Wedding Woes

I work with a bunch of interrupters

Dear Prudence,
I apparently work for people who have managed to achieve adulthood without picking up on basic cues about when someone is busy and not wanting to be interrupted. Most of the time at work, I am very approachable and collaborative, but sometimes I have a deadline I’m trying to meet. On those days, I close and lock my door, turn my back to the doorway, and focus intently on my work. I’m somewhat introverted, so when I am interrupted, it is very jarring and takes me a while to regain my focus. Some very social people in my office, however, will come to my door and knock persistently. When I turn around, they will say they “just wanted to speak” or are “just saying hi,” or they will start in on some personal matter, completely oblivious to the fact that they just interrupted me.

I have tried putting a “do not disturb” sign on my door, but a handful of people will ignore the sign, or they think it is a great joke to vandalize or steal it. I’ve tried ignoring them when they knock, but this is hard because once they knock or call my name, they’ve already broken my concentration and the damage is done, and my boss will sometimes need me for something, and I have to be responsive to her, so I can’t just refuse to turn around.

I don’t want to hurt the relationships I have with the people I work with or become known as the office bitch. On the other hand, I feel like they are putting me in an untenable position, and I am on the verge of snapping at them when they ignore basic workplace courtesy. Also, I think there may be some unconscious sexism at play, because the people interrupting me are all men, and my director and I are the only female managers in our office. Any advice on how to handle this would be appreciated.

—Leave Me Alone

Re: I work with a bunch of interrupters

  • I think it depends on the office environment there and how she is. If her office door is always closed then I can see knocking because you never know what she is doing if you need her. If it is rarely closed then I would see a little more importance in it and that the person is probably in a meeting or trying to concentrate. 

    Maybe she should see about working from home on certain projects/deadlines where she needs to not be disturbed if that is something her office allows.
  • mrsconn23 said:

    Maybe it's not the right office environment for her? 
    time to find a pantsless WFH situation.

    One caveat of being in a "green" building is that we have very little office space - so unless you're a director level or have a lot of direct reports, you're sitting in a cube. it *does* get annoying when you're trying to focus on something and people keep coming by because they need immediate help and can't be bothered to e-mail or IM you first. I make a conscious effort not to be that person because I've already had to (politely) ask a few people to quit it. 

    If she can't politely ask people to set up time to talk later, she should invest in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones, or figure out a way to book a conference room or alternate space on days when she has a critical project due. 
  • "When my door is closed, it means I'm busy and would prefer to not be interrupted. Please only knock if it's an emergency."

    I've worked in offices where people have had signs like that.  I've also had bosses who have told me their "door" policy in my first week of employment.

    I'm with some of the other PPs who are wondering if she keeps her door closed the majority of the time, so people no longer take it seriously.  In ALL the offices I've worked in, people rarely close their doors.  So, if they do, it is taken very seriously and they are not interrupted.

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  • kimmiinthemittenkimmiinthemitten Detroit, MI member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
    Me too. It's the culture of our business.  Although, if you interrupt someone who is truly in the middle of something, they'll leave

    I am also in the camp of "maybe this isn't the right work environment for her."   I can totally see how this behavior, if exclusive to LW and not her office mates would lead her to be the target of office pranks. 
  • "Maybe this company isn't the right one for you" - if she's ready to snap on them, chances are, time to dust off the resume' ASAP... 

    My guess - the door is constantly closed and her sign is not welcome in the corporate environment she's in as it's prudish for the atmosphere..

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  • OurWildKingdomOurWildKingdom in the 216 member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
    All I can say is that LW is lucky to have an office door. I'm a receptionist (among other things) and get interrupted constantly. My ADHD sometimes makes it hard to refocus, but I deal.
  • I did a little happy dance when I got promoted and got my own office. I can blast NIN to my heart's content! However, one of my managers likes to drop in and get my to do busy work, while I'm very busy. I usually tell him I'll get to it when I'm done what I'm doing because otherwise, he just stands there as if I'm going to drop what I'm doing to do his work!
  • I work in a three man office space and we always have our door open for staff to come and ask us questions. I had to get used to the interruptions and being okay with that.
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