Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Ponders Ending Long Alienation at Friend's Funeral

DEAR ABBY: I work in the office of an elementary school. There is a lot to do, and I am frequently interrupted. While I enjoy conversations with parents and students, my problem is a few parents who want to engage in lengthy conversations -- usually detailing personal problems.

One parent comes in daily, and I haven't found an effective way to extricate myself from these conversations. Walking out of the office is not an option. A ringing phone is not a deterrent as some parents will just stand there, wait until I finish and continue talking.

Have you any suggestions on how to politely let these parents know I have a job to do? -- JOB INTERRUPTED OUT WEST

DEAR JOB INTERRUPTED: Allow me to offer one: How about telling them you're behind in your work and you haven't the time to talk that day. Period. Unless you become more assertive, these people will continue to monopolize your time, make you less effective and possibly jeopardize your job.