How do you pressure supervisors to meet their deadlines?

Question: “I am a secretary. We have eight directors in our agency. Two department heads routinely are late submitting their work before the deadlines. Our president knows they do this, but does nothing. When they miss their deadlines, it affects my ability to meet my deadlines. Unlike them, I do get into trouble if I miss my deadlines. What can I do?” — Anonymous

Marie September 10, 2009 at 10:04 am

I’m definitely going to move up the deadline for my colleges – as I keep learning the hard way – that they are late which puts me in a tough situation. I can’t change them but what I can change is my actions and responses – which is to move up the deadlines, document that the deadlines were communicated, and document when someone is late – so when asked I can report what the cause was. – Good luck to us all!

Linda April 20, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I have seen a sign that says “Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” I’m not sure I’d have the chutzpah to actually hang it in my office, but I am certainly tempted.

Robbia April 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm

My boss is often late with his work, and then wants me to stay and work overtime to get it out. I have asked if I can help him with anything, but he always says he has to do the work and there is nothing I can help with. This irritates me greatly, as I am very organized and get my work out quickly. I just have to “suck it in” and get his work out when it’s ready. We simply have two different work styles. I don’t like it, but I see no alternative. He’s the boss, and I have to live with the way he works. Any ideas?

Lisa April 17, 2009 at 6:15 pm

I agree with John A.’s approach, to a certain extent. But I’d take it a step further, and be more proactive about it. Don’t wait until you’re “called on the carpet” for missing a deadline – act before that happens.

I’d make absolutely sure to keep my boss fully informed of anyone not meeting the deadline (again, BEFORE the deadline is missed), and complete the report without the missing information. Then it won’t be a surprise to your boss, and you shouldn’t get into trouble. The best boss I ever had always told me, “Just be sure you keep me informed about what’s going on before a deadline is missed. Don’t wait until afterward to explain what happened.”

I run into the same situation sometimes, usually one specific individual who even misses my “fake” deadline at times. I keep my boss fully informed of the situation; that’s all I can do. I can’t make him sit down and write his reports.

Good luck!

Cathy April 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm

HR Forms D


I really like your suggestion. I need to try this with my boss. She is always late and very disorganized.

Patty April 14, 2009 at 9:18 am

Sorry, last line should have read “It always worked…” I hate when I have a typo. Patty

Patty April 14, 2009 at 9:17 am

Several years ago, I was responsible for putting together a monthly business report, with input from six or seven directors. A week before my due date, I sent out an e-mail reminder. Then a couple of days before, I would approach anyone who had not submitted their input and offer my services. I just simply asked if there was anything I could do to help them get it done. I always worked, and the report was always submitted on time.

Star April 13, 2009 at 9:30 am

I work at a University and responsible for 2 monthly items from 50 faculty members. It is basically impossible to get everyone to be on time and I don’t think I have ever gotten all 50 of them in on time once! However, in my email that is produced, I also give them different deadlines then the true deadline date. It is like dealing with children, you need to use reverse pyschology on these folks. As well, you should be able to communicate to your high powers to be, the names of the folk that are constantly late if they fail to reply to your communication. Take a stand for yourself.

Heather April 10, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I think John A. has the best answer I have heard…ever. It is professional, unemotional and addresses the issue directly without pointing fingers or making it a blame game. I am coping out what he said as it is an ongoing issue at my workplace as well.

Terri April 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm

I had a manager who was always late in meeting deadlines. What I did was give him an “artificial” deadline at least two days ahead of when it was really due. That way he was always “ahead” of schedule rather than behind. I also put the artificial deadline on my calendar so I would follow-up to make sure it was done early.

Dona April 10, 2009 at 1:50 pm

If possible, submit your report with a notation about what information is missing. If this is monthly data, use their information from last month with a notation to that effect.

John A. April 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Very simple; when called to the carpet because the work of others isn’t completed on time, reply “I am happy to comply with all deadlines, but I do not have the latitude nor ability to force others to do the same. Perhaps someone with authority can address this issue. In the interim, I will do what I can with what I’m given, and with timeliness and attention to detail.” If you meet with resistance or criticism of your work performance, send an email to all concerned with the same response and then request that your HR manager place the email in your personnel file (yes, you may request both that anything you document be placed in your file, and you have the right to see what management has placed in your file, at any time).

It pretty much sums it up: “Do your job if you want me to do mine. Otherwise, the deadlines will remain unmet.” No court in the land will agree that you are responsible for the deadlines of others if they are necessary in meeting your own. Call your employer’s bluff and place the responsibility squarely where it belongs, and where its usually least welcome: the lap of management.

Amy April 10, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Who do you report to? If you report to the President, I would explain to him why you are missing your deadlines and ask him what he suggests you do to help with it. Perhaps having an honest conversation with the department heads would help, too. Make sure you ask them what you can do to help them meet their deadlines. If all else fails, you could set the deadlines earlier than what they actually are so that even if they are late you will still be on task. Good luck!