Procrastination most often affects our idea people. As they creatively come up with and play with ideas, employees make some valuable contributions and observations. They also can delay getting started by staying in the idea stage, still playing around. Mulling over ideas is only one of many reasons that employees procrastinate. For most, procrastination is simply a habit, formed when they delayed doing their homework and reinforced by nagging parents who never quite resolved the problem. Many procrastinating employees really don’t mind the work—once they get into it. It’s just getting into it that is an obstacle. This lifelong habit has become almost a ritual, part of the work process. One challenge that you have as a manager is to change the work process without assuming a parental, nagging role. The following interventions aid in putting the responsibility for changing procrastinating behaviors where they belong—with the employee.

Interventions/What to do

1. Set incremental deadlines instead of one final deadline. Slicing up a looming deadline into smaller bite-size pieces is less daunting to procrastinators. You might have assigned the employee to write a business case proposing the type of PCs to be installed in branch offices all over the region. Instead of a deadline for the final business case recommending a brand of PC, try divvying the process up into mini-deadlines:

• Please send me your short list of PC vendors that meet our criteria by May 1.
• Select the vendor by May 8.
• Have the rough draft completed by May 12.
• Complete the business case by May 15.

2. Make deadlines a team responsibility. Peer pressure is a wonderful thing. Employees who feel no compunction about letting you down won’t want to let a teammate down. Charge two or more employees with the deadline and watch how effective this is with procrastinators who are team players.

3. Allow the employee to set her own due dates. In a planning session, state how important it is that the due date for a particular project is met. With that in mind, tell the employee you are going to allow her to set a date that she can comfortably meet. Once she commits to that date, however, she will be locked in. Once the employee sets the date, go back and question her comfort level. Ask questions like, “Will this allow you time to test for all the flaws in the program?” Going through this process may actually teach the employee how to schedule realistically. Some people have never been taught this process, although this type of planning seems like common sense to others. You may actually need to use this method on two or three projects before an employee begins to schedule appropriately on her own.

4. Put the procrastinating employee on the spot. Place him in roles that kick-start his performance. Certain tasks place employees in the spotlight or in a position where failure to perform could cause them problems. This is a good thing. As manager, you want their procrastination to be their problem, not yours. How do you move the problem to their court and make it theirs? In one workplace involving trainers and instructional designers, one employee consistently failed to have her designs completed on time. The manager shifted her responsibilities to doing more presentations than designs. The employee did not want to be embarrassed, so she was always prepared to present in front of groups. Her teammates got a break from doing these chores themselves and had time to take up the slack in the design department.
What about your employee? Is there a role you can place him in that puts pressure on him to get started and not procrastinate? Is there a role that is answerable to customers, peers, or others that will make him perform on demand? Try breaking down what your department delivers and performs. Can you assign your procrastinator to a role that gets greater scrutiny at shorter intervals?

5. Remove valid obstacles. Does your employee have valid reasons for not starting on a timely basis? Here are some valid reasons for procrastination:
• Necessary tools are not available or are impaired.
• Bottlenecks have occurred in other departments or because of suppliers.
• Direction is unclear. This is the reason for procrastination that is most often cited. Sometimes this complaint is not an excuse but an accurate description of a very real problem. Never rule out the possibility that you may be part of the problem. Ask your employee what are the obstacles to starting that he or she faces. Be sure you have removed the obstacles that are your responsibility. Then aid the employee in removing other barriers.

Source : Casey Fitts Hawley. 201 Ways to Turn Any Employee to Performer Star

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