Dealing with interruptions

9 ways to deal with interruptions

ways to deal with interruptions in the workplace

Dealing with the common day to day workplace "interruptions" can sometimes be a challenge. To set yourself up to better deal with interruptions,  first of all, it’s important to distinguish between an interruption and an event which is directly linked to the main purpose of your job. For example, many people seem to see telephone calls as interruptions to their daily routine.

The question that must be asked is “Would my job actually exist if it were not for the people “interrupting” me on the telephone?”  It is only once we have the answer to this question, in the face of a potential interruption, that we can then make a rational decision about how to deal with the challenge facing us. Do we put our current priority to one side for a moment, or do we manage the interruption assertively?

If the answer to our question is the latter, we have several options to choose from. 

All of the suggestions below work. However, you have to decide for yourself which is going to be the most appropriate and effective at the time. By managing interruptions assertively, and explaining why you are choosing to deal with people in a certain way, not only will people tend to be more willing to co-operate, but they will also have more respect for you in the long term.



1. Try setting aside certain agreed times of the day when you’re available to see people. You could use an “open / closed door” policy.


2. Tell people you’re busy, apologise and ask them to return later when you can give them your full attention. This shows them that you value their time as well as your own.


3. Make it clear how much time you have at the start of the conversation. If they require longer to discuss an issue, tell them when you can give them the time they need. You’re in control of your time.


4. Stand up. It’s unlikely that someone walking into your office will sit down while you tower over him or her.  People don’t tend to stay long if they’re not invited to do so.


5. Keep your head down when the interrupter is in sight. Eye contact can be mis-read as an invitation to have a chat.


6. Put up “Do not disturb” notices, such as the “red / green flag” method.


7. Turn your desk away from your office door/entrance so you won’t be facing passers-by.


8. Busy with your computer. It’s very hard to talk to someone who’s obviously very busy tapping away on his or her keyboard. (Not the most assertive method, but effective when some people don’t take the hint!)

9. Delegate the interruptee!  If all else fails, there’s always someone else who’s less busy than you are, and who just loves a chat!


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