You’re humming along, checking things off your to-do list, confident that you will accomplish all of your goals for the day and then—screech! Your productive day comes to a halt.

Your manager has interrupted you. And your flow.

Hopefully, your manager has an important idea to discuss, practical suggestion to make or new solution to recommend. By stopping to review them together, you could ultimately make your day even more productive.

However, some managers just don’t know when to leave you alone to finish your work. They often find a few different ways of stopping you in your tracks. The key is knowing how your manager could try to derail you and, more importantly, how to manage the situation so you can maintain your workflow, productivity and a successful relationship.

  • Email—Some managers have to send an email about everything that crosses their minds. Although you cannot ignore their missives forever, you can wait until a designated time (either after your current project or when you’re ready for a break) to respond to several of these comments together. 
  • At the door—Other managers will check in on you too often. Greet her with a smile, tell her how it’s going. Ask her if you can have a little while to finish and you will come to her office, and then be sure to stop by later.
  • Offering encouragement—We all like some cheering on at times, but when it is just an interruption, encouragement can be, well, discouraging. “Isn’t this fun?!” can definitely get on your nerves after a while. Answer with enthusiasm and put your manager at his ease. After all, he’s really just trying to make sure you’re okay.
  • Stop doing that and do this—Managers who are always in emergency mode can make it hard to complete a project – since their priorities seem to change every few minutes. Talk to her about how long the current task will take and when you can start the next one. Stay calm and breathe. Maintain your cool and don’t join in the panic.

Everyone does these things occasionally. And sometimes we do need to be interrupted for important reasons. But if your manager exhibits one of these behaviors often, it is a good idea to have a plan in place so that you can still achieve what you set out to achieve during your workday.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative