Saturday, February 20, 2016

Are You Following Through at Work?

By Susan Pines, Shy Job Seeker Blog

Throughout my career, I’ve separated co-workers into two main groups: Those who follow through, and those who don’t. When I’ve been new on a job, it didn’t take me long to figure out who at work took action, and who put things off (or never did them). In the workplace, workers who don’t do their jobs place a burden on their colleagues, the boss, the company, and customers. Employees who don’t do what they promise to do reflect badly on the organization and affect people’s lives, the organization’s purpose and programs, company profits, and much more.

Working with people who don’t follow through can be upsetting, confusing, and agonizing. For example, I have a publication deadline every week, yet two of my co-workers usually miss the deadline because of their own disorganization. Their lack of on-time follow through leaves me constantly wondering: When will I get their content? Will I get it at all? Will I need to reconfigure my publication based on what they give me? Now I’ve tried to set expectations, send reminders, and inquire about their material’s status. But my hounding, which I don’t enjoy doing and don’t feel I should have to do, seems to make little difference.

Somehow these co-workers manage to do enough of their jobs to stay employed, but it makes everything run much more smoothly and with less stress when people do what they need to do--on time, thoroughly, and accurately. When one of these slackers leaves the organization for whatever reason, it’s such a relief.

People who don’t follow through usually develop a negative reputation. Customers complain about them or take their business elsewhere. Co-workers avoid them, have to cover for them, or try to find workarounds.

Why do workers not follow through? Why do they not take the action they need to take? I try to always give people the benefit of the doubt when they don’t follow through—at first. But usually I see it is a bad habit and the result of disorganization, inability to prioritize, laziness, lack of focus, aversion to giving someone else control, forgetfulness, and distractions. 

Sure, many people have too much on their plate, but those who don’t follow through seem to have this problem with just about everything. So it’s not one or two tasks that don’t get done; lots of things don’t get done, or get done partially or badly, over and over again. Their excuses include, “I’m so busy” and “I forgot” and “I’m getting to it.” Rarely have I seen these people improve their follow through, despite chaos all around them, undone work piling up, complaints, and warnings from the boss. Perhaps these individuals don’t realize there is a better way to work or are not aware of the extent of their problem.

If you want to have a good career, following through is important. If you have trouble getting things done and are aware of it and the problems this behavior causes, then you are ready to change. I offer the following tips to help you become a person who follows through and gets things done.
  • Get organized: Set aside time to clean up and organize your work space. Put paperwork, supplies, and tools in folders, drawers, file cabinets, racks, and bins. Throw away trash. Manage your email daily. Take a couple of minutes at the end of each day to prepare your workspace for the next day. Then make a vow to stay organized.
  • Prioritize: What is most important for you to do today? What have you fallen behind on? Who is waiting to hear from you? Try to attack your priorities first. Let people know you haven’t forgotten about them and their needs. 
  • Avoid distractions: Distractions abound in the workplace, including the Internet, text messages, phones, noise, interruptions, food, parties, visitors, chit chat, social media, and gossip. The more you give in to distractions, the less time you will have to do what counts. So wean yourself away from things that take your focus off your work. 
  • Delegate or seek help: If you feel you have too much work, see if you can get help before it gets out of control.
  • Keep to-do lists and set reminders: Creating, following, and managing a to-do list can change your work life. Set reminders on your electronic calendar. Be sure to give yourself enough time to accomplish what you need to do.
  • Are You Following Through at Work [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
    Keeping a calendar may help you follow through on your work.
  • Stay put: To get work done, you need to work. So sit in your chair, stand behind the desk, or be where you need to be. Then work. Avoid running out for long lunches, getting involved personal phone calls, snacking on treats in the break room, gossiping, complaining, and chit chatting.
Implementing just one or two of these suggestions will go a long way in helping you follow through on the job. If you start to follow through at work, you’ll have less stress, a greater sense of accomplishment, and more success.

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