How to deal with time vampires

We’ve all encountered time vampires. These are the people who seem intent on taking up as much of your time as possible – oblivious to your subtle hints about how busy you are. Here are two of the most common types in business – and what you can do about them:

Coworker Time Vampires

Coworker time vampires are the people who randomly stroll into your office, sit down and makes themselves at home. In the non-office environments, they are the people who insist on standing or strolling beside you while you try to work, regaling you with stuff about which you really don’t want to be regaled.

To be fair, as people go, Time Vampires are usually pretty decent, caring individuals. Social interaction is a priority for them, and they assume it’s the same for you. They are typically quite unaware of the negative impact their behavior has on others, and on the workplace. Because of this, although your inside voice might be screaming, “Go away! Leave me alone!” it’s probably better that you find a different approach. There are more gentle, productive ways.

Here are a few things people have shared with me that you might want to try:

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Keep stuff on your visitor’s chairs

Keep a few books and papers neatly stacked on your office visitor’s chair. It discourages people from sitting down, which will decrease the length of the visit.

Gently throw them out

Look at them with a big smile and say – “I hate to do this, but I’ve gotta throw you out. If I don’t get this done right away, I’m in deep you-know-what.”

Find topics they don’t like

If they’re squeamish, tell them the details of the operation you had last year.

Go to the washroom

I had to laugh at this one. I’ve never tried it, but was told that it works. Just excuse yourself and go to the washroom. (Hopefully he won’t follow you) Stay there for an extended amount of time. Even the most dogged time vampires will lose their resolve after sitting alone in someone’s office for 15 minutes.

I’ve been told that each of these are effective. They’re at least worth a try! Oh, and by the way, if you begin to notice people frequently leaving to go to the washroom while you’re visiting in their office… well… you know…

Customer Time Vampires

“I have a challenge with a patient,” a Winning at Work subscriber, who is a long-term care facility nurse, wrote in. “She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. But she calls for me at least once or twice a day when there’s really nothing she needs. Sometimes she fabricates things as an excuse to call, and once I’m there it’s often difficult for me to leave without appearing rude. What should I do?” It’s a common challenge faced by people who work in customer service.

As may be obvious, these are customers who are a little lonely, and crave a friendly face. In many ways, it’s a testimony to your customer service skills that these individuals look to you as someone with whom they feel a connection.

Distancing yourself is the worst approach

It’s unfortunate, but the most common strategy people seem to use with customer time-vampires is to try and distance themselves. They try to avoid these customers as much as possible – and when they do have an interaction, they rush through it, minimizing conversation. There couldn’t be a worse approach.

These are customers who are desperate for interaction, and would like to think of you as a friend. Getting the cold shoulder from a friend, however tenuous the connection, will only add to their loneliness. Although avoiding customer time vampires might seem the easiest way to deal with them, it isn’t the kindest. The best solution I’ve seen is not to diminish the connection with the customer, but to build on it.

Be as friendly and accommodating as you know how. When you have to leave, let them know that you would love to stay and chat but “duty calls.” Make sure they understand how busy you are. Confide in them how heavy your workload is. They’ll appreciate the personal confidence, and as your ‘friend’ will empathize with you. Over time they may feel less inclined to add to your workload challenges, but even if they don’t, it will at least become easier to break things off without appearing rude.

There are no guarantees, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of having taken a much more gracious and human approach than many others do.

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