12th October 2016

Do people disturb you when you are really busy?

Do people disturb you when you are really busy? Here’s how to deal with interruptions without causing offence.

We have a little joke at Scott Bradbury that the cartoon at the bottom of this page is really meant to be of me, interrupting my co-director (and video script writer), Hugh Murray. Not that I’m infamous for interrupting people, you understand!

The truth is, we’ve all had the experience of being deeply engrossed in a task only to have our concentration disturbed by someone wanting to ask us something. You know what it’s like – you’re deep in thought when someone barges in and asks you something. Maybe it’s important. Maybe it isn’t. But your focus is gone in an instant. You’ve lost that key thought, you’ve lost your place and your concentration is broken.

This can be irritating to say the least. And sometimes, because we are human, we react in the heat of the moment and snap back with something like, “What?! Can’t you see I’m busy?” And that’s not good for calm and productive working relationships!

Since watching our video ‘What To Say When You’re Too Busy To Say Anything’ I’m much more mindful of my colleagues’ need for peace and quiet and aware of my own responsibility for not interrupting people unless really necessary.

But if your colleagues haven’t seen the video yet, you almost certainly get interrupted at times when you really are too busy to speak with them.

So what do you say when someone interrupts you? How do you get them to ‘go away’ so you can refocus without causing offence?

Firstly, you need to show respect to the other person. Just remembering that the other person isn’t deliberately trying to irritate you and that they are seeking your counsel on something that’s probably important to them, helps to put the interruption into context. You need to show that you value the fact that they want to consult you, whilst making it clear that now is not a good time.

So be assertive about how you cannot spare the time to talk now but also demonstrate that you care about the topic and their wish to discuss it with you. Do this by explaining you want to give them your full and proper attention and that’s why you need to arrange to speak at another time. Suggest a date and time when you will be available to speak with them and commit to do this. Scheduling time in your diaries is a good idea.

If the other person wants to speak to you about something trivial, this response will highlight to the other person that they have interrupted you for no real purpose and they will quickly explain that a scheduled time to discuss their query is not really necessary. This has the added advantage that they will think twice before interrupting you in future.


How to deal with interruptions without causing offence

Your people are interrupted every day at work. Think of the time wasted and the damage done each time someone who is deep in thought has their concentration broken. Take a look at our featured video: What To Say When You Are Too Busy To Say Anything.

The running time is just 1 minute and 21 seconds.


Find out more

You can see a full list of our available videos here.

If you’d like a free demonstration and access to our entire library of WATCH & GO® videos for evaluation purposes, please call 01638 723590 or visit www.watchandgovideos.co.uk


One other thing about interruptions and accuracy:

Interruptions are a major cause of people making mistakes. This subject is addressed in our new book Preventing Mistakes at Work and is included in our one-day workshop of the same name.

Blog by Catherine de Salvo, October 2016


Do people disturb you when you are really busy?

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