An open-door policy -- under which employees may approach a manager when his or her office door is open -- sounds like a great management idea until the reality of a busy day intrudes. "I want to be available and accessible, but I really hate you for interrupting me," is how Jim Lucas, president and CEO of Luman Consultants, a 15-employee company in Shawnee Mission, Kans., describes the feeling that stressed managers can easily convey to employees. To avoid giving similar mixed messages, Lucas, who has written three books on leadership and management in the workplace, decided it made more sense to use a "modified open-door policy." Under his system, the position of his office door serves as a signal.

"An open door means come in; I truly am available. A partially open door means I'm pretty busy, but come in if it's really important. And a closed door means I'm about to explode; come in if it's a life-threatening emergency," Lucas explains. "Using the door as body language cuts out all the baloney."