One of the papers I wrote in college highlighted the awkward social implications of holding doors for strangers. The full text can be found here. Since writing that paper, the art of the door-hold for me has expanded beyond college campus level and entered the hyper-politically correct realm of Corporate America. Not wanting to cause an HR issue, I will attempt to present the following analysis of Corporate doorholdsmanship in the most unoffensive manner possible:
In college, few doors are locked. In fact, most are so open, you really don’t even have to turn a knob or handle; a slight nudge in the right direction leaves most doors wide open. But in the Corporate life, most doors are locked; with keypads or intercoms or card-swipe things. No longer are mysterious rooms in cafeterias, dormitories, lecture halls, faculty offices and bathrooms left unprotected from my inappropriate and clandestine searches. Nay, now all doors are securely locked, despite how hard I kick the door, or jam a credit card in the narrow light emitting crack on one side of the door. Where I once could unravel any mystery, now lays before me more uncertainty than Frodo faced setting out from the Shire.
Ultimately, this lack of open entries leads to one main problem: holding doors. When a door cannot be opened it is difficult to hold for other people. Chivalry is appreciated (in some cases even expected) in Corporate life, but with no chairs to pull out (as it leads to awkward meeting situations), no umbrellas to hold (as it rarely rains inside your cube) and no maidens to save (I’ll leave this one alone), we’re left with a few unsatisfying ways to be Knightly. I have broken it down into the following:
Holding bathroom doors:
Level of awkward: MEGA AWKWARD
Level of necessity: Minor
There is no hiding the fact that I am male. Men tend to be solitary bathroom goers; I have seen more than one man turned away from a bathroom by “overcrowding” caused by one extra occupant. Many do not even begin to appreciate a door being held for them upon entering a bathroom. It probably reminds them of that fancy strip club they went to that one time their wife was out of town that they really don’t want to remember for obvious reasons. Either that or they feel their privacy is being infringed upon and another man is basically advertising that they are walking into the bathroom with them. As it stands, the Corporate Men’s Bathroom door hold may be the most awkward and difficult to pull off door hold in the entire known universe. The timing must be uncanny; not only do you have to match your walking pace with the other soon to be peer to reach to door at the correct time, you also have to be headed that way anyway without seeming like some creepster who follows dudes into the bathroom. This is incredibly difficult, as you feel like a creep even when the meeting is entirely accidental.
The only time you can really get away with this one is upon exiting the bathroom. You can tactfully hold a door for someone who has just finished washing their hands, with little worry of social pariah status being projected upon you via questioning glares. It is highly recommended that you simply avoid joint bathroom visits whenever humanly possible; taking 4 flights of stairs to find an unoccupied bathroom to achieve this is completely acceptable. I cannot speak for thefemale side of things; I feel if I stand around waiting to hold the Women’s bathroom door, I’ll have much more to worry about than social awkwardness.
Holding the Front Door to the Office:
Level of awkward: Somewhat Awkward
Level of necessity: Medium/High
Unlike its bathroom based cousin, this door-hold is more common and more expected. It is also completely based upon the time you arrive at work in relation to all your coworkers. If you find yourself to be a sniveling, pathetic shell of a person, get in early or come in late to avoid having to share your entry with any of your coworkers. If you are the bold, daring sort, arrive at the office during peak entrance times to guarantee the maximum number of doors holds possible (my personal record is 6 at once!)
Even though this door hold is easy to plan, it is very important to get right. As covered in my above essay, timing is key with all correct door holds. Since most Corporate office doors are on the heavy side, you might consider holding the door far ahead of time, to prevent the all too common, “Oops, the door was heavier than anticipated, so I dropped it and it may have smacked you in an undesirable body part” problem. Every time you let a door slam into someone’s torso/leg/arm/child, you run the risk of that person claiming you are “incompetent” or “dangerously clumsy”. This must be avoided at all costs. Be sure to hold the door completely, with both hands, while simultaneously moving your body out of the way of incoming traffic. This may be painful, but trust me, it’s worth it. That next bonus you get will have nothing to do with your performance, it will really be because everyone admires how deftly you handle the front door every morning.
Don’t suck! This is the easy door hold in Corporate. You can screw up every other hold all day everyday, but still be redeemed if you get this one right. The only thing that may make it difficult is a secured entry (keypad or card swipey doo-dad), so be sure to arrive at the door in time to swipe, swing and stay. The three S’s. I just made that up, but it seems to make sense I think.
Holding the Door to the Building:
Level of awkward: Not Awkward to MEGA AWKWARD
Level of necessity: Low to OMG DO IT
This one is a no-brainer. Hold the door for anyone; coworker, security guard, UPS guy, random vagrant, murderous looking guy wearing camouflage or maintenance person. You cannot discriminate here, if someone is coming in or going out with you, you have to hold the door, otherwise your principles could be called into question by a complete stranger. As long as you don’t let random people into your specific office, you’re golden. You will be completely absolved of all possible guilt in any subsequent situation if you follow the above advice.
If you decide to get picky, and not hold for some people, you may run into the classic, “I let the door limply swing shut so you had to reopen it, even though you are the CEO of a company 40 times the size of my own” syndrome. This is why you must never make an assumption about an entering individual, despite his attire or demeanor. Remember, everyone looks some kind of homeless on casual Friday.
The outside door to the building is unlocked all day anyway, so it’s not really your problem if some crazy maniac gets into the building. Open all doors at all times without even thinking about the consequences. Just claim you’re, “thinking outside the box” and I promise you won’t get in trouble.