Don’t interrupt me!

We all bring habits formed in childhood to work with us, some helpful, others not! Interrupting can be one of the most dangerous to your career. Whether you like it or not, when you interrupt someone, you are sending one or more of the following messages:

  1. my time is more valuable than yours
  2. you don’t know what you’re talking about
  3. what you are saying is unimportant
  4. I want to be in control
  5. I’m impatient
  6. I’m not a listener
  7. my emotional control is limited
  8. my situational awareness is limited
  9. my potential is limited
  10. it’s all about me

speedbump for the mouthYes, there are times when it’s appropriate to interrupt. In many circumstances, it may be perfectly reasonable for your boss to interrupt you for reasons one through five.

But, it’s not okay for you to interrupt your boss, a customer, or a hiring manager in a job search interview for any of those reasons.

Yes, some people talk a lot. Sometimes you need to interrupt to do your job. Practice interrupting politely. Say the person’s name, reflect back what you just heard and then move the conversation in a new direction. For example:

“Santa, I hear you saying that we need to build more Jack-in-the-Box’s  because kids love them — and I want to… but the thing is, we need more little metal boxes, so if you can help us find more we’ll get right on it!”

When you can do this skillfully and your situational awareness is high, then by all means, interrupt when necessary. Just make sure you know when and why you interrupt, that you are choosing to do so instead of interrupting habitually and/or for the wrong reasons. Know yourself, know the risks and balance them.

Get the ebook! If you liked what you read here, and think you may want to refer back to this guide later, grab the Kindle version – we’re hoping you’ll thank us with a five-star review on Amazon if you found this material helpful. The ebook also includes our job search guide.

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  • Brandon Chung

    Working as a technical assistant for the former real estate commissioner of Pennsylvania, I never stopped to discuss alternative solutions to his problems. I have only listened and executed the assignments he gave me. However, after several weeks, I figured that the way he wants me to work is not optimal. So one day while he assigned me several tasks to perform, I interrupted him and asked him if he would like to perform a task differently. With my suggestion in mind, he gave me the freedom to perform the same job, but in a different way. Soon enough, this alleviated the workload, and allowed the both of us to feel more at ease.

  • Carna Hogan

    Retail is the one job that tests how strong your manners are, especially when it comes to interruptions. One statement I was taught really quick was, “The customer is always right”. No matter how many times they interrupt you or say something they believe is right, you always have to agree with them. The customers are the one bringing the store business, which means they are top priority.

    When I was a sales associate at Polo Ralph Lauren each day was a challenge. No matter how rude a customer was to me I treated them with the best manners and respect. When I was working at the cashier during one of our discount weeks. I got interrupted by customers left and right telling me that the item they chose was on sale. I would answer as nicely as possible explaining their situation and how the discount did not include that particular item. To make the customer feel important I would ask them to show me where they saw the particular sign stating the discount.

    The concept of interrupting is one that should not be taken lightly. Without interrupting in any conversation makes your character as a person so much greater. You will gain the respect of your boss.

  • Nick Gvetadze

    When I started working at my job my my gym, I was talking to one of my clients. I was trying to make myself sound important and professional. I think I was doing it very well. I was demonstrating my deep knowledge of fitness and how they could implement it in their lifestyle when, without any signal, my boss jumps in front of my and starts talking to my client. I am baffled, but what am I to do? He is my boss. I turn around and silently shuffle off to my desk, watching his guide my client away from me and make his own profit.

  • Nina

    I try and leave my bad habits like easily being annoyed at the door. I realize to get further in life I have to listen to others and think before I talk more.

  • jessicaemployee

    As a young person, I find it very useful to look up social norms in specific places (such as the work place) because different places have different to-do’s and taboos. Articles like these help not only young people, but any novices find a more easier way to transition to professional settings.

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About the author

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In 1997, Eric Shannon launched the first job board for bilinguals who speak English/Spanish at LatPro.com. Eric still serves as CEO of LatPro Inc., developer of JustJobs.com. He lives in Boulder, CO with his wife and two girls.

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