Procrastination in the workplace

Posted in : HR Updates on 9 August 2017
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered:

The impact of procrastination in the workplace

Have you ever considered the impact of procrastination in the workplace? According to The Irish Times, a 2013 study showed how higher levels of procrastination were linked to lower salaries and unemployment.

There would seem to be many reasons why a person procrastinates. The Irish Times article describes how some people opt for tasks that they enjoy or are better at, rather than those they feel negatively about. Research indicates that a combination of reasons such as fear of failure or poor time management lead people to procrastinate with varying levels of severity. And apparently, procrastinators are hard to change as they have convinced themselves that they work better under pressure.

So if we examine the impact on the individual there would appear to be little to gain from habitual avoidance. The article highlights how procrastination can cause conflict in the workplace for example between a well-organised manager who finds it difficult to manage an individual who leaves things to the last minute. Equally, as The Irish Times goes on to describe, such individuals can easily lose out on career progression opportunities as managers are less likely to assign important tasks to them.

Apparently though, most procrastinators want to change their bad habits. Some approaches to this include being disciplined enough to start the working day by completing the least preferred task. In doing so the sense of achievement should be so high as to serve as an incentive to repeat the practice. Meanwhile email can be a huge distraction to the working day so the advice is to respond to emails in batches so as to limit distraction. Other advice from the article includes breaking tasks down into smaller tasks so that they become less daunting and progress is more easily recognised.

But should all the blame be placed on the procrastinator?

According to the same article, managers need to be open minded and assess whether the culture of the organisation or team triggers this behaviour. They should be encouraged to give regular feedback to employees and ensure they have the right skills to do their job and that they are motivated.

On that token, the online resource, The Private Business Owner, gives more advice on how to stop employees from procrastinating. The starting point is trying to establish why employees procrastinate in the first place and then the source of the problem will lead to a solution. While it is recognised that this may not be easy, the best thing is to talk to the employee to find out what is going on. This doesn't have to be during a scheduled meeting but perhaps during an informal lunch, in a comfortable, non-threatening environment. It may be the case that the employee has a lot to deal with or has a high workload and needs support. They may be lacking in confidence which opens the opportunity to boost their self-esteem. The article summaries by saying that good leaders proactively reach out to staff rather than wait for them to come to talk, regardless of how much of an open-door policy you may think you have. 

This article is correct at 09/08/2017

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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