I work as a software developer in a bullpen workplace, which looks something like the below picture1:
Since it is difficult to have prolonged periods of concentration in this environment, my preferred approach to tackle difficult problems is to have short periods of intense concentration, when I put on earplugs and headphones and set the instant messenger status to "Busy" (or even shut it down entirely).
The drawback to this approach is it is impossible for me to tell when someone walks up to my desk. A couple of months ago, when I was in the middle of one such session of intense focus, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, which startled me, and I almost got a panic attack.
After a few seconds of fidgeting in my chair, I turned around and saw my manager standing behind me. He had been standing there for over 2 minutes calling my name, and then finally decided to tap my shoulder to get my attention.
My goal is to be better prepared to handle such situations in future to avoid getting a real panic attack, which I am pretty scared of. My social skills are average at best. How should I respond in these situations:
- When I suddenly realize that the manager is standing behind me, what should I do or say to him which does not cause any awkwardness?
- How can I communicate to him to not "sneak up" on me avoiding potential panic attacks? I don't want him to think I am using this an excuse to prevent him from seeing potentially NSFW items appearing on my monitor.
I have already tried using mirrors, and they don't work for me. Every time someone wearing flashy/bright clothes moves behind me, it registers on my peripheral vision, which distracts me and I lose focus.
It also reflects the lights from monitors placed me, which is a distraction by itself, but also leads to another issue. I am several years senior to the coworkers seated behind me, and they thought the mirror was meant to monitor them, which was the main reason I removed it.