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Always knock before entering

Q. My office has a lot of important company file cabinets in it due to lack of space in our building. Oftentimes coworkers will just barge into my office if the door is open to flip through the cabinets for documents they may need. (Sometimes I am even on the phone.) What is the proper way to let others know that I would appreciate a knock or some kind of common courtesy before they enter?

Thanks!

K. R., Coeur d'Alene, ID

A. Perspective is at the core of many office issues, and that may be the case here.

You see the people coming into your office as "barging in". I have images in my head of your door slamming against the wall, and file drawers being yanked open and shoved closed all day long with no regard for the effect the noise is having on you.

Conversely, I suspect their image is of them entering without making any undue noise. It’s hard for me to believe they simply bang around and make noise without regard for you. More likely they don’t announce their arrival or knock because they don’t want to interrupt you. I have never thought people do rude things intentionally, but that doesn’t prevent them from doing things rudely.

Your situation is compounded by the fact that the space you occupy is not only an office for you, but also a common area that others need to enter.

Unfortunately, because you see their actions in a different light than they do, nothing is going to change unless you bring up the issue with them. Remember: Just because you address it with them doesn’t mean they will automatically change the way they enter your office.

I would not try to bring it up when the interruption is occurring. More likely than not, the person will become defensive and the discussion can veer to how you are much too sensitive or an “I have every right to be here” attitude. Asking to take a moment to address the problem at a staff meeting or requesting to meet with the most common offenders would be a better way to go.

"I have an issue I would like to bring up. I know my office houses the files you need to access, but it is also my office. I appreciate that you’re trying not to disturb me. However, it’s a problem for me when you just pop in to get the file, especially if I’m trying to concentrate or, even worse, if I’m on the phone. If you all could just give a gentle knock when you need to come in - even if my door is open - I’d really appreciate it."

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