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The office I'm in is shared by four people. During the winter, the room tends to feel very cold, even when I'm wearing a sweater - one of my office mates even wears a coat inside the office. A couple of us have brought in space heaters to warm the room. However, the heaters are ineffective if the door is open, since the heat escapes into the hallway. Thus three of us would like to keep the door closed to keep the heat generated by the space heaters in the room.

Unfortunately, the fourth person in the office has strenuously objected to keeping the door closed. While they acknowledge the room is cold, they state that having the door closed sends a bad signal to our co-workers and management. To address that, one of us created a sign for the door that read "We're here, please feel free to come in - we have the door closed to keep the room warm." Unfortunately, this hasn't appeased the fourth person. They have claimed that management sees a closed door as "unprofessional". However, other people in our area keep their doors closed too, with similar signs on the doors. Also a check with our direct supervisor received a response along the lines of "I don't care if your door is closed or not as long as I can talk to you when I need to." The fourth person then just claimed that keeping the door closed is unprofessional and continued to insist that we keep it open.

While I don't know for sure, but I now suspect that this person has some other (psychological) objection to having the door closed that they aren't disclosing. However, I don't think they're likely to admit this if it's true and don't want to pry.

Basically, the fourth person has made such a continued nuisance of themselves that the three of us have acquiesced in an effort to maintain a peaceful co-existence. However, I definitely feel we've been bullied.

Going to management here seems likely to get a response telling us we need to learn to get along. I don't think it would look good either.

So, do folks have suggestions on how we might convince the other person to allow us to keep the door closed? As a side issue: Is it considered unprofessional to keep your office door closed?

(Unfortunately, getting the office temperature set to a more comfortable temperature isn't an option - the building uses a central environmental control. We're part of a large beaurocratic organization where things like this are set by "policy"; our direct management is aware of the situation, but their only response is to tell us to bring in space heaters.)

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    Could the one "open door guy" be moved to a different room? Perhaps there are more open door fetishists, and they could all freeze together, while the rest of the office stays warm with closed doors. – Stephan Kolassa Jan 8 '16 at 18:47
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    Maybe the thing to do is to find out what policy determines the temperature of your workspace and see if the actual temperature falls outside of that. "You're doing something against policy" seems like a quick way to get the actual root of the problem fixed. – Blrfl Jan 8 '16 at 19:16
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    You might want to ask him which "management" has told him that it is unprofessional. If he cannot produce a name, then ask "well, where did you hear that? Was it a book you read? Something on the internet?" It may be that he is not being honest about his reasons for wanting the door open, and if so you should find out what they are. But approach the situation with sympathy; it may be that he has a phobia or has had a bad experience with bullying behind closed doors himself. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Jan 8 '16 at 20:30
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    For what it's worth, it also isn't unprofessional to wear a sweater or vest in the office. – keshlam Jan 27 '16 at 22:01
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    @BrianDHall: "Personal heaters" are forbidden in many workplaces as a fire hazard. (Justifiably in my experience.) – keshlam Jan 28 '16 at 6:35
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You're right in thinking that going to your manager is still premature at this point. From what I can tell, you haven't actually pushed the subject with your coworker, so that's your first step. It's time to be direct, your script should be something like the following:

Hey X, I know we've talked about closing our office door before but we never really got anywhere. We know that you had concerns about a closed door coming across as unprofessional but we've checked that with Y and he said it wasn't a problem. Since we can't really do anything about the temperature other than closing the door and Winter is in full swing we really need to start keeping this door closed to keep the heat in. It's unfortunate if you think it sends the wrong signal but I'm more worried about the signals we'd send if our work suffers because we're freezing in our chairs. Can we ask you to keep the door closed from now on?

Preferably have a one-on-one conversation without your other coworkers present because you don't want to gang up on him. If other people at your location close their doors, that's another good point to make. Focus on how the cold is affecting your work and comfort and how the "it's unprofessional" angle is simply invalid here.

At this point, most reasonable people will accept your argument. If he doesn't, then it's time to bring it to your manager. As it's always good to come with solutions, ask him to speak to your colleague to try and get him to close the door. Alternatively, ask your manager if it's possible for the company to order a more heavy-duty space heater that can heat the room up in spite of the open door.


As for whether closed doors are unprofessional: that's entirely dependent on the office culture. Management and workplace blogger Alison Green says: "It’s really just an issue of office culture and personal preference; there’s no right or wrong way to do this."

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It certainly is not unprofessional to shut the door. That is why offices have doors to begin with.

Talk to your boss about the issue. Explain that 3 of 4 of you want the door closed but the other person vehemently does not. Get his permission to shut the door and then shut it. Allow him to deal with the person who doesn't like going with the majority in this case.

A compromise might be to partially shut the door. That would keep some of the heat in but be more indicative that you want people to come in.

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    This sounds like a great way to turn a physically cold environment into an emotionally cold one as well. – user9158 Jan 11 '16 at 5:20
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    Too late for that, it already is. One person making everyone else in the room uncomfortable for bogus reasons. – Florian Schaetz Aug 9 '17 at 7:56
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    @GreenMatt The open-door person's only concern seems to be to be looked at with favor by management, so when talking with the boss I would make absolutely sure to add something like "Could you please persuade the open-door person that neither you nor upper management would consider him/her unprofessional for keeping the door closed?". If your boss succeeds in persuading this person about this point - and a manager would be expected to be good at these things - that would probably help the most. – SantiBailors Dec 30 '17 at 14:07
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Is there any way you can discuss with the building manager having the temperature control on your floor adjusted? It sounds like a few of you in the offices are experiencing the same problem. I was able to contact the building manager at my office in regards to the air conditioning being too strong (and thus freezing) in the summer time. They were happy to adjust the temperature by a few degrees.

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    Yes, if the office is too cold, central heating needs to be adjusted. Space heaters waste a lot of energy (if you don't care about the ennvironmental impact of that, energy also costs money) and can even be a safety hazard. – Roland Jan 27 '16 at 9:24
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While they acknowledge the room is cold, they state that having the door closed sends a bad signal to our co-workers and management.

Because they acknowledge the room is cold you are halfway to a solution.

The three of you sit down with your teammate, re-iterate that he or she has already acknowledged that the room is cold. Re-iterate that he or she has a valid concern about not wanting to appear unprofessional.

The three of you then need to make it clear that your quality and productivity are suffering because of the cold and a solution to keep the room warm needs to be realized soon because you cannot continue to let your work suffer.

Then say that because it would look unprofessional to have to take this to management for resolution, you'd like to get this sorted out within the team.

Point out that you guys respect the other person's objection to closing the door and want to try to get to a solution without having to do that.

Then, ask the co-worker what solution would be acceptable to them to resolve the issue.

At this point, if the person is reasonable, they'll work toward a solution that fits their needs and the needs of the team (it is important that you do not bring up your theories about the "real" reason why they do not want the door closed).

If they are not reasonable, you will have to take it to management - which is a valid thing to do in this case because you've already tried the team approach.

You will have a documentation trail showing that you tried the team approach, even letting the co-worker suggest the solution, but the other person put their own interests above those of the team and you are stuck.

And, when that happens, it is a manager's job to intervene, as there is nothing more that you can do.

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    Obviously all they need are more heaters in the hallway so the warm air doesn't need to escape! – CKM Jan 27 '16 at 18:52
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I've known people who adhere to open door policy, but you don't have to take it literally. Develop real relationships with people in the office and you don't have to worry about how they interpret your closed door.

When people have questions, tell them to stop by and don't worry if the door is closed. Let them know you're trying to keep the room warm. My guess is they know about the lack of heat situation. Bring some treats to the office and invite people over to share. Again, address the closed door situation when you invite them.

Eventually, this person should come to the conclusion that the fear of a closed door being misinterpreted is unfounded. Hopefully, the real problem isn't claustrophobia. If that is the case, it is in everyone's interest to not have this person confined to an office.

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This would be my final position on the matter - I would state the obvious, but obviously missed point - you have spent enough time on the matter with no resolution.

Your office is too cold to work effectively. It's okay for people to knock when entering an office no matter what the culture - it is respectful to do so. Either your office partner get on board with the matter, come up with a viable solution by the end of the day that satisfies everyone, consider moving to another department where they will be more comfortable (ha), or management gets involved next day.

It really sounds like you and your mates have done all that there is to do. Too much in fact. As an HR manager, I would be disappointed if you didn't bring it to my attention at this point. I don't see this as a group unable to team well together at all. This is what we get paid to do.

  • In this case (now in the past), HR wouldn't have been an effective option: We were working at a client site and there were 3 different employers involved. – GreenMatt Mar 14 at 14:21
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You can address the "unprofessional" comment by essentially conspiring with your manager to have them close the door.

Meaning, you manager can swing by a couple of times for whatever reason, then on the way out ask "open or closed?". The three of you say "closed". Manager, hearing the clear majority says "no problem, thanks for the...whatever..." then closes the door.

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