Employee turnover and our interruption culture

Comments Off on Employee turnover and our interruption culture

Employee turnover is costly and disruptive. If you are tasked with reducing employee turnover, I have a question for you: How much of your turnover can be attributed to time management problems?

That is, when people leave voluntarily, how many of them would say, I just can’t accomplish things here. I have too much to do and not enough time to do it! They leave out of frustration and the desire to find a more conducive working environment.

Stealing timeAs for those who leave involuntarily, how many exhibited performance issues that could be attributed to the same thing: an inability to get their work done, leading to a poor attitude, and ultimately becoming an undesirable employee?

Our interruption culture

Here’s why I ask: We live in an Interruption Culture that treats people’s time like the cheapest commodity, instead of a precious, finite resource. U.S. companies waste $588 billion annually because of interruptions, according to Basex research.

Office workers at all levels report losing three to five hours of productive time every day due to unwanted, unneeded, and unproductive interruptions. When workers are asked if they are “often interrupted” at work, 93% percent say “Yes”. They say 68% of those interruptions come from inside the company. When employees were asked how their inability to defend their own time affected them, they said:

  • It reduces my productivity: 66%
  • It reduces my efficiency: 77%
  • I make more mistakes: 41%
  • It creates more stress: 80%
  • It diminishes my job satisfaction: 60%

The high cost of interruptions

These days we know better than to minimize the cost of interruptions. Their damage is never limited to the interruption itself that throws you off task–which is often no more than an innocent, “Got a minute?” from a co-worker. There’s loss of momentum due to the work stoppage. There’s the time wasted reassembling your thoughts and resources. There’s frustration at having to rebuild them, which dissipates the energy that work thrives on. There is the distress and fatigue of having to make up for time lost. All of these things can cause errors; correcting them takes even more time.

Our interruption addiction

But there’s an insidious thing about our Interruption Culture. Honestly, we like it. We love our cell phones, the Internet, our ready access to everybody and everything. But it has its dark side: Great discoveries rarely happen in email exchanges, on conference calls, and during telemeetings. Certainly, teamwork is a wonderful thing, but when a light bulb goes off it’s often because we have enabled ourselves to concentrate without interruption.

That is why companies have to deliberately create an environment where people can work uninterrupted. After huge corporate investments in bringing teams closer together, putting employees in constant contact, and letting them track one another down no matter when or where, now it’s time to carve out some much-needed uninterrupted time.

Addictions are not kicked by a decision to kick them. If your employees are at the mercy of the Interruption Culture, they will need training and guidance to kick the addiction. After all, when somebody says, “Got a minute?” they are not obliged to put aside their work. Emails and texts don’t disturb employees if they turn off the phone. People can close their office door with a polite note deterring intrusion. It’s been done, and nobody died.

So why don’t they do it? Fear and uncertainty. Fear of telling their interrupters they don’t have time for them. Uncertainty about how they will be perceived, or what they will miss if they deflect these “Time Bandits.” It’s not an easy decision to tell Time Bandits that they need some uninterrupted time. It sounds selfish. It might even sound weird in today’s “team player” workplace.

But if your people are not getting their work done because of interruptions, they need to learn how to carve out uninterrupted time when it’s necessary. Here’s how they can do it:

    1. Demonstrate to the Time Bandits that it is in the interest of both the employee and the Time Bandit to avoid interruptions by allowing the employee to Time Lock (my term for creating uninterrupted time) for a specific period of time for a specific purpose. Only true emergencies can break this Time Lock.
    2. By employing communication rules like listening well, showing proper body language, using spoken etiquette, speaking from the heart, putting a smile in your voice, using the right tempo, and others as needed you will avoid giving offense to the Time Bandits when you explain why you are Time Locking.
    3. Be prepared to bring up the subject of Time Locking. Just knowing the rules isn’t enough. Employees won’t explain Time Locking right if they are fearful and hesitant. “Anxiety is the price we pay for an unprepared mind and mouth.” So teach them to prepare by finding a partner to role play with, or just using a mirror to practice applying the rules above. Role play reduces their fear of rejection and failure. It gives them confidence and poise.
    4. Once they achieve a Time Lock, use it wisely. We are each our own worst Time Bandit. We are not masters of our own minds. We daydream. When what we’re doing doesn’t engage us tightly enough, our mind wanders to more attractive subjects.


Your employees need to realize that when they Time Lock, they can expect to experience what I call Mental Leakage. The antidote to this intellectual incontinence? They need to learn tried and true techniques for Focal Locking that steel the mind against Mental Leakage as surely as physical workouts overcome physical weakness.


 Ed BrownEdward G. Brown is the author of The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had and co-founder of the #1 firm in culture change management consulting and training for the financial services industry, Cohen Brown Management Group. For more information, please visit, timebanditsolution.com and connect with Mr. Brown on Twitter,@EdwardGBrown.

Source: HR.BLR.com