns – people who are newer to the workforce sometimes need to be clued in on the norms there. There are plenty of things I wish I’d been clued in on when I was new.

      Reply
      1. Kate

        But there’s a difference between saying “that’s not the norm here. Our culture is to leave doors open when on the phone” and saying that it’s unprofessional. Office norms (which are specific to a particular office) and professionalism (which are specific, at most, to a particular industry) are not the one and the same.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          I saw a lot of this when I was younger. Do A because B is unprofessional.

          At the next job when I heard that I needed to B because A is unprofessional, I started getting a bit confused.

          Oddly, since I have gotten older people don’t frame their sentences that way anymore. That same sentence has become “please do A, not B.” I have to wonder if there wasn’t something going on with the people who told me it was unprofessional.

          OTH , there is this angle to consider: A while ago, I had a boss say do A, not B. When I explained that some companies chose A and some companies chose B, I just wanted to find out what was preferred here the boss said, “Oh, no that is not true. No one does B.”
          Hmmm. Yes, there are companies out there that do B.
          People can be rigid in their thinking. This could be your boss, OP. She has it in her head that a closed door is unprofessional and she may not let go of that for a while.

          Alison is right, get used to talking on the phone in front of others. It will serve you well. I have a friend that will NOT use a phone at work, at all. This limits her opportunities for work. Try not to paint yourself into a corner, OP. Flex as often as you can. It will only benefit YOU. Focus on getting used to your professional voice- your at work voice that is talking about at work things. Know that you know and let what others’ think be hanged.

          Reply
    2. Cambridge Comma

      Yes — that’s the thing from this letter that really jumps out at me, that the OP is working for someone who is prepared to pull out the description ‘unprofessional’ for something that isn’t such a big deal. If I were the OP, I would be open-minded but alert for further signs of unreasonableness.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        This could be true. But OP has been there for four years. If the manager is new then this could be a heads-up. But if this is a one time occurrence in four years then it may not be a red flag.

        Reply
  41. YandO

    The thing that jumped out at me was:

    “On the first day, the office manager asked me if I was having personal issues or family problems. ”

    It happened ONCE. One time an employee closed their door for what? 5, 10, maybe 20 minutes? And the office manager immediately started inquiring about personal issues? Seriously? What if she did? What if she was talking to a doctor? or there was an emergency at home? She has to broadcast it to the entire office? I am dumbfounded. Sometimes, we have to make personal calls of sensitive nature at work. Geez!

    People have offices with doors for a reason. So we can utilize those doors when we need them.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      I don’t think the manager was levying judgment for possibly making a personal call but rather that the office culture dictates closed door = personal conversation, so when she saw that she was checking in on the OP to make sure everything was okay.

      Reply
      1. YandO

        see, that does not make me see it in a better light

        if it was personal nature, maybe I don’t want to share it with my boss? Unless it became a pattern and affected my work, why in the world is it any of my manager’s business? One phone call does not a routine or a problem make.

        Reply
        1. cv

          I’m with YandO on this one. If the OP was doing this daily and after a week the manager had said something, that would be fine. But one call? Everyone has things they need to deal with every once in a while where they might prefer not to broadcast the details to everyone in the office, and many of them aren’t a big deal. I’d close my door if I had to call my health insurance or credit card company to straighten something out, or to talk to my landlord about a plumbing issue, or to talk to the guy at the auto shop about how much my car repairs are going to cost, or to change my phone/cable/internet plan, since I might be relaying personal financial information. The manager’s jump to family problems is a bit alarming.

          Reply
        2. Spooky

          +1. Employees have lives, and given how many services are only open 9-5, sometimes that means doing short things like calling to make a doctor’s appointment while at work. It blows my mind that so many employers don’t appreciate that, or don’t respect even a few minutes of privacy.

          Reply
        3. LBK

          Yikes – I guess people don’t want compassion from their boss? In this office a closed door means a serious issue. I don’t need my manager to probe into my personal life or to be my therapist or anything but if I do something that signals I might be having a serious issue, I’d hope they would ask if everything is okay – not as a manager for some work-related reason but because they’re a human and I’m a human and usually humans care about each other.

          Sometimes I feel like the commenters here can go so far overboard with keeping work and personal life separate. Someone saying “Everything okay?” is not some egregious violation of personal boundaries.

          Reply
          1. Maxwell Edison

            Maybe it’s because I’m an “everything’s fine! really!” person, but the last thing I would want is for a boss to inquire about everything being OK. That would just tell me that my mask needs to be thicker, and I’d be paranoid waiting for the matter to come up again/be used against me.

            Reply
          2. mel

            The issue is about a manager asking if an employee is okay? Oh I see… here I thought it was about someone not being allowed to use an office door for no appropriate reason.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              Huh? This specific thread started by YandO was about the manager questioning the OP about personal issues:

              It happened ONCE. One time an employee closed their door for what? 5, 10, maybe 20 minutes? And the office manager immediately started inquiring about personal issues? Seriously?

              I was responding to the specific sub-issue discussed here.

              Reply
        4. JB (not in Houston)

          That may not have been the manager prying into personal business. It may have been her way of letting the OP know that in their office, they only close the door on a phone call that involves some serious personal matter. But if that’s the case, that’s what the manager should have said. My problem with the OP’s manager isn’t that she’s telling the OP not to close the door. It’s that she described it as “unprofessional” instead of saying it’s not how they do things around there, and that she didn’t say that the very first time it happened. There isn’t much to go on here so maybe it’s not fair of me to assume things, but it seems to me that the manager isn’t that great at communicating. That’s what would concern me.

          It’s good that she said something rather than bringing it up in, say, a review. But if I were the OP I’d be concerned because she and her manager don’t seem to have the same communication style. If your boss is communicating to you indirectly and you don’t pick up on stuff like that, if your boss is going straight to extreme words like “unprofessional” to describe your behavior, stuff like that can cause a working relationship to be rocky. My comment makes it sound like I think this is The End of The World, but I just mean that the OP should be on the lookout to see other signs of where they might not be on the same page when they think they are.

          Reply
      2. LookyLou

        To me that was a judgemental move.

        My supervisor once believed that I was making personal calls/emails. She tackled it by asking if I had problems at home that I was dealing with. It was only a week later that she brought me into the boss’s office and ripped me a new one over my habit to keep calls/emails private (she will listen into calls and read emails over my shoulder).

        I honestly believe that she had no interest in whether or not I was having trouble at home – it was simply meant to look that way to get me to admit that I was wasting company time on my personal issues.

        Reply
    2. Ad Astra

      Now that you mention it, I do find this a little troubling. I’m sure the office manager was just trying to be nice and show appropriately friendly concern, but “Are you having personal issues or family problems?” is a really uncomfortable question. Maybe the OP isn’t relaying the exact phrasing; I would be less bothered by something like “Is everything ok? I noticed you had your door closed today.”

      Reply
  42. Dasha

    I wonder if I’m rude… I often shut my door for longer phone calls, when I eat lunch, when I call my doctor, when I’m on a deadline, and when the janitor vacuums (every day at noon) but most of the people I work with are working remotely and my in office coworkers rarely need me for anything and they are really loud and distracting.

    Reply
    1. JB (not in Houston)

      If you are the only person who does this, people *might* think you are rude. *Might* It really depends on who you work with.

      Reply
  43. Tomato Frog

    I feel like 75% of the times I read about a boss telling an employee that something’s unprofessional, it’s because the boss knows they don’t like something but can’t quite articulate why. So they go with “unprofessional”.

    Reply
    1. Tinker

      I have a bit of a crochety rant about this. What I think of as being “professional” is basically ethical questions related to being trusted in exercising judgment in a specialized area first, using discretion to accommodate other people in a way that is practically functional second, and possibly in some distant sense smiling and saying “nice doggy” until one can excuse oneself to find a stick in cases where one has encountered a nutter. Something implicit in here is that people who are essentially employed to do exactly what they are told at the times they are told to do it cannot act unprofessionally because they do not properly have professional obligations that they CAN neglect. In that sense, they might be undisciplined or irresponsible or flaming assholes or even criminals, but they aren’t unprofessional.

      What it seems people too often mean when they crack out that word, which arguably means that my definition has become wrong, are things that for lack of a better description are mostly about being a good wage slave — perpetuating the illusion that you don’t have priorities other than working inclusive of being too concerned about one’s compensation FOR working, going down a spiral of increasingly nitpicky and impractical questions related to personal appearance (see also “what is a professional cell phone case?”, “what are professional colors of nail polish?”, and “is it professional to wear boots on a factory tour?”), cheerfully accepting that the only correct way that one’s desire not to encounter pointless inconvenience can be realized is essentially by coincidence, and of course not pushing back on any demand, even if somewhat ridiculous, that is connected in some way to one’s work. This means that the word “unprofessional” is actually disproportionately applied to precisely the people who by my lights can’t ever be called that — the folks on the lower end of the totem pole, who don’t have much discretion in their work, and who are asked to put up with much more arbitrary bullshit.

      It’s not quite as bad as “entitled” — regarding which I start from the assumption that the person who is saying it is almost certainly the one who is actually asking for too much, based on the trends of past experience — but it’s definitely up there on the list of words that get the fisheye.

      Reply
      1. themmases

        I strongly agree with you. It could be because I studied history, but my interpretation of “profession” is different from “career” or “job”– it implies a studied vocation, possibly with licensing, and a professional code of conduct. I sometimes get the impression that this distinction offends people, such as in the thread from the other day where the OP’s parents didn’t approve of their career path. To the extent that “professional” means anything other than fulfilling the requirements of your profession if you have one, it implies a set of norms, tastes, and behaviors that mark a person as part of the professional *class*.

        It seems to function in modern American usage as just “stuff white collar workers do that pleases their bosses or coworkers”. In a modern America in which all workers, including white collar workers and professionals, have drastically increased their productivity and availability while losing significant power over the conditions of our work, the list of stuff that is apparently professional is long, demeaning, and applies to far too many people.

        Reply
        1. chilledcoyote

          Agreed that “unprofessional” is used inappropriately most of the time, usually to say that whoever is using the word finds someone else’s personality / style / voice / outfit / hair / etc. not to their liking. Truly unprofessional conduct would be something that is out of line with the profession in question, like an accountant telling you how to cheat on your taxes. Or a receptionist being a jerk to everyone who comes in the door or refusing to answer the phone. Not your nail polish or your “toe cleavage.”

          Reply
        2. Not So NewReader

          “In a modern America in which all workers, including white collar workers and professionals, have drastically increased their productivity and availability while losing significant power over the conditions of our work, the list of stuff that is apparently professional is long, demeaning, and applies to far too many people.”

          Amen. A thousand Amens. I mentioned up thread that I heard a touch of condescension in the remark, a holier-than-thou type of thing. But it takes more than one example to back up this conclusion. To me the desired response to the remark seems to be shock and awe. I think the best way to dis-empower that is by simply saying, “Oh, okay.”

          A family member was fond of the phrase “keeping your own counsel”. For example, in this setting, my family member would quietly say to himself, ” ‘Unprofessional is the wrong word, the correct words are ‘ our company culture’.” And he’d let the rest go because he would find the take-away is to “do as others are doing”.

          Reply
  44. Lucy

    The office manager is wrong. I prefer it when people close their door during lengthier phone calls — especially group conference calls AND especially if they use the speaker phone. Do you close your office door when having a meeting? Yes. Why? Usually, because it is private conversation and you need to focus on the agenda. A phone call is the same thing. You are being courteous to the caller by giving them your full attention, and courteous to your coworkers for not adding extra noise.

    Reply
  45. cv

    OP, I have the exact same feeling about being overheard on phone calls. I’ve had to make enough of them that I’ve somewhat gotten over it, but I still wait for times when I’m less likely to be overheard. Your letter made the back of my neck prickle as if I could feel someone staring at me – having people overhear professional phone calls gives me the same feeling as if they were standing looking over my shoulder watching me type. It’s fine when I’m calling someone about something routine or if it’s someone I know well, but for the kind of call where I need to think in advance about what I want to say I’d much rather have privacy.

    Oddly, I have no trouble with presenting, or leading a meeting (even a conference call!), or making phone calls in a closed office, or any other basic professional communication. There’s just something about overheard phone calls that just makes me cringe.

    Reply
    1. JB (not in Houston)

      I’m that way with driving. I’m a perfectly decent driver, and I don’t mind driving with other people in the car. But if I’m driving someone who I know is paying close attention to how I’m driving (like my dad) (I’m nearly 40, btw, but he still does this), I get nervous and don’t do as well.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Older family member tried to micromanage my driving. He made me a nervous wreck with “look out for this!” and “over there!” etc.

        One day I lost it. I told him if he did not stop I was going to the toy store and buying a plastic toy steering wheel. I would attach it to the dash in front of him so he could help me steer the vehicle.

        That was the end of that.

        Reply
  46. S

    It sounds like it’s the office manager, and not the OP’s actual manager, who’s telling them that it’s unprofessional to be closing doors. Alison, would this change your response at all (the OP should still comply even if it’s not their direct manager), or would you suggest that the OP check in with their direct manager first about the issue? I’m leaning towards the latter, because it could just be a busybody office manager who’s taken a disliking to the OP, but I’m curious about your take.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yes, absolutely! I thought the OP was using “office manager” to mean “the manager of my office” as opposed to “the head admin person.” But if I’m wrong, then yes — the OP should ask her actual manager for advice on whether this matter. If her boss doesn’t care, she should circle back to the other person and let her know that she talked with her boss and they agreed it was okay (not because she’s obligated to close that loop, but because it will be good for the relationship not to appear to just be ignoring her).

      Reply
  47. Jules

    I’ve only ever worked ion open space offices, so it might hard to understand but… why would you have a door if you’re never supposed to close it? I’m dreaming of the day I can have my own office and signal that I need quiet time by shutting the door.

    Reply
  48. Ash (the other one)

    At my office we close doors, but the culture is also to put a post it to let people know what you’re doing and whether they can come in or not. The back of my door has post its all over it — “on a call”; “writing, knock please”; “on a webinar”; “listening to CSPAN, come in” etc. This way people understand why your door is closed. Otherwise we’re an open door office.

    I agree it’s culture, but I will also add this — at a previous job where I had to panel manage grant competitions I was in a cube with no door. I have a loud voice and sometimes don’t realize how loud I am when I’m on the phone. I had my coworkers have to tell me to quiet down many times and I so appreciate having a door now so I don’t bother my colleagues.

    Reply
  49. LQ

    So think about it this way, your staff person says they are uncomfortable with a routine part of their job so they are doing it but putting the results in a folder and hoping no one would look at them. That would be concerning.

    If the OP said, “It’s too loud in the office and I can’t hear Wakeen” or “I’m discussing private information” or “It’s a 4 hour long conference call I prefer to have on speaker phone and don’t want to disturb my coworkers” or “Jane has a hearing problem and the background noise makes it hard for her to understand me” that would be different. None of those are what the OP said.

    What the OP said was I’m uncomfortable with a routine part of my job. That would bother me as a boss. That’s the key here.

    Reply
    1. College Career Counselor

      The OP said that to the AAM readership, not the OP’s boss. The OP said that interruptions while on the phone were “distracting.” Unless the OP said (in comments, and I haven’t seen it yet) “I’m uncomfortable making phone calls” in front of other people, the office manager (have we determined if this is the OP’s direct supervisor or just the general office manager?) only has “distracting” to go on. Which seems like a legitimate reason (to me, anyway) to close your door, even if office “norms” would suggest otherwise. Unless there’s a specific business reason to conduct phone calls while “distracted,” I can’t see where this is unprofessional. (Now, that legitimate reason may well be “our employees have a history of not doing their work behind closed doors, so we don’t trust them” but the answer to that–as we saw yesterday–is “speak directly to the people who aren’t performing the way you want/need them to be.”)

      Reply
  50. L

    It might help your comfort level to see about getting a head-set, if calls are a big part of your day. It just removes one little variable (having to hold the phone) but can make a big difference IMHO. When you’re holding a phone, it can be awkward to turn around, point to something, gesture, or tell someone you’ll be off in a bit. Anything from having to clamp your neck down to the cord moving across your desk and messing your papers. But if you have a headset, perhaps it’d feel like less of a hassle and more natural to deal with people coming in and out if your head isn’t glued to the phone.

    Reply
      1. Brooke

        I had one at 23 but since then, my job positions have gone up in responsibility but downhill in terms of environment – AKA, dreaded open-office floorplans which I ABHOR.

        Reply
  51. Michelle

    OP, I had a problem with people either not seeing I was on the phone (I occasionally use a headset and my hair covers the earpiece) and/or coming into my cube and just start talking. I made 2 simple signs and laminated them so I could use them repeatedly. Once said “I’m on the phone, quiet please” and the other said “I’m going to awhile. Email me and I’ll call you when I’m available” and I use them as needed when I have a lot of phone calls to make or in a webinar or on a conference call. They have worked well and I have had no complaints, BUT, as Alison has stated, it may depend on *your office culture* if this would be an acceptable method to use to avoid interruptions or people just standing around waiting for you to finish calls.

    Reply
  52. Ad Astra

    I’m in a cubicle right now listening to someone’s speaker phone conversation in a nearby office with an open door, so… I don’t know anymore.

    Reply
  53. Cat

    So it also sounds like her office might not be totally personal space, right? I got the impression from the letter that people need to come in and get files out of it. This sounds like an important reason the manager might not want the door closed every time the OP is on a routine call.

    Reply
    1. Sadsack

      That is am interesting observation, that may help explain what many of us found to be a perplexing issue.

      Reply
  54. TheLazyB (UK)

    It’s weird. I don’t have a desk, so I don’t have a phone; I just have a mobile. But I’ve never worked anywhere where I could take a mobile call at my desk before, so on autopilot when I get a call I automatically go to the stairwell or kitchen – but it’s just an internal phone call. So I have to start taking them at my desk.

    But it feels awkward and wrong!

    I would find that office culture especially strange, OP. But sounds like it’s just a learning curve for us both :-/

    Reply
  55. Not Today Satan

    What’s the point of a door if you can’t close it once in a whole to make a call or fart in peace or whatever it is you’d want privacy for?

    Reply
  56. Umvue

    When office culture is invoked in this situation, I read it as a power play. Privacy and solitude, or rather (pace LQ) the latitude to determine for yourself when they’re required, are not a right but a privilege that a junior person hasn’t earned yet. In a way this is also what we are saying when we allocate office space by seniority. Having worked in environments before where people had been long term student workers, I suspect that “I met you when you were still a child” is something coworkers can have a hard time forgetting. Letter Writer, you just got this promotion so I think complying is probably your path of least resistance, but honestly I would start planning your next move, strategizing about where you want to be in twoish years and what needs to happen for you to get there — not because of the door per se but because I think it is going to take longer for you to get treated like a full adult in this environment than it would be in a new one.

    Reply
    1. Sparkly Librarian

      I thought this as well when I read a previous comment saying, “I would wonder what someone at that level was talking about that they deemed “important” enough to need closed doors.” The attitude that a worker needs to be at a certain rank before their privacy matters is problematic for me. If the OP were new at taking or making calls specific to the business, I’d say that the OP might want to ask for tips on being more comfortable with doing so. Or the manager could suggest extra training or schedule a shadowing session if the manager were concerned. But pulling the worker in to specifically address a temporary closed door as a behavior issue — and mentioning it after only one occurrence? who had time to notice? why do they care? — speaks to a weird micromanagement or overseer vibe to the culture. That sort of thing, like whether to have a seated or standing desk, use binder clips or paper clips, or have an open cup or Thermos of coffee, seems like something the employee’s own judgement would cover because it doesn’t/shouldn’t affect their coworkers.

      Reply
    2. LBK

      But autonomy in the workplace *is* a privilege that you have to earn – not by seniority but by showing that you can use it appropriate to make good choices. It seems the OP’s manager has correctly judged that the autonomy has not been earned yet given that the OP isn’t comfortable doing one of her basic job requirements.

      Reply
  57. MsChanandlerBong

    This is why I’ll never be able to leave self-employment and start working for someone else again. I have no desire to work with people who would care this much about whether someone’s door is open or closed while she’s on the phone.

    Reply
  58. mel

    Oh. Huh. Okay, I’m amazed that something like “Office Culture” makes it reasonable to micromanage someone in this way. I’m amazed that anyone even noticed, let alone cared. People would rather hear one-sided conversations than let somebody make any kind of harmless decision for herself?

    It sounds horribly mother-hen to me. I agree with umvue in that it does sound like a power thing and that this person is being treated a little like a child. Perhaps closing the door because of “discomfort” may seem a bit “childish”, but why is it suddenly okay if it was because she couldn’t hear well? What’s the difference?

    Reply
    1. JB (not in Houston)

      The difference is that if the OP expresses to her manager that she’s uncomfortable with doing part of her job, the manager has a reason to want to be able to monitor how the OP does that part of the job. I think the manager should let the OP close her door, but I do see a difference between your two examples. If you are uncomfortable doing part of your job, you usually need to get over it or get a different job, but if something is keeping you from doing your job, you need to fix that something.

      Reply
    2. Colette

      Well, if everyone else keeps their doors open at all times, the OP is doing something that sets her apart. Not only does it set her apart, but it will make her look unapproachable (since no one else does it), which is not a good career move.

      Reply
  59. Allison

    I’m reading through the comments and I’m still unconvinced that something’s unprofessional just because it goes against office norms. I get that what an office considers “professional” is largely a cultural thing, like whether people can wear jeans or listen to music, but just because something isn’t usually done doesn’t really mean it’s unprofessional. I feel like “that’s unprofessional” or “you need to be more professional” is sometimes a lazy manager’s way of telling someone they need to change or improve a behavior when they can’t actually explain why their behavior is an issue. The manager can easily say “please keep your door open, we only close our doors when we *really* need privacy so when you close your door it looks a little strange.”

    Reply
  60. NavyLT

    Interesting. I would find it odd if someone were closing the door for routine phone calls. Of course, the Navy doesn’t necessarily consider personal space a thing, so you get desensitized pretty quickly. I’ve gotten really good at tuning out other people’s calls.

    …Must be an office culture thing.

    Reply
    1. Vicki

      I would be Delighted if everyone closed their doors (if they have doors) when they make phone calls, receive phone calls, or have someone in their office talking.

      I have walked over and closed the doors of co-workers (or managers) who are on the phone.

      Phone calls are noisy. This is Why You Have A Door!

      Reply
  61. Vicki

    At one of my previous jobs, all employees had hard-walled offices with dors. They were small, maybe 8×8 but they had doors.

    One of my co-workers got “knocked down” on his annual review with the comment that he closed his door when he was working and shouldn’t do that.

    He said “Why do we have doors then?”

    Reply
  62. Ella

    I disagree. What is the point of a door if you can’t close it? Especially when you are closing it to reduce distractions while focusing on a call? Some people keep their doors closed too when they just want to focus generally. That is the point of doors! I think it’s fine and your office is weird.

    Reply
  63. RVA Cat

    What about getting a door stop and leaving the door cracked open, say 3 or 4 inches? It would block most of the sound and show you have nothing to hide, but would discourage people from just barging into your office without knocking.

    Reply
    1. Cat

      I’d recommend not doing this. I’m in an open door office* and we had a junior person who did this, apparently thinking that it made her as available and accessible as someone who had their door open. It did not – it feels like about as much of a symbolic “do not disturb” sign as a closed door, and people react accordingly.

      * Except for speaker phone calls.

      Reply
  64. Anamou

    I too, wonder along with previous commenters if this the OP’s manager, or is this an/the office manager that the OP does not report to. If it’s the former, then I agree that she should understand this is her office norm, however off-putting she might find it. If it’s the latter, then I’d also wonder if the office manager is being presumptuous herself. The personal/family problems question doesn’t suggest mature social graces on the part of the office manager, which would also make me wonder about her comment to OP. Then again, it is possible to imagine a situation where OP was unintentionally coming off as unaware of their culture norms by closing the door in a way that the office manager felt was off-putting to the rest of the workplace, but I definitely wouldn’t walk away if I were the OP thinking I was really way off base here. OP, kudos to you for having the awareness to inquire about this further and good luck!

    Reply
  65. Macedon

    ‘Culture’ comes down to three Ps: policy, preference or (habitual) precedent. Of these three, policy is the only one that determines professionalism. So, I wouldn’t say OP is unprofessional or professionally immature for not having the taste or habit for open-door calls. I’m surprised to see agreement with this jump.

    But it remains that open-door calls are still the norm at this workplace, so, OP – pick your battles and concede this one to your office manager. It doesn’t matter that it makes no sense (otherwise, an actual reason beyond a vague “It’s unprofessional” would have hopefully been communicated). Sometimes, you gotta pick and choose.

    I think, personally, that growing less self-aware about calls can only help, but I am biased. If you decide or have to pursue this, I recommend reminding yourself this: you are not that interesting. It sounds like an insult at first, but it’s actually great reassurance – you are not interesting enough for people to listen in on, or for your calls to be scrutinized. Don’t add pressure on your own shoulders.

    Reply
    1. The IT Manager

      Agree. It’s definitely not unprofessional but obviously open doors are a part of the culture and the LW has to deal with it.

      That said I have mostly inhabited cubicles, but I do find it odd that people apparently just wander into each other’s offices and poke around for files while someone is sitting there. I can’t help wondering if the LW is not really in a private office and shares it with files and equipment that others need to get to for their own job. And if that’s the case an open door policy for her makes sense.

      Whatever, though, this is important enough for the office manager to speak to the letter writer so she needs to comply even if she doesn’t understand more than culture while keeping in mind closing a door is not inherently unprofessional – that was the wrong word.

      Reply
      1. Macedon

        More than the use of the wrong word, what I find telling is the absence of an actual reason. “It’s unprofessional” is as vague and lacklustre a phrase as “bearish sentiment.” Both are often thrown around and mean absolutely nothing without context. If you want an employee to cease a particular behaviour, you give them enough of a ‘why’ behind your mandate for them to glimpse the logic of your decision – other wise, an unsupported ‘unprofessional’ is as good as a ‘because I say so.’ It’s particularly alarming that the office manager is not doing so when the employee is clearly very young and in a formative phase of her career.

        Reply
  66. Lee

    Sounds like a nosy office manager to me.
    Why have doors in the first place, if not to be used to block out distractions or discuss confidential company information? I wonder if there’s any harm in asking the office manager WHY it’s considered unprofessional?

    Also, OP I’m a little confused. You have worked there for 4 years (albeit part-time). Have you observed other co-workers closing doors? Have you ever used a phone in the last 4 years at work behind a closed door? Should you have a better idea of the office culture at this point?

    Also Alison, your headline says “boss” but the OP said it was an “office manager”, right? I think the OP asked this because a co-worker questioned the door closing, not the direct report/boss. Your response seems to give the office manager the same weight as a direct report/boss. I’d also question the “professional maturity” factor too. Didn’t the OP try a mature approach to solve her problems (limit distractions/eavesdropping by shutting a door?).

    Overall, I don’t think if it’s a “weird” office culture…it sounds like the company simply doesn’t trust their junior employees (even after 4 years of dedicated part-time work!).

    Reply
  67. nona

    Weird.

    OP, do what the manager asks you to, but you haven’t been unprofessional or done anything that would be inappropriate anywhere else.

    Reply
  68. Brigitte

    I once worked in an office where the CEO actually had all our doors removed — now that’s over the top!

    Even in environments where it was normal to close the door, I can see Alison’s point. If you close the door for every call, it’s going to look insecure. Scheduling a meeting or asking a quick question — do you really need to close the door for that? To me, that’d be a cue that something’s up.

    As an extra consideration, I’m in an industry where it’s very important that you learn how to pitch over the phone, and fast. When I started, I worked in open cubing and I HATED that people could hear me, because I was uncertain in my job. Looking back now, I have a different perspective: I wish that occasionally someone would have tapped me on the shoulder and given me feedback. It would have dramatically improved my results early in my career.

    In other words, we don’t have enough information about OP’s job to know whether closing the door is a good idea or not. Her manager says it’s mostly not a good idea — and there are valid reasons why that could be the case.

    Reply
  69. aliascelli

    OP, you talk about people coming into your office to go through files. Do you share an office with some filing/storage? I had a coworker in a similar situation who couldn’t close her door at all in case anyone needed to access that info. I shared *my* office with the copier, with similar effects.

    (I still wouldn’t see that as “unprofessional,” but YMMV.)

    Reply
  70. amp2140

    I close the door during calls. Especially the ones where I’m talking, vs. listening in on a call. People in my office barge in and start talking. Closing my door is a way to make it quieter for the other people on the phone, can allow me to be on speaker while I type, and helps with my ADD wanting to focus on whatever is going on outside my office.

    Plus, I don’t always know what is being said when I start the call. For example my boss is a loud curser. It’s hard to take a call from him when I’m somewhere that is a little more PC.

    Reply
  71. Me too

    If her office is shared with necessary supplies and or equipment that the whole office needs to access/use, I can see why it would be a serious annoyance to everyone to have the door closed (implying no admittance for an undetermined time) while she’s making or taking phone calls. (Particularly if this is unusual behavior for someone in her position.)

    I’d recommend if so that she a) suck it up, plus b) ask for a headset. If she feels uncomfortable with making phone calls, it might be a good idea to PRACTICE, or role play with someone.

    Reply
    1. LookyLou

      Thing is that I myself could only build of the confidence to make phone calls in front of people by actually being able to make calls in private. It is terrifying to be making a call to a client and having your boss staring at you and waiting for you to misspeak or make a mistake.

      I think there is a middle ground. Instead of closing the door, could she not just partially close it so that it still open enough for people to look in and see/hear her but get the message that she would prefer to be left alone.

      Reply
  72. LookyLou

    For me this is proof of a different aspect of the culture – not trusting the lower level employees to work.

    I had almost the exact same problem. My supervisor was breathing down my neck when I was on the phone and causing a lot of anxiety and distractions. I started making phone calls when she was very busy or away from the desk. She caught on to this and made accusations that I was only making personal calls. I am now forced to make my phone calls when she is beside me – she actually has a list of calls that I make at various points in the month to check them off her list!

    I tried to be professional and explain the reasoning behind my timing – I tried to push the point that I was distracted and the calls were coming across to clients as unorganized since she was always adding things in whispers while they were talking in my other ear. I even insisted that I never had any ill intent and that not once had I made a personal phone call. But I was just called a liar and comments were made about how entitled young workers are and that we’d do anything to get out of work.

    It wasn’t just me – all of the other younger (under 30) employees are treated like we’re always trying to get away with something. Misunderstandings an mistakes turn into intentional deception while the older employees can practically get away with murder.

    Reply
  73. Anie

    I disagree completely! I appreciate the people around me closing their doors for all calls, even the routine ones. It’s a distraction and I’m not interested in listening.

    Reply
  74. winna

    Does the OP actually report to the office manager? Everyone seems to assume that she dies, but to me it’s not clear.

    I think the answer would be different depending on if the office manager is a colleague, even a senior one, or the OP’s boss.

    Reply
  75. Leslie

    Here are some tips to help get over your phone anxiety. Maybe others can add to this- any other pointers other than “get over it?”

    -Remind yourself of the call’s precise role in the big picture. How does it fit into your project, your sales, etc. Hopefully focusing on its value will make it more desirable to accomplish. Define it for yourself, try jotting it down as inspiration the first couple of times

    -Make a couple of notes before your call… Not a script, just basic points you want to make sure to hit. Not paragraphs, Words.. to jog your memory and keep you on track if you get distracted.

    -Practice with yourself in the car on the way to work. Speaking out loud as though on the phone. Even try with a friend at home if it would help you overcome the fear.

    -Consider scheduling your call: even if you are cold calling, schedule it with yourself. Putting it on your calendar (mental calendar if you don’t want others to be alerted) can make it less daunting by showing when you will have it over with instead of having this looming thing you end up procrastinating because you find other things to do meanwhile. It also helps hold you accountable to yourself.

    -If you’re having hardcore irrational anxiety, talk yourself through it- what’s the worst that reasonably happens as a result of one phone call? What is the outcome you are afraid of? And how would you handle it? Then remind yourself the worst
    Result would probably come from not making the call or making it in private or procrastinating it, etc. One of the worst outcomes we fear is coming off as unprofessional, and you’re already avoiding that outcome by accepting your boss’s feedback and making an effort to overcome this aversion to phone calls.

    -Experience is key, as others have pointed out. One day you’ll look back on this and be so proud of how far you’ve come! But since you don’t have it yet, fake it till you make it. Try putting yourself in that frame of mind now, as if you have been doing this forever. Maybe even strike a power pose for 20 seconds before your call :-).

    Reply
    1. Sarah

      Love this answer!

      My tip is one I was given early in my working life and it served me really well. If what is worrying you is feeling put on the spot about not being sure about the answers, there is absolutely no shame in saying “Let me check that for you and call/email you back” – in fact, a good client/partner will appreciate you doing that, rather than getting flustered and giving out the wring information.

      Tip 2 – if you DO get flustered, or accidentally give the wrong answer, remember that it’s going to be really rare that you mess up a call so badly you can’t repair any mistakes If getting things wrong is what’s freaking you out, work out a script for an email or call to deal with that in advance, so if it does happen, you have a tool

      And I definitely second practicing things you might need to say on the phone regularly, out loud, by yourself or with a friend. Of course you’ll feel silly at first, but it really does work. If you don’t want to do it alone, maybe sit in a public place like a park or a square, and pretend to be taking a call, just having our side of the conversation.

      Reply
  76. Cassie

    I say it’s not unprofessional. A preference for this manager or this workplace, but not the norm for all workplaces. I wish my coworkers would close their doors when they’re on the phone – heck, even with their doors closed (e.g. during lunchtime), I can STILL hear them. We need better sound buffers.

    Regarding making phone calls and feeling awkward if/when others overhear – I’ve been there. When I was a student worker, I hated making phone calls because my boss sat just a few feet away from me and could overhear everything. It made me feel really self-conscious. As time went on (i.e. I got older and more used to it), it’s less of an issue now. It’s something that I had to learn to live with – when my boss or one of our students asks me to call someone, I very well can’t ask them to leave first. It helps if in your mind, you pretend to be someone else. I still have some awkward phone calls every now and then but just remember that people who overhear can only hear your side of the conversation. I feel like a dork if I’m still talking and the other side has already hung up (e.g. a wrong number) but nobody else has to know that I’m talking to a dial tone!

    Reply
  77. Anyonymous

    I haaaaaaate making phone calls. I have severe phone phobia. The uncomfortableness has never lessened. If I had a door to shut, I’d probably do the exact same thing as OP.

    Reply
  78. Kat

    It’s a door. It’s insanity that this is an issue. It seems like a power struggle with the manager.

    So what if she shuts her door? It’s not a hill for a manager to die on. It’s unreasonable and stupid that this is an issue.

    Leave her alone and let her do her work.

    Reply
  79. ReanaZ

    I was totally on the LW side on this one and really feeling for her. Then I got to the bottom of the article and:

    “You may also like:

    my boss has phone sex with his girlfriend with his office door open”

    Thanks, autorecommendations, for reminding me that there are always worse phone and door related problems to have.

    Reply
  80. ggg

    Can she partially close the door?

    Sometimes on a long phone call I leave my door open just a crack, so people know they can come in if they need a quick answer or signature. I don’t like to leave it open, because I hate when I’m the loudest thing in the office bay, and I also hate it if other people are being loud right outside the door when I’m trying to listen to a phone call.

    I don’t close it for short phone calls, unless there’s sensitive information involved.

    Reply
  81. Telephonophobia

    This is tough because adapting to office culture, whether it’s practical, logical, or reasonable, is important, especially early in your career, but I have great sympathy for the OP! I’m not all that new to the workforce and I still feel self-conscious sometimes when I’m on the phone at work, especially when the office around me is basically silent and I know that everyone hears me. For me, that’s compounded by a) the fact that I’m deaf in one ear, so I lose almost all awareness of my surroundings when I have the phone to my hearing ear, b) having had coworkers who as often as not thought nothing of trying to contribute to the phone call (sometimes with ideas or info that were ultimately valuable, sometimes not so much), and c) having had coworkers who’d ask, “so who was that?” or “what was that about?” not so much in a nosy way, but in a way that made it obvious that I always had a secondary audience.

    OP, I don’t really think closing the door is unprofessional, and it’s possible that your manager doesn’t actually think that either, but she just didn’t have a better word to explain why she doesn’t want you to do it. If she knew your real reason (and perhaps she inferred it), she might have used the word immature because that self-consciousness is something that many people must work through or cope with or get over. She might have meant “unnecessary,” as in, “don’t worry about people interrupting you, it’s fine to just tell visitors to wait a minute.” She might have meant “a nuisance,” as in, “people who need something from you or need files from your office shouldn’t have to make multiple trips to see if your door is open or line up outside your closed door.” Regardless, try not to take her unprofessional comment too much to heart. At worst, the office manager was criticizing one minor behavior and telling you exactly what to do to correct it. If closing your door is unprofessional, keeping your door open is professional, so you can redeem yourself with that one step.

    As for the self-consciousness, I had a few tricks to make phone calls less painful. These involved rewarding myself with a handful of M&Ms after a call and preparing a loose script of phrases I could fall back on if I felt tongue-tied during a call. I sucked it up while I established myself professionally and progressed up the ranks, and now I have the autonomy to close my door during phone calls if I wish, and in some cases, to say that email is the best way to reach me and skipping the phone call!

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  82. KH

    Wait a minute – you’re 23 years old, have been working for 4 years and you already have your own office!?

    I’ve been working for over 20 years and am still in a cubicle. (I almost got an office one time, then the firm went to an open seating plan… ugh.)

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  83. Callie

    I wish MORE people would close their doors when they make phone calls. I’m in higher ed and I’ll often walk by or into someone’s office and they’re on the phone talking about students’ grades or other things that would be a huge FERPA violation for uninvolved people to hear.

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  84. Dave

    I hate office politics and people making rules for rules sake. It’s not unprofessional, or professionally naive to close your door, otherwise, why have a door at all? Why not have an open plan office? The manager is guilty of micro-management here at such an early juncture.

    I work in an office, and have my door closed all the time, because I need to concentrate on my work and let others concentrate on theirs when I’m on the phone, or having an office meeting. If I make a mistake when calculating something, it could cost the company £000’s. No brainier to me. Our new head honcho tried to inflict an open door policy on us, I simply refused and quoted my reason (as above).

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