Work Interruptions (from the co-workers!)

DBE Series 10

How can I get people in my company to stop coming in and bothering me?

This is a question that I get a lot, and I know that it might ruffle some feathers. First of all, I also wrote an article about the boss interrupting you. That’s entirely different if you’re the admin working in the back office.

But this is a question that I get a lot from back-office admins! It’s almost funny, but because I’ve been there, I know that it isn’t.  

It feels like these people think we’re just sitting down, waiting for them to come by and talk to us. It feels like they don’t respect our time or realize that our work is hard and that we need total concentration, especially when managing money, timely reporting, and answering customer’s questions.  

So let me give you a couple strategies you can implement.  

First strategy: If part of your role is to collect essential papers from the employees to manage your responsibilities – perhaps you calculate payroll and need timesheets. 

Or perhaps you manage reimbursements or the credit card. You need to collect receipts; sometimes, they feel that you need a conversation as they drop off their paperwork.  

NO! What you need is the paperwork handed to you on time and clearly written and neat. 

You don’t need to know about the big car accident on route 6, which caused them to fill up at a different gas station than they usually do. That’s why the receipt is separate. 

You would be amazed at the rambling stories that people can spend 10-15 minutes on!  

Here’s what you do, my first strategy. Create an inbox outside of your office door. In the inbox have different colored folders clearly marked receipts, timesheets, packing slips…whatever. Then give each gabby gabbler employee a tour of your fancy inbox, let them know you made this especially for them because you know they need to get back to work ASAP. You don’t want to waste their time, and that this is the best way to give you information.  

Now, what if they bypass that inbox! And then tell you they want to talk to you?! How frustrating, right?  

Here’s my second strategy

Body language goes a long way. 

When they come in, stand up and hustle around. Don’t sit and linger. Sit and remain means you have time to talk. Hustling means that you absolutely do not have time to talk.  

Third Strategy: For me, sometimes I used to put on my earphones when I had one particular gabby employee and even just pretended to listen to music. That was her way of knowing that I wasn’t available to talk.  

Perhaps that was juvenile for me but let me give you one more tip—a more direct approach.  

Fourth Strategy: Simply tell this interruptor that you need 100% concentration. When you make a mistake when doing the invoices, the customer will return it for correction, pushing out payment for another 30 days. 

Then, you can’t make payroll – and look at them pointedly. But balance this with something better than a quick conversation. Set aside a good coffee break or lunch break to talk with others and focus on good conversation. Create boundaries around your time. There’s a time for fun and a time for talk.  

Published by Janet Johnson, MBA | Business Advisor

Janet Johnson is a small business advisor and author of My Money Pivot: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Finding & Making More Money and this educational blog. All views expressed belong solely to Ms. Johnson and do not represent the views of her employer. The website,, is currently managed by Luz Marcos, Virtual Assistant.

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