Do Not Disturb – Does Not Work

employee engagementby Pamela Jett, CSP

When we close our doors at work it means “I’m very busy – please do not disturb” – right?  It’s the universal signal for “leave me alone” or “this is private” – right?  Clearly, not “right.”

Many of the professionals I work with tell me that in their organization a closed door is more of an invitation to knock or to even open the door, pop a head around the edge and ask “are you busy?”

If you are frustrated by people’s inability to respect your closed door, it might be time to change your behavior (because we know we can’t change their’s!)  Here are a few tools:

  • Ask yourself, do I keep the door closed so often that I am basically inaccessible during most of the day?  If so, you might want to reconsider how often you keep your door closed.  When people know you keep your door closed regularly, they become concerned that you will never be available and that leads to them interrupting you.
  • Consider using a “Please Do Not Disturb” that has a when you will be available time on it.  Stick a post-it note on your door that clearly states when your door will be open again.  If all you have is “Please Do Not Disturb” people become concerned that you won’t be available for them at all that day.  And, this leads to them knocking and disturbing you.  When they know when you will be available, they are more likely to respect your closed door and wait.
  • Of course, some folks won’t wait – even with the time posted.  They will knock or open the door anyway.  When they do, do not say “how may I help you?or “what is it?” These are both invitations to conversation.  Instead, try “is this an emergency?” If they answer “no” encourage them to come back at your available time.  If they answer “yes” – then you might decide to ask an open-ended question like “what’s up?”  and then determine whether or not their issue is worth your time at that moment.

Eleanor Roosevelt teaches us to “train other people how to treat you.”  By using these simple techniques, you can train your coleageus, staff, and even your boss to be more respectful of your closed door.

What are your thoughts?  Post a comment, share on social media, and let me know what you think.

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One Response to “Do Not Disturb – Does Not Work”

  1. Great tips, Pamela! I also suggest that you have a team conversation about this – and develop some common ground rules about how to interrupt people. It makes the implicit more explicit!

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