I’m sure everyone has been in situations where a coworker is wasting your time, but there doesn’t seem to be a polite way out of it. Here are several simple strategies for keeping your distractions to a minimum without appearing impolite or rude.
- Stand – By standing when someone walks into your office, you will usually prevent them from taking a seat. This can help keep them focused on the purpose of their visit and getting back to work (where they can sit again).
- Meet them at the door – If you see someone about to come into your office, meeting them at the door puts you physically between them and your area. You are being polite because you’ve walked toward them to meet them, but at the same time, it prevents them from trapping you inside your office.
- Take Notes – This works well if a coworker is wanting to share gossip. Simply take out a pad and pen when they enter your area and ask them how you can help them. Their conversation is going to be much more focused on work if they think you are writing it down.
- Go to them – By going to meet them in their office or work space, you can stay in control of when you need to leave. It is much easier to leave someone else’s space gracefully than to remove them from yours.
- Walk them back to their work area – This has to be done carefully, but if you meet them at the door, it is usually pretty easy to stroll with them back to their work space while chatting and then tactfully excuse yourself.
- Office Furniture – Not having a place to sit can help keep your visitors focused. Keeping a guest chair in the closet for the times you need it works as well. Another idea is to keep your guest chair piled with stacks of paper or equipment and only clear it if you want your visitor to stay (this can look rather tacky, but if your office is already a mess …).
- Uncomfortable guest chair – I’ve heard of places that cut two inches off the front legs of their chairs. It gives people a place to sit, but since it isn’t comfortable, they don’t tend to stay as long.
- Close your door – Depending on your office culture, closing your door can help reduce unnecessary interruptions. On the other hand, it can reduce interruptions that are important as well.
Great tips :)
We read this here in the office and we were laughing out loud. Not only were the tips great, but they were funny.
If you are going to take ideas from somewhere atleast give credit. Brian Tracy?
Mark Shead says
@George – I’m afraid I don’t know who Brian Tracy is. These aren’t exactly revolutionary ideas and I’m sure many people have said some of them before.
Great! I love those tips!
Do you also have tips to keep people from wasting my time on the phone?
I have a lot of friends (and family members as well) that have the bad habit of calling me and when I try to shorten the conversation in a polite way because I’m in the middle of something more important than chatting about Beth’s new guy, they either ignore it or they sound so disappointed that I feel guilty for the rest of the day…
Any tips on this?
Mark Shead says
@Finja – One thing I’m trying to do is answer the phone with “What can I do for you?” instead of “How are you doing?” Another idea is to use caller id and voicemail to filter the calls.
This is a good question. I’ll think about it some more and maybe use it for the basis of a post in the future so stay tuned.
@Mark alright, the ideas that you said are basically straight up from Brian Tracy’s time management video.
Anyway I will add one that is not on the list that Brian did recommend and that is when they say ‘do you have a minute’ you respond ‘i was just about to leave.’ and then you stand up and walk towards the door…..
And then close the door and go back to your seat. lol
Unwanted visitors really can be a pain especially since they interrupt you and steal your time. Besides the excellent tips in this article I also wrote an article on how to deal with unwanted visitors on my blog.
Most of these suggestions assume you have an office. What does one do when the person in the next cubicle insists on haveing constant conversations? You can’t stand at the door or walk them back to their office. I’ve tried getting up and walking away, but I have had to do that so much that that also makes it hard to get any work done.
Most of ideas are very helpfull but idea to cut the 2inches of front legs is very-very funny too.
Thanks for it…!!