Stopping the barge-in, interrupting coworker with no regrets


My coworker barges into my office when I’m on the phone with customers and asks me questions, derailing my train of thought. I’ve tried turning my head away and ignoring her but she waves her hand in front of my face and raises her voice until she has my attention.

This afternoon I’d had it. She waved her hand in front of my face and I swatted her hand away. She reported me to my boss for “assault.”

When I told him what had happened, he laughed, but said I’d left him no choice but to issue me a written reprimand because I’d broken policy by touching her. So now what?


Your coworker needs to stop interrupting your conversations. You’ve tried nonverbal strategies to get her to back off and they haven’t worked. Since you now have negative history with her, your safest bet is to ask your boss to counsel her on office etiquette.

While the rules are simple, some coworkers violate them. If a coworker is on the phone with a customer, stand at least 2 feet away until their conversation is over before speaking. If two coworkers are talking, don’t interrupt with your own comments unless it’s truly a general conversation.

Meanwhile, you need to learn to handle things quickly, before your frustration causes you to make stupid moves. Regardless of the provocation, you can’t swat coworkers.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at


One Comment on “Stopping the barge-in, interrupting coworker with no regrets

  1. I would have been tempted to swat the inconsiderate co-worker, too. Where I work we used to have our own offices until our company built a brand new complex. Now we have an open area, much like cubicles. It can be difficult when talking with clients about their budgets so my only alternative is to go into one of the small enclosed rooms for more privacy.


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