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The situation was as follows: I was at a company event carrying a casual conversation with a colleague when I was interrupted mid-conversation by an executive. To my recollection, the executive was conferring with another executive and was curious about my professional history.

Ethically, what is the best way to continue? Would I apologize to my colleague and address the executive's question, continue with my current statement to my colleague and answer the executive's question after winding up our train-of-thought, or something completely different?

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    The simple way to know what the right thing to do in this situation is to give precedence to the person more likely to ensure you are employed tomorrow. – NotMe Apr 20 '15 at 23:20
  • +1 There used to be an Etiquette proposal on Area51, and what a beautiful addition to it would this have been. – rath Apr 21 '15 at 2:37
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This is an instance where your colleague will understand - work takes precedence. The executive could have maybe been more polite by standing there waiting for you to bring him into the conversation, but I wouldn't be upset about it.

How you respond will depend on how long you think the answer will take. If it's a quick question, I would just answer it, make sure he doesn't have anything else, then go back to talking to the colleague. If it's clear that this question is really going to be an extended conversation, I would probably turn to my colleague and say something like, "I'll find you and we can finish this story later." Then I would turn to the exec and begin to answer the actual question.

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