Lead a procrastinating employee back on track
by Catherine Welborn
Problem: You have an excellent employee who comes up with innovative ideas, gets along with everyone and has contributed to some of the organization’s most successful projects. One problem: The person is a major procrastinator. Even when the employee meets a deadline, the procrastination leading up to that hurts the team. The person is often stressed and irritated before due dates, subjecting co-workers to the negative attitude. Because the employee leaves no wiggle room, he or she is unable to adapt when the unexpected occurs, often causing a ripple effect across the entire department.
Solution: Keep the employee onboard but without the bad habit. Follow these tips to guide the person to adopt productive habits:
- Consider the workload. If you have assigned an unreasonable amount of work, redistribute the assignments more evenly. Feeling overwhelmed with work will exacerbate a procrastination habit.
- Don’t demand perfection. Internalized perfectionism is one of the major causes of procrastination. Explain to the employee that as the supervisor, you expect good quality work, not perfect work. Share an example of something you produced that you’re proud of but can still imagine improving if you’d had unlimited time.
- Acknowledge the problem and its consequences. Procrastinators don’t always see how their behavior affects others. Provide specific examples of how the person’s procrastination has hurt the team.
- Assign more preferred tasks. People tend to avoid tasks they dislike doing. If another employee enjoys the task that the procrastinator dreads, reassign it. Take advantage of your procrastinator’s strengths.
- Allow a procrastinator to set deadlines. Involve the person in planning the project schedule when you can. The person will feel more committed to a timeline he or she helped create. But make sure that the person understands that you and the rest of the team expect him or her to meet those deadlines!
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