How to deal with flakes at work?
August 11, 2009 7:14 AM   Subscribe

I want a communication escalation algorithm.

What's your basic algorithm for dealing with non-responses to work communications (or personal for that matter)? e.g., an email or phone call asking for something specific that doesn't get returned. How long do you wait and what's your usual follow-up message?

posted by mpls2 to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Eh, 24 hours for a response. Obviously, that number goes down significantly if deadlines are involved, but yes/no/can't help you is usually expected within a day of sending the request. MS Outlook has those wonderful little follow up flags that you can set a date on, and everything that hasn't been answered pops up when I sit down in the morning.

I also tend to copy my direct report (politics may or may not allow this where you are) when dealing with an individual with a history of non-responsiveness.
posted by Pragmatica at 7:22 AM on August 11, 2009

I also tend to copy my direct report (politics may or may not allow this where you are) when dealing with an individual with a history of non-responsiveness.

Yeah, I do that too sometimes, but I'd rather deal with such people in a more direct way--hence my wondering what an appropriate follow-up message would be.
posted by mpls2 at 7:28 AM on August 11, 2009

Civil-servant-filter: I wait about 3 days, depending on the nature of the document - sometimes longer, if it's the type of thing that requires more editing/fine-tuning. If it's getting close to the date when I absolutely need the document, I just send an email saying something along the lines of

"Good morning,

I sent you [request] at [time] regarding [subject]. I was wondering if you've had a time to follow-up on that yet?



posted by Phire at 7:33 AM on August 11, 2009

It really depends on the relationship: I have people I expect a response from within 2-3 hours, but that's because that's known. Others, especially personal contacts, a few days is normal and fine.

If there's been no formal "setting of the rules", I usually think two days is about right for a response, even if that response is "I've got this, thanks, and I'm looking into it for you."

(After that, a week.)
posted by rokusan at 7:38 AM on August 11, 2009

I'd wait a week for something routine with no immediate impact. If it's drop dead urgent, I walk over and talk to them.

If it's something I'd like to work on or resolve because of my personal priorities or because I have time, I would send a lightweight email anytime.

I try not to add to the fake urgency in the world.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:50 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if they're just being lazy on an ongoing basis and I've had it, I do what everyone else does -- throw a bunch of people on the cc line.

Nothing like an audience.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:51 AM on August 11, 2009

hence my wondering what an appropriate follow-up message would be

"Hi, ____ - I was just wondering if you had a chance to look at _____. I'm trying to plan my day and need to know if I can get it by ___________."

Uses lots of "I" versus "you", and allows them the opportunity to tell you that no, they didn't have a chance to look at it without appearing to be a flake.
posted by Pragmatica at 7:55 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

You should state that you require a response by X time on Y day, inserted somewhere in the very first line of the email if possible.

If there is no response by the specified deadline you can send a followup email.

Example from my email inbox:

"This is a friendly reminder that we are still awaiting your executed documents. We have a filing date of July 13, 2009."
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 8:23 AM on August 11, 2009

CC method is good, but if you actually want a response a phone call is by far the most effective. "Just checking to see if you got my email..?"
posted by the foreground at 8:56 AM on August 11, 2009

Definitely try putting your response expectations in your email. Some people are poor managers of their time. Setting expectations helps them prioritize.

Be very careful with the CC line. The public shaming method can backfire and sometimes makes the sender look petty. I try to encourage my staff to deal with people directly. If it's a problem that's being escalated for my attention, I don't want to find out about it by being CC'd.
posted by 26.2 at 11:25 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yep totally depends on the relationship. If its someone I need to do stuff for me on an ongoing basis, I try to keep them sweet. So I'll email, wait a couple of days, then maybe either call or go visit if they are in the same office.

If that gets nowhere, I'll email again with a more urgent tone. If that gets nowhere I start fishing around their colleagues or possibly their supervisor/boss.

One thing I always do, when I start emailing other people (cc'ing their boss etc), I attach the original email I sent so everyone can see what it was I asked and when I asked it.

But in my original email, I have learnt to get to the point quickly. So if I'm emailing a colleague to do task XYZ for me here's how my first email looks:

To: Colleague
From: Admira
Subject: Action Required: Task XYZ

Hi Colleague,

I was hoping you could do task XYZ for me by the end of the day?

The reason I need this is that Project ABC has hit roadblock YTH... etc

And after that I go on with the detail about why I need it and what its for and the background. We all love to tell a story, and I get so many emails pages long and buried under details I don't care about is whats required of me. So always put what you want the person to do at the top of the email. I guarantee you will get quicker responses to your emails.

If only I could get to the point with my mefi posts...
posted by Admira at 3:51 PM on August 11, 2009

« Older Hosted Blog or DIY?   |   Best voice+SMS GSM carrier for one month of travel... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.