We’ve all been there: A colleague is a week late with his part of your team’s presentation, and you’re debating whether or not to send him yet another, “Hey, hate to bother you, but when can we expect this?” email. You don’t want to be rude, but he’s making it harder for you to do your own job. And while you may not be too concerned with how he looks, you would hate for your manager to think you don’t understand deadlines.

Pestering people is one of the less fun parts of working with others, but as any organized, motivated person will attest, you’re often forced to do it in order to reach your own goals. However, rather than assuming that’s part of working on a team, you can bypass it altogether by emphasizing three things at the start of any project.


1. Emphasize Why You’re Giving the Assignment

Often times, people are reluctant to complete a project if they don’t see the benefit for themselves in it. Especially if it seems like sitting down and doing it will require a ton of extra time or energy—or, if it seems like grunt work an intern could do. So, any time you assign work to someone (or, alternatively, are assigned to work with someone who you think might slack off), do what you can to make it clear why you think he or she is perfect for the role.

Is this her specialty? Do his reports always stand out due to the visuals he adds? Does this help her work on a skill that’ll lead to a promotion down the road? If you can turn the task into a compliment, it makes it more much likely that the person will get it done, and get it done well.


2. Emphasize Why the Deadline’s Urgent

Ever notice that even when you hint to a colleague that you really, really need something done quickly, he still takes his time? That’s because you need to explain not only that it’s urgent, but why exactly that’s the case.

Saying that you need reports done by the end of the week sounds pretty serious, yet it rarely results in making people want to work any faster. However, saying that the reports need to be completed by Friday because the investor meeting’s on Monday—and they’re expecting to have results from your team to review over the weekend—adds more context to the hard deadline.


3. Emphasize That You’re in This Together

Sending repetitive “Did you do this?” emails day after day gets aggravating really quickly, not to mention, it can make you sound like the ultimate micromanager. Additionally, it gives off the vibe that you don’t trust your colleagues to get their work done.

Instead, at the outset of the project, meet with your colleague to set a realistic timeline for smaller parts of the project, as well as a deadline for the final product. Working together to select a date and time makes your co-worker feel like he or she has a say in it—and makes it harder to ignore.



If you’re still running into problems after implementing these three ideas, you can also delegate your nudging to a shared calendar, task management system, or to-do list that sends automated reminders. Armed with all these strategies, you’ll spend less time poking the person two cubicles over from you and more time actually getting your work completed.


Photo of deadline notebook courtesy of Shutterstock.