What Managers Needed To Know About Deadlines

How people ask for extensions can be very important
How people ask for extensions can be very important
Image Credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer

As a manager, part of our job is to set deadlines for the people who work for us. Work needs to be accomplished and we know when it needs to be done. In order to communicate this to the rest of our team, we establish deadlines that tell everyone when the work that has been assigned to them must be completed. However, how people treat deadlines can differ from person to person. Additionally, managers need to realize that women and men may treat deadlines differently.

The Problem With Deadlines

I don’t know about you, but all too often I feel as though I have too much to do and too little time to do it. This is a feeling that skyrocketed during the pandemic, especially among working women, who last year reported completing an average of five additional hours of chores and child care a week versus men. The end result of all of this extra work was that their happiness and productivity was undermined. Today, as a result of these new increased demands, 23% of employed women with children under the age of 10 are considering leaving the workforce, compared with 13% of employed men.

Along with additional responsibilities at home, women also tend to take on more administrative tasks at work, which contributes to their feelings of being stressed about time. But the latest research finds there is another factor at play that is often overlooked: women are less likely than men to negotiate for more time on adjustable deadlines at work. Regardless of their job status or number of years of experience, women reported feeling less comfortable asking for such extensions than men.

The question is what is behind this dynamic? It has been found that women are more concerned than men about appearing incompetent and burdening other people with their requests. These concerns can increase feelings of guilt and undermine women’s willingness to ask for more time in order to complete projects and assignments. To retain top talent, it is critical that managers understand the dynamic that is occurring and encourage all of their team members especially women – to negotiate for more time when deadlines are flexible.

How Managers Can Deal With Deadlines

As a start, managers need to let your team members know when a deadline is flexible. I think that we all understand that many of our day-to-day work tasks are smaller tasks that do contribute to a larger goal, and can often be adjusted with minimal or no costs to the company. A good example of this type of work is when a manager may ask a team member to create a draft of a proposal by the end of the week for an event that’s will happen in a few months. Since there is extra time built into the proposal timeline, the employee’s initial deadline for the proposal draft can be adjusted. This is the kind of thing that is critical that managers communicate.

Managers need to let their team members know that asking for more time doesn’t signal incompetence but rather a commitment to high-quality work. Although worries about appearing incompetent and burdening colleagues can dissuade women from asking for more time, it has been found across multiple studies that such fears are unfounded. Indeed, women weren’t judged more harshly than men – even when adjusting a deadline incurred a direct cost to the manager. What’s more, it turns out that asking for more time can lead to better output.

Finally, the best policy for mangers is to enact a formal workplace policy on project extensions. It turns out that formal policies that make clear team members can request extensions without penalty. This serves to eliminate gender differences in extension requests and appears to improve the performance of women. With warnings of the great resignation in our midst, it is more important than ever that managers help team members help themselves. This can be done by encouraging team members to ask for the time they need to perform at their best.

What All Of This Means For You

A key part of the manager job is telling the members of our team when the work that they are working on will be due. This means that we need to set deadlines. However, we need to understand that deadlines can cause stress for the members of our team. In fact, deadlines may end up affecting women more then it affects men. What this means is that we need to be very careful in how we go about using deadlines in our work environment.

The pandemic had a disproportional impact on the amount of work that women had to do. Not only did the amount of work that they had to do at work increase, but they were also saddled with additional responsibilities at home. All of this is causing them to reconsider if they really want to put the time into coming to work. When presented with a deadline, women are more likely to not attempt to have it moved back than men are. Women don’t want to appear weak. Managers need to deal with this issue by making sure that our team members know when deadlines are flexible. We also have to let team members know that asking for additional time to complete a task doesn’t signal incompetence but rather a commitment to high-quality work. In the workplace, we need to enact a formal workplace policy on project extensions.

Understanding what the members of our team are going through currently is a key part of being a successful manager. We have to understand that when we have overworked or overwhelmed members of our team, we need to make sure that the deadlines that we assign to team members don’t contribute to their problems. Yes, deadlines are important. However, we need to work with the members of our team to make sure that they will be able to get work done when it is required. Take the time to properly set your deadlines and make life easier for the people on your team.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: When you change a deadline, do you think that you should tell the rest of the team that it has been changed?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

How easy is it for you to make up your mind on something? If you are like most of us, you can generally make a decision fairly fast; however, there will always be those times that you really have to spend some time thinking about something before you can decide how you want to handle it. Once you’ve made up your mind, do you generally stick with your decision? Depending on what kinds of outside pressures you are dealing with, this can be difficult to do. Just exactly how can a manager take a position and then actually stick with it?