Picture the scene. You’ve asked somebody that you work with to do something for you or your Executive. You need their input on the task before you can move on with your work. You email them the request, you don’t hear anything back, you email again, you get a reply that states they will get the work to you asap, the deadline passes, so you call, but it goes through to voicemail, you leave a voicemail message but don’t hear anything back. This goes on until the deadline is way late and the work has been put on hold. Sound familiar? Yup, I thought so. We all have those colleagues that don’t quite get with the programme when it comes to deadlines, managing their workload or replying to email demands. How much time do you think you spend chasing people that owe outstanding work? A lot, right? Also, how awful does it make you feel continually having to do the chasing and annoying people! A lot, right? We’ve all got unresponsive co-workers. So today, I thought I’d write a few tips on how to chase requests at work without annoying people and to get them to do the job!

Be realistic with deadlines

This is the first point. It is imperative that you are realistic about your deadlines. Remember how annoying it is when someone asks you to do something ‘urgent’ when you both know the only reason the work is urgent is that it has sat on their desk for the last month. If you need somebody to do something for you, give them plenty of time to complete the task, set reminders to follow up on their progress (not every day, but maybe once a week?) and ask if they need any more information from you to get the job done. If the work does require a quick turn around time, explain why it is urgent and how it fits into the bigger picture.

Be polite and show empathy

Let’s face it; someone is more likely to complete some work for you if they like you, so be nice! Be polite, ask nicely and make them feel like they are special. I know that can feel like a massive waste of time but having worked as an EA I felt the extra time to build those relationships was worth it. I always made colleagues feel like they were doing something important when completing work for me because the task was for someone in the c-suite or it contributed directly to the success of the business (it usually didn’t :/… sorry, old colleagues).

If you have chased the person a few times, try to show some empathy and understanding. What is the issue that is causing them the delay? Can you move the deadline, work around the problem or ask them to pass on the task to someone else? Try to find out why they are not producing the goods before you get incredibly p***** off with them!

Explain why it is needed and why it is important to you

As I said, when an Assistant asks for something, co-workers should assume that the work is required for their boss or their boss’s boss… or at the very least, someone important in your office or maybe even a client. Usually, people get this and get the work done. But of course, some people don’t manage their time effectively for anyone. So, you may find that you have to explain why the work is needed, who it is for, how it fits into the overall success of the business and why it is important to you and your Executive.

Make the whole process easy for them

Make it easy for them to respond to your request. If it is literally to get their approval, ask them to reply with ‘approved’. Keep your communicate short and succinct. Don’t ask them for anything other than the thing you need. If the task is complicated why not schedule a quick follow up meeting (15 minutes max) so that you can sit with them face to face and get what you need.

Learn more: Are you getting attendees to your meetings?

Go see them

This doesn’t happen very often these days. Most of us communicate via email, collaborative tools or over the phone. If you have to get up from your desk and see someone for something, well you mean business right!? It is easy for people to forget to do things if the request is buried under 100 other emails. So, make sure you are visible. Walk past their desk, grab a coffee when they are in the kitchen and while there offer gentle reminders about the task. They should get the clue pretty quickly!

When to quit? What are the consequences – do you call in the big guns?

Last but least, when do you quit? Well, it depends on the necessity of the task. Can you do it yourself or ask somebody else? Obviously, there will be repercussions if the person doesn’t complete the work and makes your life harder. They are probably doing that to a lot of people within your organisation and creating a pretty unreliable reputation. The next step is to call their boss but do make sure you’ve exhausted all avenues before you take that approach and do tell them that you are planning to take the request to their boss so that they have a final chance to respond.

Lastly, if you have this post and you are thinking, this is all well and good, but it is my Executive who doesn’t respond to my requests. Here is a post I wrote which deals with that exact problem. Is your Executive causing a bottleneck?