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Admin Pro Forum

What’s your smallest but most aggravating distraction?

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Question: "I've found that at work, I can concentrate with music playing, but not if there are lyrics. Phones ringing loudly are fine, but not tiny dings or chimes of people's electronic alerts. And I'm OK with people talking just outside my cubicle, but if they whisper, oh boy, for some reason that's a total distraction! Am I nuts, or does anyone else have a very small thing that totally disrupts their train of thought?" - Michalie, Public Transit Call Center

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

LP October 15, 2018 at 3:53 pm

The thing that distracts me the most is office gossips. I do 99% of my work on-line but am not allowed to telework because I apparently do something magical in holding the office together. I’ve been told that if I teleworked, everyone and everything would fall apart – no one could fill the copier with paper, no one could locate the office supply cabinet, and no one would remember how to process paperwork.

The problem with being her all day everyday is that other time-wasters roam around the halls looking for someone to talk to about everyone in the building. I try to be polite and ignore the gossip, but when asked to comment, I say “I’ll bet Mike has a lot on his plate right now” or “I’ve always like Brenda – I won’t say anything bad about her.” But the time there people waste is so distracting. They interrupt my train of thought and upset me so often, I find that my work suffers. When I close my door, everyone says I am being difficult to get along with or avoiding human interaction.

Is it so hard to just let people do their work without interrupting with gossip about who is getting a raise and who is calling in sick too often? I really don’t care what the other people are doing and when I do, I ask them myself.


Sunami August 9, 2018 at 4:54 pm

The nature of information processing by the human brain, allows allocation to only curious attention. it is drawn to gaps in information, therefore distracted by one-sided conversation or whispering. It is nearly impossible for the untrained brain to ignore such halfalogue. Such interactions decrease the performance and cognition of those subject to it unintentionally. We cannot help but to eavesdrop. The most intellectual of offices are aware of this physical feature of the brain and are prudent to eliminate all such possibilities if they are to preserve productivity.


AAintheDMV August 2, 2018 at 3:04 pm

I can relate to many of the comments below but I think my biggest distractions are 1) those co-workers who hang out in or around my office having non-work-related conversations when I’m trying to focus on my work (very difficult to concentrate or talk on phone when others are talking), 2) co-workers who come into your office while you ARE on the phone and proceed to sit & wait until you get off the phone so you can help them (I often have to ask the person on the phone if I can put them on hold so I can ask the other person to leave), 3) co-workers who barge into your office while it’s clear you’re having a meeting or discussion with someone else, clearly having no respect for the conversation I’m having with THAT person, and 4) co-workers who barge in and start talking before asking if it’s a good time or noticing that I may be in the middle of something. I work in a school and I know our job as AAs is to support others, but I’m pretty sure classroom teachers wouldn’t appreciate me just barging into their classroom at any time. Another quasi-distraction that annoys me is when co-workers approach me when it’s very obvious that I’m on a lunch break and want to talk to me (about work or in general). I’ve learned to take my lunch break much later than others (often after 1 PM when most people are back to work), keep my head down and avoid eye contact when others are also on their break or pass through the break room, or have lunch off campus or in a location where I can’t easily be found. I consider a lunch break ME time so the last thing I really want to do is engage with others.


LP October 15, 2018 at 4:26 pm

I have these same issues.

A crowd forms in the hallway outside my office and I actually have to shut my door or just move them down the hallway. It is impossible to talk on the phone – when they see I am on the phone, they sit in my office (I’ve had to cover my spare office chair with stuff to prevent them from sitting there), and I have to call the person back. When they see I am busy, they interrupt and demand my attention, even for things that could have waited or been handled with an email (I need post it notes!). I was in a one-on-one training session and had my door closed and someone knocked. I ignored them – I had put a note on my door that I was in training from 11 – 12, and it was 11:15 – and they knocked again, and again, and again, yelling “LP! I know you’re in there! Why is your door closed?! I need a marker!” My boss had a key to my office and let this person into my office to search for a marker. I said “Excuse me – I’m in a meeting.” He said “Kathy needs a marker” and started shuffling things around on my shelves looking for one. I said “They are in the supply closet.” When they left, Kathy came back and started knocking again, “LP! LP! I can’t find the markers!” The boss again let her into my office and they both started pawing through things on my desk. I had to push them out the door and go to the supply closet with them where the markers are the first thing you see when you open the door and showed them the list that showed where each supply is located (it has been like this for years – if they ever wanted supplies, this is where and how they locate them). I went back to the training and again the knocking, “LP! LP! I also need a transparency!” She wiggled the **** and called for my boss, “Her door is locked again! I need the key!” He came over and I opened the door and stood there. “I am in training – can’t this wait?” “Kathy needs a transparency.” This time I blocked the door – they would not be coming into my office and disrespecting my private space again in front of the training person – it was unprofessional and embarrassing. I again showed them where the supplies were kept and again showed them the list that showed where each supply is located. When I got back, the training person had left me a note – “Call me when you can really meet for training. I am available next Wednesday between noon and 3 0m. In my office, not yours.” I was so embarrassed by their behavior. My predecessor actually quit because the boss would unlock her door and let people into her office.


Just K August 2, 2018 at 1:01 pm

One of our staff does everything really loud – sneezing, coughing, even burping. It only really distracts me when her allergies kick in and she’s coughing all day. I feel a little guilty, because she can’t help not feeling well, but I swear sometimes I’m ready to scream.


Mark August 2, 2018 at 12:01 pm

The only time any sounds distract/bother me is when I am working on something VERY complicated that needs 100% concentration, typically a complex problem I’ve never dealt with before. Other than that, though, I have the opposite issue. I cannot concentrate and am not as productive when there is silence or very little noise. I am 99% sure that it comes from being one of eight kids, plus we had pets, so there was rarely a time of quiet for my entire childhood/teenage years. For me, silence is not a normal part of my life.


kristine g July 30, 2018 at 2:01 pm

my aggravation is when someone sends me an e-mail and comes to my office and verbally lets me know that. I WILL read e-mail when I can. :)


LP October 15, 2018 at 4:30 pm

ARGH! I hate that! It just happened to me while I was typing this reply. “Did you see my email?” I said, “I did but I am waiting for Joe to respond about when he can make the meeting.” “Will you know today?” “I guess that depends on Joe, doesn’t it?” And now the person is pacing in front of my office. Three emails later (Have you heard from Joe?), they are pacing in front of my office.


Donna Peters July 30, 2018 at 12:21 pm

The thing that aggravates me is the people who stand in front of my counter to either continue the conversation that they were having in an office meeting or just chit chatting. It’s so hard to concentrate when there are 2-3 or more people standing around talking when I’m either on a phone call or trying to concentrate on my work. Or the co-workers who walk up and just start talking without even checking to see if I am on the phone or in the middle of something.


LP October 15, 2018 at 4:32 pm

Have you ever had someone snap their fingers at you while you are on the phone? I was on the phone and someone came in, saw I was on the phone and stood there snapping until I put the caller on hold. Very unprofessional.


Renee July 30, 2018 at 9:03 am

In my office there are two women who are good friends inside and outside of the office. One of the women has the cubicle next to mine with the other one being a couple of cubicles away. They usually talk in the cubicle next to me. Normally I don’t pay any attention to their conversations but occasionally you can’t help but overhear. It’s when they start whispering that drives me nuts. I don’t care about their conversations, I’m not even listening. I am however, trying to work. Once they start whispering, I really have to concentrate harder on what I am working on. If it is so secret, they should go somewhere else to talk! If it is not these two women whispering then it is another coworker in another section that comes over and has LOUD conversations with my cubicle neighbor. I finally had to get a noise machine to turn on during these visits. Occasionally they notice and will speak quieter.
Brandi, is that little jerk trying to hide the fact that he is asking you for help? Make him stand up to ask for your help! I had a co-worker who ALWAYS needed my help and would constantly interrupt my work for me to go over to her desk to help her. If the boss happened to walk by, she would later tell him that she was TRAINING me. Needless to say; I never received a raise or was even told that I was doing a good job. I now work in a different division and have a terrific boss who appreciates my hard work and lets me know that the best decision he ever made was to hire me. Make sure that the jerk isn’t using you to advance his job.


Leron Holcastle July 27, 2018 at 12:47 pm

For some reason, one-sided conversations drive me crazy, like when someone’s on the phone and I just hear one side. Two people talking in the hallway: no problem. One person on phone: I can’t concentrate!


melissa July 26, 2018 at 6:18 pm

not so much at work (I am lucky to have an office with a door I can close!) but I find on the bus I get really annoyed at people talking loud, either to another person or on the phone. for me, that’s my quiet time and I find the noise to be disrespectful. then again, I get super annoyed when someone is in “my” seat on the bus. Maybe it’s time to stop taking transit. . . . .

We also have a meeting room next door to our offices and quite often, for some reason, people don’t shut the door when they start their meetings. that gets annoying quickly, especially if they are using a conference phone.


Trisha July 26, 2018 at 4:57 pm

I’m peeved by anybody who sees fit to barge into my office and expect me to drop everything to focus solely on them. I could be on the phone and they stand there, talking, not even noticing I AM WORKING! Such rude behavior is unacceptable. It’s a shame that some people were raised in a barn… learn some manners!

@ Brandi… that jerk of a co-worker better be praying or begging if he’s kneeling when speaking to you. He needs to stand up and address you professionally and with the respect you deserve.


LP October 15, 2018 at 4:36 pm

I call myself the blender – you don’t think much about the blender, but when you need a smoothie, you suddenly realize you have a blender and need a smoothie – right now! I will be on the phone and someone will walk past my office and say (loudly) “While I have you here, I need to mention X, Y, and Z.” “I’m on the phone.” “Yes, but I need to mention X, Y, and Z. And I need that right now.” “I’m on the phone.” “I see that. X, Y, and Z, right now.”


Lisa S July 26, 2018 at 2:43 pm

Since I’ve been in an “open environment” office for my entire career, I’m pretty good at tuning out distractions. But my main pet peeve is when someone (or several people) stand right next to my desk having a full-on conversation as if I wasn’t there. They may be waiting to go into a meeting or something that causes them to stop by my desk for a few minutes. I’ve even had people literally lean against the “ledge” on my desk and carry on a conversation that has nothing to do with me! Not only is it distracting, but it can be quite noisy, too. Usually I just try to tune it out, but I sometimes ask people if they wouldn’t mind moving further down the hall, especially if I’m on the phone (since I can’t hear the person I’m talking to). Usually people aren’t even aware that they’re doing it, and are quite embarrassed to realize that they’re being kind of rude without realizing it.


Brandi July 26, 2018 at 4:15 pm

I have to aggravations (just two?!) I have a coworker who, when he needs something, comes to and around my desk, and kneels beside me and asks me to do whatever it is he needs. No acknowledging I am in the middle of something else, no ‘excuse me’, just kneels down and expects me to stop what I’m doing and help him right then. Or, those who catch me walking by to ask me to do something – I’ve learned to nicely ask them to send me an instant message with all the details and I can address back at my desk – otherwise I forget!


Brandi July 26, 2018 at 4:16 pm

I have two* aggravations – good grief


LP October 15, 2018 at 4:40 pm

I had a boss (I have a new boss, thank goodness) who would come around my desk and touch my computer screen. His fingers are so greasy, he must be eating chicken before he comes into my office, because there are finger prints all over my computer. And he stands there beside me with his crotch right next to my shoulder. My husband told me I should run into his crotch with my shoulder but ewwwww!


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