Procrastination and distraction can easily derail any one of us, and no matter how naturally organized we may be, we’ve all felt the pull of these productivity drainers at one point or another during the course of our careers. The temptation to procrastinate rises up when and where we least expect; intelligent people are more likely to succumb to it, and—for reasons that defy science—the projects that excite us and inspire our passion the most tend to be the ones that we’re most likely to put off…probably because these projects can seem overwhelming and the bar of expectation we set for ourselves can be unrealistically high.
But if you have serial procrastinators on your team, or employees who procrastinate for so long that their deadlines come and go before they begin to buckle down, then it may be time to take action. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Talk to your procrastinators; don’t scold them.
Don’t assume that your most incorrigible procrastinators are lazy or uncommitted—In fact, the opposite may be true. But this doesn’t excuse behavior that can undermine your company and alienate your clients. Sit down with your worst offenders and ask them to explain why they’re having trouble getting started. Ask what you can do to remove the obstacles from their path. Encourage them to be honest about their hang-ups, and make it clear that you’re here to help, not to punish.
Avoid swooping to the rescue repeatedly.
If you talk to your procrastinators, and coach them in good faith, and swoop to the rescue when they’re in a crunch, then you’re doing your job as a manager. But if you find yourself bailing out the same person over and over again, or constantly shifting the workload away from a distracted employee and burdening his coworkers at the last minute, it may be time to consider a transfer, or a formal evaluation and performance improvement plan.
Hire non-procrastinators and stop the problem before it starts.
The best way to solve any specific performance or behavior problem is to avoid it in the first place, and recognize red flags during your candidate selection process. Create a list of interview behaviors, resume giveaways, or questionable statements that may suggest your candidate has an issue with deadlines. If you see any of these red flags, ask follow up questions. Keep your questions open ended, for example: “If you have to choose between submitting quality work and keeping a deadline, and you can’t do both, which do you prioritize and why?” Or, “Tell me about a time when you faced a really tough deadline and had to make some hard decisions.” Listen carefully as the candidate answers.
For more on how to spot signs of trouble—or signs of brilliance—during the candidate selection process, turn to the Westchester County staffing team at Merritt.