What to Say to a Procrastinator

Review this exchange between a manager and an employee for some clues that could help you better manage the known procrastinators on your team:

Manager: ““Do you have the information I told you I will need by tomorrow?””
Employee: “Don’t worry. I’’ve started on it.””
Manager: “You know I need it for my report tomorrow. And I don’’t want you to rush it.””

Analysis: The manager earns high marks for knowing that you have to help procrastinators see where their priorities are. And you must stress the importance of a task.

Employee: ““I’’ve got everything under control.””
Manager: “I’m sure that’’s true. You’’ve handled research well before. But I know it’’s a time-consuming process. Why not let me do a part of it? I don’’t want any pressure-
related mistakes.”

Analysis: Give the manager a plus for complimenting the employee but a minus for taking on part of the task. By doing that, the manager signals that procrastination earns a
lighter workload.

– Adapted from Overcoming Negativity in the Workplace, Alexander Hamilton Institute.

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3 Responses to What to Say to a Procrastinator

  1. Mykael says:

    comming from the perspective of a deadline driven individual…the flaw in this post all together is to think that a “Procrastinator” is even a real classification….its not. We all work at a different pace. I might start something 3 days after my co-worker but get it accuratly completed on time. It shows lack of trust and lack of proper coaching on the front end if you become uneasy when an employee has not made progress on their assigned task.

    If you, as a manager, get too nervous about something not being completed on time then set an earlier deadline. 9 times out of 10 you are basing that judgement on how long it takes YOU to complete the task. Once you delegate a task with a deadline, you have to trust that the deadline will be hit. If the deadline is not hit then approach that situation head on and have a conversation about it.

    Part of effective leadership is building trust over time. Also, as long as the task is not mission critical then there could be a growth opportunity when your team member does not hit their deadline….(and no…not everything you do or delegate is mission critical…)

    • Columbia Books, LLC says:


      I appreciate your comments, and while I see your point, procrastination can be and is a problem in many workplaces. If an employee’s tendency to wait to the last minute adversely affects his/her coworkers and their ability to complete assignments, a manager must step in to correct the problem. In our opinion, trust is critical to leadership but so is managing performance issues.

      • Mykael says:

        Thank you for your feedback. My primary point is, if waiting to the last minute is affecting co-workers or leadership then the initially assigned deadline was incorrect. If a sub-deadline is required for others to contribute to a larger project then that sub-deadline should be discussed by the leader in advance to avoid frustration.

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