In my work, requests from multiple sources are queued and completed in order of priority so that I can focus on one task at a time. My boss sets overall priorities, though I have a broad degree of freedom to move tasks around based on common sense and, if they are small and easy, on my initiative and little gaps between big tasks. I use these gaps to help with minor requests.

However, there is one particular group of people (sales, bizdev) where both the department head and their individual members try to skip the queue by coming to me personally and asking me to do something for them then and there on the spot.

Sometimes, this behavior interrupts me in the middle of intensive work and it really gets on my nerves. I need to analyze a lot of data or communicate with multiple people, which can be handled on the computer, but these sales/bizdev people keep coming to my desk and asking:"Hey when can this be done?", joking "Hey are you ignoring me?", "Come on man, I've been waiting for so long!", "Can't we do this sooner? We really need this now!", "Can't you just hop over and do it straight away?", etc.

I feel emotionally trapped in those moments; I feel tension and either answer "Ok, ok..." to try and get rid of them or make a grumpy face and say "I'll get back to you later". I literally don't know how to smile in such circumstances - and I guess that doesn't come across well.

Is there a better and more professional way to make it clear to them that I am busy and cannot talk to them? And that ideally they should send the requests rather than keep chasing me in person?

  • I do not think that saying they are "physically chasing" is the right term. It seems to be like using literally to describe a metaphor. I think that clearing that up might improve the reception of this question. Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 18:05

1 Answer 1


Is there a better and more professional way to make it clear to them that I am busy and cannot talk to them?

First - "Is it in the queue?" - Step 1 is to make sure they follow the process. No one off requests. No special treatment. The process is there for a reason. You can say, "sure, I can do it, just make a ticket", but make them follow the rules here so it's easier to enforce the 'leave me alone' rule later.

  1. "Sorry, you'll have to bring it up with the boss." - Your boss sets priorities. If it's really that important, then they can bother him/her. You'll find it's often not that important.
  2. [pre-emptively] "... sorry, X - I know you have that thing but A, B, and C are higher priority right now." - This prevents them from guilt tripping you, and acknowledges their need while also letting them know that you're busy too.
  3. "I'll get on it, just as soon as people stop interrupting me." - Okay, not so professional, but it gets the point across. Sometimes, you need to be effective, not pleasant.
  4. "Sure, just let me finish this thing then I'll take a look at the queue." - ...and then promptly de-prioritize their stuff. Again, not terribly professional, but it hopefully gets the point across (or gets them to pester someone who's more of a sucker than you).

Okay, these are not great answers, but let's face facts - these people are going to pester you as long as it's profitable. How to (professionally) not make it profitable?

  • Talk to your boss. - Your boss can give you the go-ahead to ignore them, or advice on what to say. Your boss can talk to them, or their boss to curtail the behavior. Your boss can work to fix the process (or your team by hiring more) so that their stuff gets done when they need it.
  • (if that fails) Talk to their boss. - Sometimes you won't have a boss, or your boss is not going to be a good enough boss to help. Talking to their boss can help you understand what their needs are (so you can properly prioritize things), and also communicate that their minions have resorted to harassing you instead of doing real work.

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