Missing Deadlines Can Be a Hassle for Everyone:
Do you have a coworker or employee who continues to miss deadlines? It can be frustrating and create a ripple effect on the work of the organization. How you respond to missed deadlines can make a big difference on whether it becomes a pattern, these five actions will help guide you through how to manage the situation.
- Address the issue one-on-one
Don’t let a fear of confrontation or difficult conversations lead you down a path of poor management. Addressing a problem individually is the best way to figure out why someone is missing deadlines at work. Having a team meeting and throwing out general statements about workload falling behind, productivity issues or projects not moving as expected is usually a waste of time. You will fall into one of two traps if you approach the issue this way, either you will be so vague that you won’t end up actually addressing the real problem or you will end up publicly scolding an employee. When you think about the fact that those are the only two real outcomes of a team discussion about a single employee missing deadlines it is clear that meeting will result in more harm than good.
- Have a conversation; not a lecture
Starting a discussion with accusations or with a plan to reprimand your employee will create a defensive and confrontational environment. When a conversation devolves into this area the root of the problem is often missed. Start with an open conversation and ask why they are missing deadlines at work. Don’t attach emotion to the question or conversation, state the facts and then ask for the employee’s perspective as to why deadlines have been missed. The issue may be with other employee’s work or with a process. For example, if dependencies exist before an employee can start on a task then they may not be the real cause of missed deadlines. If it takes two days for Deb to compile a report once she gets the data from Bob is it really Deb’s fault the report is late if she doesn’t get the data from Bob until the day the report is due?
- Set expectations around communication
Let your employee know what the expectation is if they are concerned that a deadline might be missed. Be clear about when you want to be communicated to and how you would like them to respond to the situation. Using the same example as above, setting clear expectations would be asking Deb to let you know if she doesn’t have the data by two days before the deadline and asking her to let you know as soon as she gets the data. You should also set the expectation around what to do when she gets the data, do you want her to move other projects and focus on the report as soon as the data is sent to her or if there are competing deadlines or priorities let her know you would prefer she order her work.
- Provide context
It helps to provide context around why missing the deadline is a problem and how it impacts the organization. While all employees know that missing deadlines at work isn’t a good idea, they may not know what that means for other members on the team or a project as a whole. In the same example where Bob is giving Deb the data late, let Bob know the impact that his missed deadline is creating. Share with Bob that other employees cannot begin the work of compiling a report unless they have his data. If Bob knows why it is important that he sends data on time and that it is creating a rushed and stressful work environment for Deb, he will be more likely to see how his work fits into the big picture and understand the importance of getting his work done on time.
- Focus on the future
Once a deadline is missed the best thing that you can focus on is how to avoid the problem in the future. Analyze the cause of the missed deadlines to see if there is a problem with the individual worker such as setting unrealistic expectations of the time to complete a task, is unqualified, working too slow or poor organization. Also evaluate potential causes external to the employee such as whether a process is faulty, if the work could be streamlined or if there are tools or resources that could expedite the task.