10 Ways to Ask for an Overdue Item

© Brian Jackson - Fotolia.com As key support team members, we're often tasked with keeping our colleagues on track, or doing what it takes to ensure that a project team executes on time.

I've worked with team members who are reticent to speak up when a team member delivers a project item late. They tell me they don't want to cause a rift in the team, or create unnecessary conflict. I would rather deliver a project on time than get along with my teammates, but I understand not everyone shares this approach. :)

I believe you can have the best of both worlds. Here are my 10 favorite ways to nicely ask for an overdue item, whether via email or live. [rebel]

  1. Restate the deadline with implications. "This report was due Friday afternoon. If I don't have this data, I won't be able to create the financial projections [Entrepreneur] needs for our incentive structure."
  2. Forward an email to "bump it up." "Just bumping this to the top of your inbox, in case you missed it!"
  3. Forward an email and ask for a timeline. "When can I expect to see this item?"
  4. Ask for a status update and offer help (and mean it). "Are you still on track for this report? How can I help accelerate progress?"
  5. Proactively draft a response, restate the deadline and ask for edits. "I took a shot at drafting these interview questions, since the editor needs them Wednesday. Can you please personalize and edit as necessary?"
  6. Humor (note: exercise discretion and tact, or this will backfire). "Hey, any chance I can get this report in the next decade?"
  7. Direct call or text. "Please block time today to call our vendor. We owed him a decision last Friday."
  8. Batch forward (See #2) with other pending items to force a time block. Precede this missive with a short call or email that says something like, "Hi X, I'm awaiting several items from you that are preventing progress on Project Z. I'm going to forward them so they're at the top of your inbox. Please call me if you need clarification."
  9. Suggest an alternate solution. Your colleague may be procrastinating because the project or process is incongruous with his or her work habits. "Would it be more appropriate if Chris started this task, and you came in for edits and revisions?"
  10. Reaffirm priorities and workload with the colleague. "We originally decided that Task A would be due last Friday, but I know you're juggling multiple projects. Does Task A need to happen right now, or should we readjust the deadline to a more suitable time?"

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