What to Do When Persistent Follow-Up Doesn’t Work

By Eva Rykrsmith on July 11, 2012 No Comment

How should I approach it when I need to chase down my fellow colleagues and manager about matters that require their prompt assistance and attention? For instance, my senior colleague, who is based in another state, usually emails me to follow-up on certain issues that require clearance on my end, that is, I need to obtain approval from my boss. But despite sending 1-2 email follow-up emails to my boss asking for his approval on the issue on hand, every time I check in with him (face-to-face) his reply is, “I haven’t seen it yet.” How do I go about asking him to please take a look at my email that contains some editorial feedback from him before I can forward it down to my senior colleague?

Honestly, I have been “complained” about once or twice by my colleagues to my direct supervisor that I had been too “fierce” when it comes to asking them to reply me on certain emails. Since then, I have toned down my way of asking them things, but it hasn’t brought much good to me either, since they’re not taking my requests seriously when I’m very nice about it. Please help me out here!

The first thing I would recommend is setting a deadline for your request. Without a firm date, an ASAP request can mean varied things to different people. Some will rush and get it done within an hour, while others will prioritize other things first and this will fall in their ‘eventually’ pile. In my experience, simply setting a date or time ensures you will get a response sooner. It also makes it easier to follow-up on once the date you set has passed.

My second recommendation is to change the method of communication. Nothing wrong with what you did, but it seems email with an in-person follow-up isn’t getting the best response. Do you have a weekly meeting with your boss where you can request and obtain approval? Or perhaps reverse your strategy—approach him in person and then follow-up by email instead.

Last, mention consequences. What, exactly, will happen if X doesn’t get done by Y? Does it slow down a project? Does your senior colleague miss a client deadline? Nobody likes being the one who drops the ball, so if your manager realizes the negative implications of taking an extra day or two to get around to it, he may shift his priorities to get it done sooner. This is also a good check for yourself to determine if you are, in fact, being overbearing with requests. If consequences don’t change whether your boss responds tomorrow or two weeks from now, let it go.

This was my answer to the May reader question on the Intuit QuickBase Blog. To see the other three experts’ answers, please view the original post at 360 Answers: How Can I Get Faster Responses From My Colleagues?

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  Copyright © 2010 Articles by Eva Rykrsmith | Art credit for square in upper right hand corner to Michael D. Edens