I occasionally need to deal directly with the General Managers of the divisions in our office. Usually these are quick things that warrant a small disruption of their day; requested project understanding, updates, and general things that an e-mail or a phone call can't explain. In some cases, even sending an e-mail or a phone call to ask about a quick meet gets bogged down by other happenings.

Naturally, I go to their office/space for a couple minutes to solve the issue or show them how it works. Occasionally, they are caught up in someone else's impromptu meeting with no indication as to when they'll be finished. Note, their office door is open, or the person is obviously not having a prolonged stay so it's not a matter of "maybe they have a planned meeting".

Obviously I don't want to stand there for 15 or 20 minutes waiting on them and removing time I could be working. I'd also like to not come back every 20 minutes until they're free, but I definitely need to get in contact with them and physically explain to them whatever is going on.

I usually wait a couple minutes before announcing that "I'll come back in a bit", but this seems to not work as well; these are busy people. Any messages left on their phones or e-mails will go ignored for either a longer period of time (usually days) or completely passed over with so many other messages.

Is there any rule of thumb on how long to wait for someone to finish an impromptu meeting?

  • No sir there isn't.
    – Neo
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


Is there any rule of thumb on how long to wait for someone to finish an impromptu meeting?

As you said this depends on the time you have to spare in order to wait for them to finish, so I doubt there is a rule that applies to all situations.

However something more effective that you could try is instead of saying "I'll come back in a bit" after waiting a while and leaving, try perhaps "I'll go back to work, mind giving me a call when you finish, Boss?".

This way you are not waisting time there waiting, and are also letting your boss and person to finish their conversation before attending to you (in a polite way).

Of course this depends on your Boss calling you after that impromptu meeting, but that is something inherent to the way your Boss is. At least this way you won't have to come back every 20 minutes to check, and get a call from your boss when it is ok for you to return to his office.

Another option you got is to say "I'll go back to work now, do you want me to return at some specific hour, Boss?". This is also effective as you are getting a better time estimate for when you have to come back, at which time you would be on your right to politely interrupt the meeting (if it continues) and ask for your brief talk again.

Furthermore, I suggest you talk to your boss to come up with a way of handling these situations in the future, in a way that works out for both of you and know how to proceed beforehand. The call after the meeting could work, as well as agreeing on a fixed time to come back, perhaps, but again check with your boss about the best way to handle these things when they happen again.

  • Another option is to go back to your desk and send the boss a meeting request.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 15:41
  • The last one is big. Never underestimate being able to save your boss from a really boring conversation. Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 17:43

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