“I’ll do that later.”
Those words might be harmless. Or they might indicate a huge problem—procrastination.
I’ll walk you through whyprocrastinate, signs of procrastination in the workplace, its impact, and what to do about it.
Why People Procrastinate
So why do people procrastinate? Dr. Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, identified three main reasons to procrastinate:
- To feel the adrenaline rush
- To avoid the situation out of fear of something
- To avoid making a decision
These things all make sense. In the workplace, some employees like the feeling of accomplishing a goal and cutting it close, so they put things off to get their blood pumping. Others are afraid that they’ll disappoint their co-workers and boss with poor results so they avoid working on a project. Some workers just want to avoid making a decision entirely because then they’ll have to take responsibility for whichever option they choose.
Let’s take a look at what procrastination does to the office environment.
Effects of Procrastinating in the Workplace
It puts the workload on others and creates resentment. If someone waits until the last minute (or waits until it’s too late), the burden of their responsibilities can fall on someone else’s shoulders, creating resentment between co-workers.
It creates more anxiety (which can lead to more resentment). A procrastinator will likely become anxious as a deadline looms closer. Even if that doesn’t happen, putting off work will likely make others nervous that the job won’t get done. Which leads me to…
Things don’t get done. This is an obvious one. We all make money because we get work done. Even if an employee has a knack for getting things in just before deadline, one day he won’t make it. Then, timelines get pushed back and money could be lost.
Signs That Employees Are Procrastinating
How do we spot procrastination? Here are several signs that indicate employees could be procrastinating.
- Excessive excuses as to why things aren’t getting done. These can range from “That other client asked a lot of me this week” to “My daughter is going through a phase at home and I need just a little bit longer to finish my part of the project.”
- More breaks and nonworking activities including socializing with co-workers more than usual, excessive web surfing, or longer lunches or smoke breaks
- Slower response to emails, phone calls, and messages about the project or task at hand
- Attitude or mood change (from positive to negative) when the project comes up in conversation
What To Do About Procrastination in the Workplace
How do you stop employees from procrastinating? You won’t be able to make it go away completely, but you can minimize it by discovering why employees are doing it. The source of the problem will lead you to a solution.
Granted, sometimes this is easier said than done, but I encourage you to talk to the employee and find out what’s going. Simply ask. Take them out to lunch or stop by their office and approach them in a nonthreatening, caring manner that won’t make them defensive.
They might have a lot of their plate, which would mean that they need your help prioritizing. Or they could be in over their head, needing the guidance of a mentor. If it’s a confidence issue, the fix could be a quick pep talk to boost their confidence and get them back in the game.
Even though you encourage your employees to ask for help, good leaders will proactively reach out to employees. A listening ear might be all the workers need to get back on their feet.
For more info about procrastination, check out How To Stop Procrastinating: 7 Strategies.
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