Do you find some people in your office interrupt you with a lack of courtesy and at inconvenient times?
Have people been taught when to and when not, to interrupt?
In days gone by, young people were less likely to interrupt, I guess because they had been raised to be afraid to do so, with older people. I expect with today’s assertive young people, they are more likely to interrupt a conversation. If you feel your staff interrupt inappropriately, then there is no point in complaining, it is up to you to educate them.
Have people been taught how to interrupt?
Well the obvious is to start by teaching them to say “Excuse me ….”. It is essential to be brief. Also, I expect it is better to be circumspect with what is said. If the interruption is because another more important client is on the phone, it would be inappropriate to say “Excuse me Mrs Smith is on the phone and insists on speaking with you”. Far better to say, “Excuse me, something important has come up, could I speak with you for a moment”? Then provide the explanation, outside the room.
In my office we had a rule, I had identified the one or two clients for whom I was willing to be interrupted, anyone else, not so. All the office knew those few key clients.
At a function
When is it appropriate to interrupt people? I recall making an error at a Cocktail Party. I approached a senior person I knew. I did not stop to allow him to introduce me to the very well-known person with whom he was speaking. I believe I should not have ventured into conversation with the other person, until the introduction was done. She did give me a very quizzical expression, which I later decided was her polite way of saying I was out of line.
What if you are very busy?
I recall a time management expert who suggested we needed a system to alert people to the fact we were currently very busy and would prefer not to be interrupted. Sometimes if you are working on a critical matter, are under pressure, or careful consideration is needed, you would prefer not to be interrupted. The time management expert suggested a system of flags, a red flag on your desk was a sign you did not want to be interrupted. I know some people go and work in another room, go outside the office to work, or close their door, if they have one.
Other practitioners set aside specific times of the day when they are available for review, answering questions, etc. Yet other practitioners work from home one day a week and then take care of tasks requiring uninterrupted periods of thought. Also, they may review their long term plans at that time, update their skills, etc.
Are some people just born to interrupt?
It does sometimes seem particular people, often the quick witted, the What If learners, will interrupt more than others. When they pick up a thought or hear someone talk about a concept, their brain quickly leaps off into the next stage of something. Naturally they then have a question and quickly ask it. They may interrupt a lot, but they have the sharp brain which is useful to you in your firm.
Like most aspects of Courtesy and Good Manners, to minimise unnecessary and maybe rude interruptions, it is necessary to teach people the behaviour you require. This can happen on the job and also with short training courses.
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