In my job, I have a lot of individual consultations1, and I'd like some help figuring out how to behave when these are ending.
For context, this is in a small town in the Midwestern US, in an area where folks really prize "niceness" and certain types of courtesy (for example, it's quite common here for folks to hold a door for someone who they see coming fifteen feet away...who will then hold the next door for the first person amidst much thank-youing and no, no, after youing, in what I call "airlock leapfrog"). I'm generally sitting at my computer, with my visitor sitting sort of at a right angle so we can face one another and also both see the computer screen when necessary. My office isn't huge, and my desk is right next to the door (the diagram shows just this part of my office).
My office opens off the main part of the workspace, with a straight line-of-sight to the exit (there isn't any waiting area or hallway, just an atrium-type space). My door generally stays open throughout.
These appointments are pretty casual; often they're actually scheduled, but they can also be spur-of-the-moment, drop-in appointments. There is a little bit of hierarchy involved, but 99% of the time the person meeting with me and I have no direct authority over one another, and I'm generally in the position of aiding my visitor with their endeavor. I'm an adult woman; most often my visitors are young adults (younger than me), but they can be as young as nine or ten and as old as nature allows. Sometimes this is the first time I've met the other person, and sometimes they're someone I work with regularly, but either way they're usually familiar with the building and the institution.
There is usually a very natural end to the appointment, either because we've solved the immediate issue or due to time constraints. At that point I generally say something along the lines of
It looks like you're all set/on the right track/we're out of time. Feel free to drop me an email if you get stuck or have more questions.
That's all fine. The problem arises after this point, when the other person stands up to walk out of my office. There's almost always a minute or more of awkwardness when they're gathering up their stuff and getting ready to walk out, while I'm not sure whether to also stand up or stay seated, and if I stay seated whether to continue interacting with the other person in some way, or whether to turn my attention away somehow. The latter feels rude, but the former feels artificial as they really don't need me to help them find their way a half a step to the (open) door. Continuing to interact also runs the risk of extending the conversation, when I sometimes really need to move on to the next task or appointment (and my visitor might be itching to get moving, too).
It's probably worth noting that I don't find that the kinds of differences I mentioned above (age, how often I meet with them, what exactly we're meeting about) matter much to the awkwardness, except in the case of a few really really close friends (I work with my spouse, which is totally different).
So, my priorities:
- Get the person out of my office cleanly, meaning no extra ten minutes of polite chit-chat.
- Do this without seeming rude or as if I've shut off my concern for my visitor—I would like my visitors' leaving impression of me to be generally positive.
- Feel relaxed and confident, rather than awkward and unsure, during this leave-taking, so that my visitors can feel that way, too (at least about the leave-taking).
I'm especially interested in advice about issues like body language and conversation, but if something like reconfiguring my office seems wise I'm open to that, as well (assuming there's an IP-related reason for it).
1 For those who are curious, I'm an academic librarian, so these are primarily research consultations with students mixed in with some meetings with fellow faculty about various topics and the occasional community member. I imagine this issue arises for lots of professions, though.