Time Wasters–Office Communication Skills: How to deal with difficult people–a PERMANENT strategy

Time Wasters- Handling difficult people-business communication-communication skills--availability monitor

How to handle distracting Time-Wasters at work

Is there someone at work who distracts you, drops by for uninvited chats, and interrupts you frequently while you’re working? Read on to learn the best communication strategy for dealing with Time-Suckers, aka Time Wasters.  Remember, communication skills are learned; otherwise, they’d be called communication talents.  So take the time to learn new communication skills, techniques, scripts, words, and phrases that will make your life easier and guarantee more success in your ventures.

TIME WASTERS: Who they are, and how to deal with them.

How to recognize them: They’re the ones who come into your space and have no regard for whatever it is you’re doing. They actually are oblivious to the fact that you are serious about your work, and don’t just goof off all the time, as they do. They just come in and start speaking. Many times they’ll start the conversation with, “I’m bored.”  Other times they just encourage you to “take a break” because they have nothing to do at the moment.

Who they are: They mean no harm, so there is no need to be aggressive with them, but we must be assertive. They are generally un-focused, and not conscious or respectful of time. Furthermore, they frequently arrive late to work, and leave early.  These people lack both awareness and well-practiced communication skills.

What their rewards are: They’re generally looking for a distraction, a confidant, or a playmate. They could, however actually be seeking help or advice, and are simply unaware of proper etiquette and boundaries. The bottom line is they want your time.

How to treat them: You must be extremely assertive with Time Wasters:  Set very clear boundaries, and give them very clear instructions. You must train them to understand how you spend your time, and what your boundaries are. You must first explain verbally what the rules are, and if that doesn’t work, use a business tool. A great business tool for combating Time Wasters is a little sign called an “I AM ” sign that you can make out of construction paper that looks like this:

Just use red construction paper on one side of the circle, and green on the other, then flip it to the appropriate color during the day. Of course, it is up to you to be vigilant and make sure your monitor is updated and accurate. When the Time-Waster comes into your space uninvited, all you have to do is, without stopping what you’re doing, without saying a word–point to the sign.  (You can use an object such as a pen to point, or you can use your finger, provided you don’t use the middle finger….)

What to do:
2) Script out a talk. You can use a D-E-S-C script.  It would sound something like this:
Lead-in Line:     ”Trixie, I need your help.”
D:    “I’m really trying to stay focused, and to stop getting distracted when I’m at work.”
E:    “When I get distracted, it is more difficult for me to go back to what I was doing, and it really hurts my production, and frustrates me.”
S:     “If you could help me by checking my Availability Monitor, and if it’s green, meaning available, go ahead and grab my attention. If it’s red, meaning unavailable, unless it’s an extreme emergency, please shoot me an email telling me what you need, and as soon as I’m available, I’ll get right back to you.”
C:    “That way, you will be able to have my full attention when we do talk.”
Closing Line: “Can I count on you do to that?”

Use your Availability Monitor, and be consistent. Let Time Wasters see that you use it all the time, with everyone. You might even consider making a bunch of them, and passing them out as gifts. Trust me–everyone will love them.

What not to do: This one is pretty simple; the first time they got away with sucking time from you, that was about them. The 17th time, that was about you. Set boundaries as described above, and stick to your guns. This one is all about you.

Energy Vampire Slayer Principle:
Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.
Carl Sandburg
US Biographer & Poet (1878 – 1967)


“I need your help”
““I’m really trying to stay focused and stop getting distracted when I’m at work.”
“If you could help me by checking my Availability Monitor…”
“That way, you will be able to have my full attention when we do talk”
“Can I count on you to do that?”
“I am right in the middle of something…can you shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you?”


“Leave me alone”
“Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“I just have a minute”
“Can it wait?”

Special Note:
When you are concentrating at work, and you are interrupted, the interruption actually causes a change in your brain waves. When you return to whatever it is you were doing, you are at a diminished capacity compared to where you were before the interruption. You can’t just “get right back into” whatever it was you were doing. Your brain needs to ramp-up again. While Time Wasters seem relatively harmless, they can seriously impact your production at work by stealing your actual time, and delaying you further by causing a disruption to the flow of your work and the functioning of your brain.  Their impact is even greater than it appears at the moment.


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Dan O’Connor has been leading the communication training industry for more than 20 years. Through his bestselling books, his #1 rated YouTube channel, and his online courses, Dan transforms the global conversation and the lives of countless individuals every day.

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