“My door is always open.” It seems like something every Danish boss says, whether it’s during a job interview, on the first day at work, or at a feedback meeting when things are going well… or not so well.
But what does it really mean?
In some working cultures, bosses who say that their office door “is always open” to the people on the team may be indicating that they’re open to hearing about employees’ personal problems (is their spouse seeing someone else?) or are available for light gossip.
But that’s not what a Danish boss means.
Danish bosses want you to be proactive
In Danish workplace culture, there are fewer layers of management than in most other working cultures. Denmark simply doesn’t have a lot of people – there are only 5.8 million permanent residents of Denmark – and salaries are high.
Fewer managers means that bosses don’t have time to constantly monitor what their reports are up to. Instead, they rely on the people on their team to come to them with input and questions.
“My door is always open” is your Danish boss’s way of saying, “Come to me if there’s an issue with your project. Don’t hide it, don’t let it fester. My door is open.”
When to proactively approach your boss
Your Danish boss will expect you to come to them proactively for a chat when:
- You’re behind on a project, and might miss a deadline
- You’re overwhelmed on a project, and need assistance or more resources
- You think you’ve made a mistake on the job, and are wondering what to do next
- You’re having problems getting along with a colleague.
Your boss would rather be approached too many times than two few, in particular if you’re new on the job or new in Denmark. Don’t try to tough it out on your own. Your boss’s door is open.
How to approach your boss for input
Danes put a premium on their time, so don’t show up right before the end of the workday and then prattle on for an hour.
Instead, put a 15-minute meeting in your boss’s calendar with a meeting title that indicates what you want to discuss. (Your boss may suggest an alternate meeting time if your suggestion doesn’t fit her schedule.)
Turn up for the meeting with a few bullet points about what the situation is, and, if you can, what you’d like the boss to do to help you fix it.
“Hands off” is not uncaring
Many internationals misinterpet the Danish boss’s “hands off” style as uncaring. That’s incorrect: the boss does care what you’re doing, and wants to help you work happily and effectively. The worst mistake you can make is not asking for help when you need it. After all, your boss’s door is always open.
You can learn more about Danish bosses in our book “How to Work in Denmark: Tips for Finding a Job, Succeeding at Work, and Understanding Your Danish Boss.”