Don't Mind Me

In our haste to get our needs met at work we could be setting ourselves and our colleagues up for failure. An office culture that encourages the "quick answer" or the "just a sec" office walk-in is a breeding ground for:

  • Decreased productivity

  • Increased communication problems

  • Frustration

  • Lose of control over your time

Here is how it works or doesn't work. You are working on a project. I pop over and say, "I just need a sec." Now you have to shift gears to address whatever need I have. But have you really shifted gears? Are you really addressing my concerns or are you just giving me the quick answer to get back to your own task? More than likely, especially in a work culture that embraces the quick pop in, you start to create situations where:

Think about it. If I had a question that was so important I had to leave my work station to come and interrupt your work, then I really do need you to pay attention and provide a thoughtful response. Of course if my question wasn't that important or in need of an immediate response, I really shouldn't be interrupting you.

When you create a culture where interruptions are standard operating procedure, you send a message to staff that what they are doing is not important or less valuable than the topic of the interruption. Several weeks ago I was in a planning meeting with a staff member. I had the door closed so as not to disturb the office staff outside my office and to thwart interruptions. There was a brief knock at my door and one of the IT staff came in. He was not invited in. He starts to explain that he has my new computer and begins disassembling the my current computer. I asked that he come back later. He said, "Oh don't worry about it, you are not bothering me." I shared with him that I was using the computer and he would have to come back another time. He stared at me like I had three heads. Come back? That's not how we do things here. In this organization, the culture welcomes each individual honoring their own agenda even at the detriment of another's agenda.

Think about the bigger impact of constant interruptions. Let's discuss mindfulness.

mind·ful·ness

mīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/

noun

  1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

"their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition"

  1. A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Remember what I wrote earlier about something being important enough that you had to leave your work station to interrupt my work? Or, maybe you ambush me in the hallway or the bathroom. Regardless of where the interruption happens, we all need to consider whether this is the place or time for a mindful discussion. If you need a thoughtful, considered answer to a question or solution to an issue, do you really want that to happen during a quick interruption of someones thoughts?

Here is what can go wrong with interruption answers and solutions:

  1. You end up interrupting multiple times because the response you received wasn't well thought out causing more questions. Multiple interruptions lead to multiple apologizes and ultimately makes you look needy.

  2. You create stress for the other person. Everyone has priorities at work. When you insert your own work as a priority that negatively impacts colleagues getting their own work done.

  3. The quality of your work suffers. Your colleagues are excellent resources for moving projects forward through sharing experiences, ideas, and the work load. When you don't give them dedicated time to lend their expertise to a project, the project suffers.

Here is a link to more information about being mindful at work https://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-gives-edge-work/.

Organizational leaders need to be particularly concerned with how mindful they are being with staff An "open door policy" could be setting up a culture that, through quick interruptions to get needs met, sends a message to staff that the organization doesn't value them enough schedule dedicated time with them. If you want to have an open door policy, follow these steps to manage interruptions appropriately:

  1. If the door is closed, the open door policy does not apply this allows scheduled time to be interruption free.

  2. When an individual comes to your open door with an issue, STOP everything you are doing to listen to what they have to say. (This means don't check your email, your phone, or get distracted by shiny things in the hallway)

  3. Determine if you can give that staff person a mindful response in a brief time frame.

  4. If you can, do so.

  5. If you can't, tell them you want to be able to give them a thoughtful response and schedule some time to have a meaning discussion.

  6. If you need more information before the scheduled meeting, ask for it.

By avoiding the "knee-jerk" response to an inquiry and considering if you have all the information you need., you have let your staff know that you take them and their work seriously. Staff leave your office feeling valued. Staff who don't feel valued and don't feel that their work is valued leave.

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