I didn't want to hijack the other thread, but I do have a similar but not quite similar situation. Our days run like this at the DMV: Doors open at 9 am; Doors are locked at 5 pm, but we still take care of everyone who is in the lobby; We cash out, clean up and leave at 5:30 pm.
Now, for the clerks, at 5 pm, they are basically done. But 5 pm is when my crunch time begins. I have to cash out everyone, balance the deposit, complete End of Day reports and close out the cash registers and account for inventory.
My somewhat similar situation is when a clerk wants to ask me a question they could have asked me anytime during the previous 8 hours. For example, "Can I have Tuesday, August 12 off? There's a family picnic that day. Is the 12th a Tuesday? What is the second Tuesday of August? Anyway, can I get it off? Does anyone else have that off?" Meanwhile, I have a stack of money in my hand, approximately $1000 - $1500 in every denomination, and I am actively counting out loud. I can't even yell, "Stop!" because I will lose count and have to start over, and the process is exacting and time consuming as it is. In the past, I have grabbed a pen and quickly jotted down the number I am on, so that I can say, "I can't talk now. Ask me in the morning."
Now, my staff is very well meaning, but some people just can't get it into their heads: this is the absolute worst time to ask me anything. Someone in the other thread mentioned that some people have an idea hit them, and they have to ask before they forget. But it is even harder for me to remember! I am trying to count a lot of money, and it's not even my family picnic.
Often, the employee does forget, and then there is some wailing and gnashing of teeth two months later when I say, "I only honor written requests by union contract. I don't even remember you asking me, and Sally turned in a written request six weeks ago."
What is an effective way to get across the message: Do not ask me questions between 5 - 5:30. Requests should only be submitted when you have my undivided attention. If I tell you to come back for my undivided attention, the burden is on you, I will not hunt you down. And time off is requested in writing, and only becomes official when I sign your request and return it.
Help! I do not want to snap at people, even though there are times when it seems as if it might be the only thing that works.