Dealing with the Procrastinator you HAVE to work with!


I got to thinking about the post I put up last week and how it’s great when people can realize they have a problem, ask for help, and make everyone’s lives better.  Yah, and then we have the more frequent experience of that guy at the office who, “doesn’t have an F*&%#ing problem!”  We all wish he’d read the article about his anger, or his passive aggression, or the way he doesn’t start his projects until the night before and then blames you at meetings.  But he/she won’t and you know it.  Change will come from you changing how you deal with this person and the situation around you.  No matter how crazy the other person is, what does it make you if you’re still reacting to them in the same way?  If it hasn’t worked, change it.

  • The only person you can change is yourself so it’s a good thing that’s a powerful change.
  • You can create a way out of the situation, no matter who’s fault it’s been that you’re here.
  • Waiting for other people to rescue you will be a long, frustrating, failure.  No one’s coming.  Get yourself out.

But Hey! You’re here to learn some tricks to get that lazy guy at the office moving and what’s all this about personal responsibility?  Don’t worry.  If you can accept the three points above you’re ahead of the game and have an attitude that will barrel through some of the problems other people put in your way.  If you look at those three and there’s no way you’re going there, keep reading.  I’ll make sure you get some useable ways to deal with the problem.

1) Never assume you know what the problem is.  No matter how long you’ve been working there or your experiences with the procrastinator, spend some time investigating before you try to solve the problem.  Solving problems you don’t actually have leads to more problems.  It’s like taking medication for low blood pressure when you actually have normal blood pressure.  You’ll wind up with a whole new problem; high blood pressure.  We typically assess situations from our own point of view and what will benefit ME!  That’s great if you’re the only one there, and will have to change if you want to work more effectively with others.  If you haven’t already, go to the person and ask them what’s happening. Write out what you’re going to say first and practice it in a mirror so you know it sounds completely non-judgemental.  Judgment shuts down communication.

2) Behavior you notice will change.  Just notice not; judge, punish, gossip about, huff about, or even reward.  People come back to my office and tell me, “that didn’t work” usually in an accusing tone of voice.  What they mean is, “That didn’t work immediately like a magic charm and I don’t want to repeat stuff.”  It’s not instant, but it will work.  Look at this person  and say a description of their behavior like you were a newscaster describing the most ho-hum story of the day.  “Ray, our project is due tomorrow and you have been playing Angry Birds for the past two hours.”   Smile at the end of this sentence and look at Ray until he breaks and starts talking.  It doesn’t matter what he says, so ignore it.  As soon as there is a break in his stream of justifications and denial, say “Oh”, and walk away.  Ray will now have a sense of urgency without being able to mask it with anger at you.

3) Make sure your own progress and accomplishments are recorded and correctly attributed.  If you’re in a traditional work setting get your immediate boss to check your progress.  This allows you to show that you are on track for the deadline.  If you immediate boss is the procrastinator, they have climbed to that position on the backs of overcompensating perfectionists.  You will need to keep notes about what you do, and how valuable you are to the company.  You’ll be using those notes for your job interviews somewhere else.  When you’re starting your own business and the procrastinator is your friend and business partner,  you’ll need to go through steps 1 & 2 often and combine them with positive rewards for efficient behavior.  Which brings us to our next point.

4) Subtly reward the behaviors you want.  But the other person a pop, smile at them more often, make a sincere compliment about what they’re wearing, anything that leaves them with positive feelings and isn’t directly about the work you want done.  You want them to feel good about working on projects and getting them done.  The more they do this without realizing you were behind it, the better.  Yes, it’s manipulative, but what were you trying to do by glaring at the guy and not responding to his e-mails?  Use positive social pressure instead of anger and emotional threats to get what you want.  You feel better, look better and get more of what you want.

5) Minimize the damage.  People don’t like doing this because they see it as a life sentence of covering for the procrastinator.  NO.  Make a time frame for yourself of how you are getting away from this person and how long it should take.  If this is an equal partner, feel free to calmly share this with your procrastinator in your most non-judgemental tone of voice.  Do not threaten.  Threats are powerless and procrastinators have heard them before.  You have a plan and it will be rolling forward.  Don’t bother telling them the plan can change if they show better behavior.  They are smart enough to know this already.  You saying it will sound weak and make the statement a threat.

Do the work you need to in order to look good for a promotion out of this mess or a job interview somewhere else.  If you’re in a business start-up, put the other person in jobs that they either like well enough to do well, or that complete failure won’t derail everything.  Either way, concentrate on what you want the end-product to be and how that will make your life better.  You may just need to pretend the other person isn’t there, document that you did all the work and your attempts to get them to engage.  Don’t forget that last one if you’re in the traditional work world.  Bosses want to see that you tried to play nice.

6) Keep communicating.  You’ll get plenty of messages in your life to shut up, we all do.  Walk through them with a calm voice, a blank face, and neutral body language. If other people cannot get to your emotions and they cannot convince you to shut up more often, they will eventually give up and grudgingly communicate back.  This will be hard and it takes practice.  Our natural inclination is to be sarcastic and snipe back, or at least shun the people we don’t like.  This is business.  Cultivate a business face that you consciously put on when you are dealing with the difficult people at the office.  Do not allow those people to get your face or your tone of voice to deviate from calm and blank.  It will feel like they are winning.  If you’re doing this right, they are actually wrapping themselves into knots trying to figure out how to get you emotional and screaming.  If you keep doing this right, don’t be surprised when the difficult person wants to be your best friend.  Nobody likes being screamed at.  For some people, it’s just better than being ignored and discounted.

You have the power to change your situation.  You cannot control other people, but you can almost always influence them.  Figure out what the real problem is before you start making changes.  Keep yourself calm and do not judge.  Ongoing communication isn’t always fun, but it will always be better than ineffective threats.  It’s ok to make up the difference for someone else as long as you have a time frame and a goal.  Do not make overcompensating a life style, it isn’t sustainable.

Have the best work week possible!

Leave a Reply