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How to Miss a Deadline and Keep Your Career on Track


What’s that saying? Stuff happens. You’re a dependable planner, worker, and human, but stuff happens to everyone, and every once in a while, you’re probably going to miss a deadline. Here’s how to keep it from ruining your reputation and future job opportunities.

(Photo Credit: Simon Law/Flickr)

When you see it coming, make a call.

Don’t wait until the deadline’s come and gone to say, “Whoopsie. I’m going to be late.” As soon as you’re aware you’re going to miss it, let someone know. It might be time-sensitive and they’ll need to make adjustments. The more lead-time you can give, the better chance you have at looking like a person still in control of their time and worthy of trust, not just now but in the future.

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Give a “why.”

People want to know what’s happening. Let them know you have a family emergency or the power is out in your building. This can backfire if you go into too much detail or start blaming others for your lateness, though, so go easy. Simple is better. Stay professional and avoid looking like the type of person who doesn’t take responsibility for their own issues.

Let them know when.

Things will go more smoothly if you can let them know how much longer they’ll need to wait. One common pitfall is to try and make it seem like it will be sooner than it really will be. Don’t make the same mistake twice and miss a second deadline. Give a realistic time-frame that takes into account what’s taking your time and energy at the moment.

Offer a bonus.

Try sweetening the pot. It stinks you’re going to be late, but if you throw in a little something extra, it can go a long way. Adrian Granzella Larssen writes, “If you’re really putting someone in a tough place by missing a deadline, think about what you could offer that would make up for the inconvenience … You may be putting someone out once — but if you help him or her out in another way, that’s bound to leave a positive impression.”

Don’t make a habit of it.

The strategies that work once or maybe twice won’t be so endearing the third or fourth time around. If you find yourself habitually missing deadlines, the issue might really be you and your time management skills. Maybe it’s time for some introspection and new work habits.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you do when you know you’re going to miss a deadline? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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