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Managing with no authority

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management,Workplace Communication

Q. I’m managing editor at a publications firm. I make sure the magazines go out on time. I have two editors who refuse to hand in stories by the deadline. Discipline is not an option. My supervisor and I have little authority and cannot terminate or even “get tough” with these employees. Any ideas?

A. Having lots of responsibility but no authority is a dreadful combination. Ideally, you should appeal to a person who does have authority over these people to make it clear that their jobs require them to meet deadlines. Before you approach this person, gather information on problems the lateness causes for the company (mistakes appearing in print, overtime charges from the printer, etc.). If this doesn’t work, wait for a relaxed time (such as immediately after an issue has been sent to press) and meet with each editor separately. In a nonaccusatory tone, explain the repercussions of getting a manuscript late, focusing on those consequences that carry the most weight with each of them. Give concrete examples. Then ask, “What would it take for you to meet your deadline?” If they raise valid concerns that prevent them from complying, maybe you can make structural changes that would benefit everyone (changing at what point assignments are made, inducing researchers to turn their work in earlier). Even if none of this applies and the editors are just lazy or inefficient, your willingness to approach the problem in a collegial manner may convince them to push themselves harder.

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