Do you feel as if you’re constantly interrupted during the working day? “Most of us find these interruptions particularly difficult. After all, that’s our job — to be helpful, co-operative and available when needed. You want to maintain a positive relationship, demonstrate a “can do” attitude and keep on top of your workload.
But it’s not easy when your manager interrupts frequently with a torrent of new tasks that weren’t on the radar yesterday. While the interruptions are unlikely to stop completely(and you probably wouldn’t want them to), these suggestions will minimise them, without upsetting your manager.
So what can you do when your boss keeps interrupting you?
•Remember the objective is win:win, and sometimes you must gently and assertively remind your manager what you’re working on. If they interrupt you regularly for matters that (in your opinion)
appear trivial and could wait, politely remind them “I’m working on XYZ task you asked me for earlier – can I come back to you as soon as I’m finished?”
•If the new task is higher priority, your manager will tell you. But if it’s in their interest for the previously requested task to be finished, they’ll appreciate the reminder and happily talk later.
•Set a good example by minimising the times you interrupt your manager. Always ask if this is a convenient moment before launching into your interruption.
•Save several questions or points for one conversation if possible. When you respect other people’s time, they’re more likely to follow the example.
•When you’re interrupted by your manager, keep it as brief as you can. Avoid introducing another non-work related topic. If you appear relaxed and happy to chat about other topics for 10 minutes, your boss may be unaware of your time challenges. They might think you don’t have enough to do – or even that your chatting delays them.
•If your manager tends to chat about unrelated topics after their initial point has been handled, go to their office space rather than have them visit yours. You can’t predict every interruption of course, but if they’re likely to want to talk today about an approaching event or meeting, pre-empt their interruption at a time and place to suit you. You’re in a better position to end the conversation quickly and move on, than if your manager is comfortably settled in a chair by your desk.
•If you need quiet, uninterrupted time for a project, let your manager know (and what you’ll be doing) before you begin. For example, “I’m going to be in the meeting room this afternoon so I can work on XYX project, is there anything you need me to do before I begin?”
•Schedule time to concentrate on your projects when your manager is likely to be busy – for example, during the monthly Management Meeting.
•Stand in your manager’s shoes for a moment and consider their needs. By anticipating important meetings or approaching deadlines, you can check what they’ll need in good time – and avoid last minute panics. Be careful not to give the impression you’re nagging or have nothing to do – you’re simply being proactive.
•Communication and interaction between colleagues is essential to keep work flowing, so don’t judge your manager too harshly. Your manager may think you want or need more details to do your job well, so is trying to help you. There is, of course, a world of difference between sharing useful business background and lengthy chats about cricket or their weekend!
•Remember, it may not be your manager’s fault. They may work for a disorganised manager themselves or their role means requirements come up at short notice. It may not be how your manager prefers to work – it simply reflects the existing organisation culture which may be very fast and competitive.
These tips will demonstrate to your manager that you have the teams’ interest at heart, and are doing your best to meet their priorities by completing requested tasks in a timely way.”