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50 Ways to Disengage from Others at the Office

50 ways to disengage from others at the office

If I had a nickel for every time chatty people asked me for help with time management I’d be rich, rich I say!   Actually a client was regaling a story about someone that was dominating, in an unpleasant way, her time.  She said, “what could I do she wouldn’t leave my office?”   Well there are many ways to disengage when you’re in the middle of a conversation that’s going terribly wrong or long.  You’re really the only one responsible for your time.

  1. Stand up, grab a pad, a pen and keep talking but walk out of your office.
  2. Look at your watch, then, start edging away from the person.
  3. Close your lips and stop talking.  Yes, even if they ask a question.  Silence is powerful.
  4. Bring attention to the person that you want to stop talking by putting your hand over your mouth.
  5. Bring attention to the other person that you want the conversation to end by putting your hand over their mouth.
  6. If you’re on the phone, they go on and on, simply stand up as if you’re leaving and you’ll naturally move the conversation to a close.
  7. If you’re in a third person’s office, simply stand up and move towards the door.
  8. If you have the temerity of noticing while you’re speaking that the conversation is going badly simply stop.
  9. Stare at them until they stop.
  10. Give them the stink eye until they stop (unless they are the boss or a customer.)
  11. Even if they ask a question, there is no law that says you have to answer.
  12. Do the “fade away” where you simply imperceptibly move backward away from the person until you’re around a corner or out of their office.  But don’t acknowledge the movement.
  13. Give them the finger.  Yes, the first finger as if to say one minute.  If you have a cell phone place the phone to your head as if to listen, even though it didn’t ring.  Then nod, and walk away.
  14. Look concerned at your watch as if you’ve left your 3 year old on the street in front of day care and walk away.
  15. If they’ve entered your office (following you) put whatever you were carrying down, glance at the computer screen and exclaim, “I can’t believe I am late for this” and start walking.  Then give them the finger.
  16. If in someone else’s office check your watch twice and the third time check it and leave.
  17. Sniff into the air and ask if they smell smoke and move away.
  18. Tap your pencil, finger, toe or head against the table.
  19. Ask politely if they mind if you keep the group on task as you have to leave shortly.
  20. Print out the agenda for everyone so when you ask where are we on the agenda someone will get you back on track.
  21. Enlist someone near you to call your phone to interrupt the flow of dialogue.
  22. Talking when they talk isn’t illegal it’s just not ideal – so tell them you’ve got to wrap it up.
  23. Answer the phone even if it doesn’t ring.  Tell them it’s important.  If they push back tell them you’ve muted your phone.  Who is to know there isn’t a mute feature?
  24. Manage expectations when they “pop” in for a conversation that you only have 5 minutes.
  25. Make sure not to ask additional prolonging questions.
  26. Tell them “that’s a topic for another time” and then walk away.
  27. Tell them “that’s a great item for the agenda of your next meeting.”
  28. Pick something out of your teeth and really dig in there to get it… ask if they have floss.
  29. Ask a diversionary question, “Did you get invited to the boss’s house this weekend?” when they look surprised, look embarrassed and just walk away.
  30. If they’re yelling and spitting, get a wet nap or one of those alcohol pads and wipe away.  If they are undaunted you may want to offer the people around you or them one or even dab it on their lip.
  31. Buck up, it’s your time and you’re responsible for how you choose to manage it.
  32. Walk away.
  33. There is nothing in the employee handbook that says you have to stand there and partake in the other person’s to do list.
  34. After talking about abuse it’s hard to go simple… so get dramatic and fall on the floor.
  35. Drop your pencil, get down on your hands and knees and crawl away.
  36. Ask them if they want to see a few hundred pictures of your baby, your plant, your dogs, your trip to the Grand Canyon.
  37. Ask them to look as the rash on your back to tell you if they think it’s contagious.
  38. Open up your calendar and ask them, “When are you available to have this conversation?”
  39. Sniff in the air and ask if they smell donuts? And walk towards the kitchen.
  40. Start to shift from leg to leg (commonly known as the potty dance) and get more dramatic until they let you go.
  41. Tell them you were on your way to the bathroom to do some serious business.
  42. Again, stop talking if you’re not headed in the right direction with a conversation.  If you stop mid-sentence they may wait for you to continue.  You then choose whether to redirect, stop and walk away or explain.
  43. Step on their foot, lightly, and beg forgiveness.
  44. If they have you blocked slowly move closer until they back away.  Then move out.
  45. If they come into your office – and you know they’re going to go on and on, act that you’re glad to see them because another (more annoying) person just phoned and said they were on their way up to talk them.  This will only work if the first person in this convoluted story is also annoyed by the second person in this story.
  46. 46. Wave your arms like there is a stink in your office you don’t want them to smell and steer them away from your office.
  47. Slam your coffee / water / tea and get up to get more from the kitchen.  They may follow you but then you’re not trapped in your office.
  48. Ask if they got the online time sensitive coupon that has limited quantity for the lunch restaurant near the building.
  49. Tell them you’re finishing the report the boss asked for and you’re really stretched.  Oh… they hadn’t heard about it?  Tell them to ask someone who is done.
  50. Seriously people, get creative, it’s only business and it’s only time, and it’s yours not theirs to decide how you spend it.  Tell them you don’t have time.  They’re priorities are only yours if you choose to make them yours.  We’re all adults here.


Bonus: Loud talker in the office near you?

  1. Act as if you’re totally engaged via eye contact in a conversation, with someone they can’t see, while they’re on speaker phone walk up to their office.  Wave hello to them.  Then close their office door all the while speaking to someone they cannot see.
  2. Shut your door.
  3. Walk out with your headset on and point to your headset and give them the gesture of not being able to hear.


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