QUESTION: A frequently heard response from coworkers on why work has not been completed: “I’m too busy” or “I’m so busy”, many times followed with a dramatic recital of all they have to do. How should I respond?
ANSWER: Well, the sarcastic approach is to say, “Well, you certainly have an extra five minutes for excuse-making.” (Of course, I don’t recommend the sarcastic approach except in your fantasies.)
In the time that they spend arguing about how much time they DON’T have, they could have already completed the task you asked them to complete!
A good come back is, “What if you weren’t so busy?” Then hold the space, then wait for more excuses, then ask, “Are you willing to find a way?”
There are three circumstances worth looking at: A celebration system may be in order, they really may be too busy, they may need a little peer pressure. Let’s look at each scenario.
A celebration system is in order
Employees need a time when they feel complete. Sometimes what we do as managers is just keep piling things on them and they always feel behind. This is a management skill of delegating but also what I call “celebrating on the island.” If work is nothing more than a list of tasks it’s going to be hard to keep the motivation. If however there is a time for intermittent celebrations of what we accomplished, then you are going to get a lot more compliance.
They really are too busy
I recently heard Nick Fabrizio, a consultant with MGMA Healthcare consulting group, say that you cannot give more than 10 percent more work without increasing resources or reducing work in some other area. In other words, make sure what you are requesting is actually possible given their current workload and responsibilities.
Use peer pressure
At your regular meetings, give acknowledgement for all the tasks accomplished and milestones reached. This will feel so good that people will be more willing to step up instead of make excuses. What this will require of you though is to keep note and a log of what gets done.