I am a supervisor and I try to maintain an open-door policy. For years, this practice has worked well. That changed a few months ago when we hired a guy who I will call “Andy”. I chose “Andy” for the fake name because it starts with the same letter as “Annoying.” Andy is either very needy or else he is deliberately trying to drive me insane. He interrupts me several times a day. My best guess is that 10% of his visits are necessary. The rest are a waste of my time and his. He either asks questions that he can easily find out answers to on his own, or he asks questions that really don’t need to be asked. I know as a supervisor that I need to handle this, so would like some tips from both Evil Skippy and Jim about how to do so. It’s always nice to laugh before attacking the task at hand.
There are many ways to halt such interruptions. These are my personal favorites:
- Water pistols. No warning shots needed.
- Tasers. Check local laws and ordinances just in case they are frowned upon in your jurisdiction.
- Temporary deafness.
- Stand, approach him, show him to the door, gesture for him to step into the hallway, then close the door. Silently.
- Say, “I might miss you if you ever stayed away for more than five minutes.”
- Keep looking around your office until the employee asks what you are doing. Respond, “I’m looking for the hidden cameras. Being on a new reality show would explain why you keep asking questions that don’t need my answers.”
- Have a sign ready that says, “Not now. Go away.” Hold it up and keep working when he walks in.
- Start working under your desk where no one can see you.
I’m sure there are more ways, but these have worked well for me in the past.
— Evil Skippy
The water pistol method is truly effective. Be sure to get a model that looks nothing like a real firearm. You don’t want anyone calling 9-1-1 about a gunman in the workplace. The police and emergency responders tend to get cranky about such things.
Don’t allow one needy person to destroy a long-standing practice that has worked well for you. Invite the fellow into your office and set out your expectations. Point out some visits in the past that were not necessary and tell him why you think they were unnecessary. (Perhaps there is information that you do not yet know that would make you understand the reason for his visit.) Clearly tell your employee that he needs to gauge whether or not he needs to interrupt you. It’s a delicate balance — you want him to feel free to approach you with pressing matters or when he needs your time — but you don’t want him to use you as a human-version of Google to whom he can direct any and all inquiries.
You’ll need to be patient. He will no doubt need a few reminders. Stay calm, be clear and be consistent. Unless he has a mental problem — and he might– he’ll get the message and learn to be less needy. You’ll be doing him a favor.