I am having trouble with some people (directs and peers) that come to my office to ask something about work but then they tend to stay and start small talks or tell me stories that are not business related.

Some, I understand, are just looking for "face time" and these are not so hard but others just stay and go on and on and on...

I have been really busy and this time "wasted" really bothers me.

I know we are supposed to give people attention and develop relationships but sometime I loose a whole morning with one after the anther coming in. It affects productivity.

How can I politely ask for people to go back to work?


stephenbooth_uk's picture

Are you doing One-On-Ones? The situation sounds pretty much exactly one of the issues that O3s will address.  When you're doing O3s if you're in the situation of someone starting to talk about something not work related you can say "Great, why don't you bring that to your next O3?"  You've communicated that you are happy to talk about it and have specified the time when they will have the opportunity, but not obligation, to raise it and know you will be listening but you haven't had to pull out the big stick and tell them to get back to work.



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Solitaire's picture

Could you implement a policy change whereby if your door is open, you welcome interruptions, and if it is closed then you are not to be interrupted unless it is an emergency? That way you can plan blocks of time where you will not be disturbed to get on with your work uninterrupted. Make sure there is a good balance between when your door is open and shut. You could announce your policy change at your weekly team meeting (assuming you are holding these too).

As Stephen mentions, implementing one-one-ones (O3s) is also a must! Then you should hopefully find that your directs can address their issues and some small-talk with you at their O3s. If they are feeling distant from you now, this could be why they are feeling the need to spend more time chit-chatting in your office.

Another option is to politely mention that you have a meeting/deadline/webinar/conference to attend or prepare for and that you can catch up with them later or at their O3.

Good luck!



GlennR's picture

I use Stephen's suggestion. Thanks to Mr. Drucker & MT, I schedule blocks of time to work on my priorities. During each 90-minute block, I close my door. Not only does it prevent people from interrupting me, it also assists me in focusing. In effect, I'm locking others out and locking myself in.

If you start to see a conversation dragging on, glance at the time and say this, "Oh hey! I'd love to talk but I've got to get something done." Or, when they walk into your office say, "I can talk for X minutes, then I've got to get something done." Avoid using the word "important," in your statement to avoid implying that your work is more important than their's. Avoid also, the expression, "I've got to get back to work," which implies that your conversation with that person is not "work-worthy."

Tone is important. Don't be stern as you're saying this. Look at the other person and smile as you speak. Be sincere.

Note: There will be times when the other person brings up a subject that is more important than what you are working on. When it is, forget the time limits and help the person.

Relationships ARE important, but so is the effective use of your time.

Jrlz's picture

Two things I would also recommend are:

First, some of your directs might be high I or high S.  This means that they like to talk about non-work related things more than a high D or high C.   In order to build your relationships with them you need to invest time to communicate thier way.  I would do this by proactivley seeking them out during parts of the day and engaging in conversation.  This is a win-win.  They get to converse with you and you get to choose when to do it.  You sound like a high D or C.  If so, be mindful that your communication style works well with other high D and C, but not so well with high I and C.  

Second, when you need to get back to work use body language to show that you need to end the conversation.  This could be done by standing up from your desk and perhaps stepping a little closer to the door.  If the non-verbal signals dont work, you could then switch to a verbal signal. 

Lastly, one additional item ( I know I said a couple and if you are a high C your head just exploded).  I too have been struggling with a workload that is overwhelming.  I have been working with delegating more to my directs, a tough thing for the high C in me.  This gets the small rocks off of my desk, developes my people, provides for more interaction with my directs and is freeing up more time for me to focus on the bigger rocks. 

Technophile's picture

It took me a couple months to train my employees and peers that when the door is closed I am not to be disturbed. It has been worth it. I leave it open 80% of the time but when I close it, I can really get stuff done.