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Communicate in an open office

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

A few years back, open concept offices became all the rage—with companies abandoning separate office spaces and cubicles for a wide-open space. The reason: To encourage communication, collaboration and teamwork. All that togetherness, however, poses problems. As a manager, how do you address performance issues when everyone can listen in? How do you have work-related conversations other people shouldn’t hear? If you work in an open office, follow this advice:

Don’t resort to email. You may opt to send critical feedback over email to keep it away from prying ears, but the tactic will almost always backfire. Even well-meaning, constructive feedback can sound  harsh on email. Meet face-to-face to provide performance feedback, specifically if it is negative.

Refrain from pulling people into private rooms on a whim. Think back to when you were called to the principal’s office and your classmates responded with “Oooo” or “Ahhh” and whispers. The same could happen when you call employees into a conference room suddenly. Unless it’s urgent, avoid it.

Schedule regular check-ins in the conference room. During these one-on-one sessions, offer coaching, feedback and praise; and ask for progress reports. Because you hold them for everyone, people won’t think twice about it. Ideally, you’d hold them weekly or every two weeks.

Do address high priorities. If a problem pops up that you need to deal with now, don’t put it off. Ask the person to join you in the conference room, by saying “Can you meet for 10 minutes?” If you have been having regular meetings with everyone, most people won’t even pay attention to an unexpected one.

—Adapted from “How Do I Manage People in an Open Office?,” Alison Green,

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Donald A Robson August 14, 2017 at 9:18 am

This is the first time that I have seen these articles on Linkedin. They are interesting.


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