How to Interrupt a Busy Colleague (Without Feeling Awkward)


Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Interrupting colleagues can feel rude but sometimes it's necessary so how do you do it without feeling like the worst employee of the year?

Article 3 Minutes
How to Interrupt a Busy Colleague (Without Feeling

We've all been there; you see one of your colleagues is super busy but you have a pressing matter that simply can't wait. Whether it's a matter of urgency or you just know you'll forget if you don't raise it with them right now, you need to disturb them.

However, you also probably know how frustrating it can be when you're in the middle of a massive project, rushed off your feet, and someone comes along and gets in the way of your productivity.

So how do you interrupt them without feeling like the worst colleague ever?

Are there other ways?

Do you really need to go up and talk to them or could you just as easily drop them an email? There are a wide variety of communication tools that businesses have adopted to help in situations just like this. Whether you choose Slack, Trello, Basecamp or something else, they can allow you to drop someone a message while it's at the front of your mind without disturbing them. It means they will have an alert to read your correspondence, but allows them to do so at a time that suits them.


It may seem simple, but asking can make all the difference. Instead of just going over and starting your speech, check whether or not they have enough time to discuss something. This shows that you have respect for their time and understand that they are incredibly busy but also alerts them to the fact that you need their input. Something as simple as 'do you have a minute?' or 'can I just run something past you?' will be fine and you don't need to overthink it, just make it clear that you value their time.

Be concise

If the matter is really urgent, then make sure you know what you want to say before you interrupt them. Work out the most straightforward and concise way to say what it is that you need to get across. You'll also want to ensure that you end with a clear question such as 'what do you think' or 'how should we progress?'. This will help give your conversation a definite direction and allows your colleague to understand exactly what you need from them.

Schedule a meeting

Some conversations just can't be made concise. If this is the case, schedule a meeting with your colleague. Online calendars make it easy to see when other people are free so create an event, and write a sentence or two to explain what it's about. This means you don't need to disturb them at all or can drop them a simple message to give them a heads up about the meeting content.

Remember to thank them

If you're really focused on your problem or query, it can be easy to just walk away once you have got the information you need. However, this will come across as incredibly rude and it also makes it unclear whether the conversation is finished or not. Make sure you say thank you when they've given you an answer - it will make a big difference to how they feel about you afterwards!

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