my coworker follows up on projects way too much

A reader writes:

My team develops advertising, and we have deliverables due to other teams before each advertising change-out occurs. We have a very strict, ever-changing schedule of promotions, so the hand-off dates of our deliverables are very important to adhere to.

One of my peers who receives our hand-offs is a VERY excessive communicator. For about a month leading up to each hand-off date, we can expect near-daily emails from her, asking if it looks like we will make the expected date or not. Our response is always, “We’re working towards the agreed-upon date, and have not encountered any issues, so it looks like we’ll make it. We’ll confirm that with you a few days in advance.” If a problem does ever arise (rare, but happens a couple times per year), we are sure to communicate it proactively to her. Plus we’ve set up bi-weekly half-hour calls to give her the status on all hand-offs, in the hopes of reducing her excessive check-ins, but it hasn’t worked.

I think it may be some task-related anxiety that motivates her to check in so often, but frankly, it wastes her time and our time, and it’s really frustrating. I’ve gently suggested that she can wait until our calls to check in, but that has not worked. Do you have any advice on how to help her see that she can back down?

Wow, that’s annoying.

I think, though, that you might be being too gentle — probably because you are a polite person who cares about having good relationships with your coworkers. But you can be more direct here while still being a polite person who cares about relationships with your coworkers — and in fact, you really need to be more direct, because near-daily emails checking in over and over when she’s already been told you’re on track for a deadline aren’t really reasonable or okay.

So, here’s what I’d recommend:

First, change the language you’re using to respond to her check-ins. With a reasonable person, the language you’re using would get the message across, but it’s clearly not working with her — and it’s probably because it’s not concrete enough. You’re not saying “yes, we’re on-track for the deadline” or “yes, we’re going to meet the deadline.” You’re saying “we’re working toward it” — and for someone who’s this prone to worry, that’s leaving too much room for uncertainty.

So instead say this: “Yes, we will meet the deadline.”

If you’re thinking, “But it’s possible that something could come up and we won’t meet the deadline, and so we shouldn’t say yes with absolute certainty” — sure, if you were dealing with a reasonable person who can handle that kind of response. But you’re not. So for now, just give her the information she needs — you’re going to meet the deadline, because that’s what it looks like right now — and then let her know if there’s a point where that does look unlikely.

If you respond “Yes, we will meet the deadline” and then she emails you yet again the next day to ask about it, then say this: “Did you receive my email yesterday? We are on-track to meet the deadline. Is there something that’s making you concerned we won’t?”

And then at some point — maybe right now — you need to say this: “Jane, you check in on our progress almost daily, and it takes time away from our work to have to give such frequent status updates. Going forward, can we agree that you’ll assume we’re on track to meet deadlines until I tell you otherwise? If you need to check in on one of them, ideally it would wait for our biweekly calls, unless there’s some specific, and presumably rare, reason why it can’t. Would that work for you?” If she says no, say this, “Have we done something to make you worry our commitments to meet deadlines are unreliable? If so, we’d of course want to address that so that you don’t need to worry.”

And if she keeps up the constant checks after that, frankly I think you should feel free to ignore them, at least for a few days. By being so responsive and indulging her emotional needs around this stuff, you may be training her to continue doing it.

There’s also a point where it may make sense to take this to your boss, especially if her boss and your boss are the same person. It would be reasonable to say, “Jane is asking for near-daily updates, despite being assured repeatedly that we’ll make the deadlines. I’ve asked her to pull back but haven’t gotten through. Any chance you can talk to her about what’s going on?”

{ 217 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago

    Alison – would your advice change if Jane is asking for the daily updates because *her* supervisor is asking her for them?

    Reply
    1. Observer

      Well, I would assume that if this were the case, it would come up when the OP asks about the pattern. At which point the OP would need to have a conversation with their boss.

      Reply
    2. Hey-eh

      I’d also like to know this. I work as a research analyst, and when a survey is in field I work with recruiters who find the specific people we need to complete the surveys. Most of the time, I just check in every few days to see if they are having issues, we need to adjust quotas, etc. but I have one director who insists we send emails every single day (sometimes twice a day) to our recruiters when it’s one of her projects. It annoys me to have to send the emails (with her cc’d), so I can only imagine how annoying it is to our recruiters..

      Reply
      1. Clorinda

        Do you let the recruiters know at the beginning? “Our director would like to receive daily updates,” just so they expect it and they don’t have a “what fresh hell is this” reaction every time they get an email from you.

        Reply
        1. Yorick

          This is a good point. You could also have the recruiters send you a daily update instead of emailing every day asking if there are problems.

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        2. LQ

          Yeah just a heads up that this is expected would make this much less of a big deal. “Jane is a stickler for daily updates.” Ok then I know that I’ll have to do that. (Or decide if I have enough capital to push back or hate it enough to leave, but really? I’d just suck it up and send a 3 minute email every day.)

          Reply
      2. Anonymoose

        As another survey person (Qualtrics anyone?), that would drive me up the wall. I already hate how often I have to send reminders to recipients. Sending more reminders to the recruiters? They know their job, let them do it.

        Maybe you can have a similar conversation with her? Something along the lines of ‘Recruiters X and Y are always so responsive. Is there something about this process, particularly and their efforts, that you’re concerned with?’ to see her answer. If it’s just emotional neediness, maybe you can call up the recruiters and give them a heads up so they don’t feel YOU are doubting their abilities but that you have needy leadership, that way you continue to get the same great support without damaging your own credibility. But, you know, say it politically savvy (and verbally) so you can totally CYA. Ha.

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    3. Jubilance

      That was my first thought – that Jane’s leader/chain of command is asking her for updates constantly and that’s why she’s reaching out so often.

      Reply
      1. Anonymoose

        And it may even be an assumption on Jane’s part. Did her leader specifically ask her to email daily, or is her leader really just verbally asking ‘what’s the status’ and Jane decides to email, instead of simply responding with ‘no change’.

        Reply
    4. AKchic

      There are ways for subordinates to manage their bosses without harassing talent in other departments daily. Jane should learn how to do that.
      Anxious Boss (AB): “Jane! Find out if the teapot designers will have my new inverted flow ready by next month!”
      Jane: “but sir, we’ve asked them every day, remember?”
      AB: “I don’t care. This is important. I want them working on it. I don’t want them forgetting it. If they’re reminded daily, they’ll work on it daily. Maybe they’ll finish it *early*”
      (Brief Note: Yes, some people actually do think that by harassing the Talent daily in a “conscientious” way that only makes them seem efficient and eager, they can be a “helpful” pain in the tuchus rather than overbearing and rude and it provides an incentive to get their projects done early rather than on-time)
      Jane: “Okay, but they are going to get annoyed”
      AB: “Then they can complain to the CEO. This design is needed for the next Big Thing [TM] and everyone will get a bonus. Find out!”

      All Jane really needs to do, if she’s not required to cc her boss on everything, is to say she’s emailed and tell the boss that she’s confirmed that everything is still on schedule.
      I would also think that if it is an overbearing, dictatorial boss wanting to communicate through an assistant, Jane would have somehow intimated that she were asking on behalf of someone else, rather than for herself.

      Reply
      1. LurkNoMore

        uh…that would mean Jane is lying to her boss and if it ever came out that she didn’t follow up, it could be grounds for dismissal
        Jane should still follow up but let everyone know that it’s really her boss that’s pushing for these daily updates.

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        1. Anonymoose

          Yup.

          She should just try CALLING instead of emailing and maybe even telling the other department to feel free to ignore her status request emails until there’s an actual change. That is, if she doesn’t need to Cc her boss.

          Reply
      2. Clever Alias

        My boss has literally sat in my office and watched me while I made a phone call confirming (for the third time) that something was still on schedule because “three emails weren’t enough, it needs to be a phone call.” Needless to say, the person on the other end was confused and annoyed.

        There are some truly crazy bosses out there.

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        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          I’ve been there too which is why that was the first thought that popped in my head when I read the letter.

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          1. notanon

            I’ve worked with one of those, too, and it is really easy to convey that the crazy ain’t mine by stating “I’m here with Boss, and Boss would like to confirm the delivery is still on target.”

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        2. la bella vita

          Oh, I have been Jane because of my crazy ex-boss who would do things like tell me to email someone every hour on the hour until she responded (and call and leave a voicemail on the half hour) or set up twice daily status meetings for a tech fix that wouldn’t be released for months (we were not on the tech team, we were end users). It was bananas – I do not miss that crazy woman one little bit. I would have loved nothing more than for someone at or above her level to tell her (or better yet, her boss) that she needed to cut it out.

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          1. Beatrice

            Oh god, the “every hour update” mandate.

            I once had someone call me for hourly updates on an issue that I was working on my time off at home. It wasn’t even a problem I’d created – her department messed something up and then she was harassing me at home to fix it faster. I finally responded sharply enough that she hung up on me and wrote an email complaint to my boss instead (my boss did not care one teeny tiny bit.)

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      3. Bea

        I’ve had the bosses who could be stubborn selfish butts. I didn’t lie to them, they were too smart and I respected them more than that.

        I preferred to just tell the ppl I was pestering it was Boss being King Brat that day. Every time I disclosed that, I got a laugh and sympathetic confirmation we were still on track etc.

        Sometimes you can sweep something away and herd the cat like boss but it’s not worth losing their trust. That’s from years of tending to very amazingly pigheaded bosses.

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        1. AKchic

          This is exactly what I would be doing.

          “Boss is requesting this information.” Every. Single. Time. Put everything right back on the boss. S/he wants that info, fine. Make sure that Boss owns it.

          Reply
    5. SS Express

      This was my thought too. I used to have some pretty crap bosses who would ask me for constant status updates yet would never take my word for anything, so I had to “follow up” people about things that I already knew were on track and “double check” details and processes that I already understood inside out on pretty much a daily basis. However I made a point of saying things like “Boss has asked me for an update on the project. Can you please confirm it’s still on track so I can go back to her?” to make it clear that I did trust the person to stay on top of it and I wouldn’t have interrupted them if my boss hadn’t specifically instructed me.

      Reply
      1. Sam.

        My boss has been very needy and micromanagey lately (this can happen when he gets stressed out – he freaks out about everything he’s not actually handling himself and wants to be reassured that everything’s getting done) and I’ve been in a position to send a couple such messages lately. My original response (something like, “I assume it’s on track. They planned to finish X by Friday and haven’t indicated that anything’s delayed that.”) bought maybe two days before he asked again. That time, I actually followed up and asked, and you better believed I blamed him. They rolled their eyes (they’ve had to deal with this from him before) and gave me what he wanted, so relatively painless but obnoxious nonetheless.

        Reply
  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    I have a coworker who does this, and it is beyond obnoxious and eats up a significant amount of time that I would spend actually doing my work so it gets to her on time. She does not respond to the scripts that Alison has provided, or to an in-person discussion/confrontation about the behavior. We don’t have the same boss, but we’re also in an institution where her manager is fairly terrible and isn’t going to do anything, anyway.

    I straight up ignore her emails or slow-walk my response time (we’re not in the same building), which I know is somewhat discourteous. So, OP, it might make sense to slow down your response time. For example, maybe your response to her comes in at the end of the work day or the following day. Maybe you just send your “we’ll let you know” email and ignore all other status request emails from her. Or you could give her a weekly check-in, instead, and routinize that into your correspondence…

    Reply
    1. Hills to Die on

      I have also found that repeating the same short script works well. “We are on track. I will let you know if anything changes.” Sent daily will get the message across well.

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      1. Rosemary7391

        Needn’t even be that long… my supervisor is known for sending one word emails, works very well. “Yes” is a complete email.

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        1. lulu

          That would be my advice. “does it look like you will make the deadline or not”. “yes”. then follow up using Alison’s script next time she asks.

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          1. Flash Bristow

            Well that just leads to “yes what? Yes you will or yes you won’t?” To which my pedant of a husband would respond “Yes, it’s one of those.”

            Infuriating! Keep the response short, even terse – but make it explicit so there’s no opportunity for the asker to bother you further.

            Ugh. OP you have my sympathy. I’ve had calls when trying to deal with an outage where I’ve had to say “um – no offence, but while I’m on the phone to you, I’m not fixing the problem. I’ll be in touch as soon as there’s any news, but I need to crack on with work now…”

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    1. Troutwaxer

      I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I think every email should be answered with, “We will let you know if there are any problems, and of course we can discuss your concerns at the bi-weekly meeting. Thanks.”

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        1. Pollygrammer

          I might even go briefer: “Everything is on schedule and we’ll update you at the bi-weekly meeting.” And yeah, copy-paste. This kind of hassling doesn’t warrant thoughtful response.

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          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

            I wonder if there’s some kind of an auto-response feature that could be set up for this?

            Reply
  3. Wannabe Disney Princess

    This made me shudder. I had a coworker who used to do this. And if I didn’t respond quickly (within the hour), he’d send another one. I tried the scripts. I tried being blunt. I tried ignoring him. The only thing that seems to slow him down, is attaching the previous email where I/whoever confirmed it and just saying: “Please see attached.” Still wastes time, but it’s about the only thing that worked.

    Reply
    1. Arya Snark

      This is what I do with a similar situation. In my case, we both report to the same person but I am senior to the annoying co-worker. Our boss has the same issue with Mr. Annoying’s constant need for reassurance so I know I can get away with forwarding the last message I sent or, when it’s particularly excessive, ignoring his emails all together.

      The best part is that when I do send out whatever it is he’s needing, I get no response back for the up to a day of work I’ve put into his request. Not a follow up question, sales status update or even a thank you.

      Reply
        1. MCM

          Such a pain. His boss needs to talk to him about the hostility also. You’re supposed to play nice with each other. We are taught that has kids most of the times, than people forget once they get in the work place.

          Sometimes I feel like I work with a bunch of kindergarteners.

          Reply
    2. ExceptionToTheRule

      The person in our office who is prone to this behavior will send you an email and whether you answer her or not, will come find you in person & explain said email. Then send another email.

      After 20 years of it, I’m just plain rude. The more she pesters me about something, the slower I roll it.

      Reply
  4. Otterbaby

    I’d be very tempted to create 2 or 3 different outlook signatures that say the same thing but in different wording, alternate them throughout the week, and see how long it takes her to notice.

    Reply
    1. Turquoisecow

      Oh, that’s a good idea. Have a template ready to go, so you don’t have to type out the answer everytime.

      Also, do you have a calendar for these things? Like “day two – do x, day 3 – do y, day 12 – pass on file to [coworker]” which is basically the same timeline for similar projects? When I worked with advertising, they had a similar calendar timeline for every project, and if you weren’t sure what still needed to be done, you could check the calendar. It was just a matter of lining up the days so that “day 12” translated to “June 14th” or whatever.

      If so, send this calendar with all your responses as well. Make the template say “we are on track per the calendar. See attached.”

      Reply
      1. TKMG

        Hi! OP here. Yes, we have a very detailed calendar of the advertising refreshes, and with specific due dates for each type of deliverable (TV, vs radio, vs digital) for this co-worker that are agreed-upon in advance. So ideally I can just say to her, “Yes, we are on track to meet all the due dates for the next refresh, per the agreed calendar”, and that would be enough. But I am seeing a lot of commenters who have dealt with similar personality types, and unfortunately, she just continues to follow up again and again.

        Reply
    2. Oxford Coma

      Auto-reply with a generically applicable response, set to answer only to her e-mail address. Even better if she asks something off-the-wall and still gets the same phrase in return.

      (Do not actually do this.)

      Reply
  5. NicoleK

    My coworker does this. She’ll ask me to do task x. And then follow up the next day. She does this to other people too. Her reasoning: to make people feel for her so they’ll work on her tasks right away. It drives me crazy. Sometimes I’ll ignore her email.

    Reply
    1. Pollygrammer

      If that manipulative behavior hasn’t already backfired, it’s probably going to backfire any day now. In your position I would probably share that information with my colleagues, too. Because I’m petty like that.

      Reply
    2. tangerineRose

      Yeah, when people have too much to do, they might think “If I work on co-worker’s stuff first, at least she’ll stop e-mailing me”, OR they might think “I’m going to work on anyone’s stuff except that co-worker – I don’t want to reward what she’s doing.”

      Reply
    3. Blue

      Sending me multiple messages in 24 hours about the same non-urgent thing with no new information added is guaranteed to slow my response time. Guaranteed. I will sit on it on principle, at least until the end of the day. (If it’s urgent, I’d obviously get to it right away, but the people inclined to do this to me are rarely working on anything time-sensitive.)

      Reply
  6. MakesThings

    This behavior drives me absolutely nuts. The underlying implication is that she doesn’t trust you to do your job, and that is hugely disrespectful.

    Reply
    1. Seriously?

      Not necessarily. Sometimes projects are delayed. Jane doesn’t trust that the deadline will be met, not that the OP can’t do their job. Since deadlines are sometimes missed, that is not entirely unreasonable. It is excessive and they do need to talk about why she is asking so frequently. If there is a legitimate reason, then they can work out an update system that works better for both of them. If not, then hopefully talking about the impact it has on productivity will help cut down on the status update requests.

      Reply
      1. MLB

        Saying that they do not trust a deadline will be met is inherently saying that she doesn’t trust that they can do their job. Unless deadlines are missed frequently, she has no reason to be concerned. The daily emails are obnoxious and unnecessary.

        Reply
        1. Fiennes

          IMO it doesn’t inherently say she doesn’t trust OP to do her job; a lot of factors external to OP’s team may have impact on deadlines, perhaps beyond anyone’s control. However, since those factors are either external or unpredictable (or both!), in that scenario the coworker’s emails would be even more useless.

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    2. MicroManaged But No More

      I don’t think it’s that personal. I hate to be “micro-managed.” If a boss asks for a task/report/output by a certain day, I provide updates that I”m either not going to meet or will meet the deadline. I stay ahead of the asking. But, also, as someone who is responsible for making sure other get their tasks done in a VERY schedule related world, I have been burned more than once by subordinates who do not complete work on time, are not communicative about their progress and don’t understand they need to do a better job with their time management. I try not to make it part of my daily routine with every person who could report to me to do daily updates with them but I have noticed in past supervisors that how other subordinates behave reflects on to me and how I’m treated. The OPs peer could have had similar experiences with others and isn’t trustful. Sometimes, when it’s your butt on the line you’re doing what you can to make sure it’s the one not bitten in to.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        But, also, as someone who is responsible for making sure other get their tasks done in a VERY schedule related world, I have been burned more than once by subordinates who do not complete work on time, are not communicative about their progress and don’t understand they need to do a better job with their time management.

        Right, and therefore you don’t trust them to do their jobs. That’s exactly what MakesThings is saying. If someone’s given you a reason to believe they’re consistently unreliable, then the follow up is justifiable. But in the OP’s case where issues are pretty few and far between, it is insulting and disrespectful to treat them the same way you’d treat someone who’s causing problems much more frequently.

        Reply
  7. Granny K

    Have you thought about having an internal tracking sheet, say in wiki, Jira, Confluence or some other tool? It would be easy to create and update a sheet with green, yellow and red status. This would reduce the amount of emails (at least for status checks). Also, people outside your timezone can get immediate answers while you are asleep.

    Reply
    1. Perse's Mom

      You’d think, but for people like this, it probably won’t.

      We have a ticketing system at work. Literally every employee can access it to check on the status of various pieces of work. And yet I still get emails every day asking when X will be done… at which point I go look up X in our ticketing system and find out it was done two days ago.

      Reply
      1. Arya Snark

        An that’s when I’d reply with, “I don’t know off the top of my head, have you checked the ticket?”

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        1. AnonEMoose

          Me, too. They’re asking because it’s easier for them. If they get redirected to the system they’re supposed to be using, instead of getting the answer, eventually they might just start going to the system first.

          I have coworkers in another department who have a bad habit of defaulting to emailing or calling me for updates on stuff. Not only do I not really have time for this (because there are a bunch of them and one of me), but any updates I have are in the system. So I basically just tell them “have you checked X? Any updates will be there.” It’s helping. Slowly. It takes time, and some still get a bit snippy at being redirected. But it is helping.

          Reply
    2. Geneva

      Not necessarily. I’m in the same situation as OP, and having a tracker has created more opportunity for micromanagement. Now I’m getting, “have you put it in the tracker?” emails on top of everything else.

      But what has been working is being proactive to the point of micromanaging back. Like….”Do you have everything you need?”, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”, “What’s the status on X?”, “What can I do to help moving things forward?” I think it puts the pressure back on them.

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    3. TKMG

      Hi Granny K! OP here. That’s an awesome idea, and I am all for it. Unfortunately I’ve found that this coworker is not very tech-literate, and has trouble understanding the program we use for collaborative documents (like Google Docs). It is a good suggestion, and perhaps I’ll see if she’s open to a short training session to get her comfortable with simply checking a shared status doc, instead of following up with myself & my team members so often.

      Reply
    1. Sarah

      I’ve had to point this out to people before – I can do the work they need me to do faster if I am not also telling them that I am doing the work.

      “But it just takes two seconds!”

      “Yes, and I’m currently working on things for 14 different groups. If each person in that group also checked in and only took two seconds, I wouldn’t have a lot of time left to actually do my work. I will let you know if we are not going to meet the deadline, and I will tell you that as soon as I think it might be an issue. From now on, no news from me is good news.”

      Reply
        1. AnonEMoose

          THIS. Depending on what I’m doing, their “two seconds” can cost me 15 minutes or more. Because I have stop what I was doing, figure out what their question is, find the answer and answer them, and then try to figure out where I was when I got interrupted.

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          1. Sarah

            As a process improvement person, it is *possible* that I once timestamped one of these “quick” requests. Maybe.

            Then I turned it into a project that is literally the top bullet on my resume for that job, but it definitely started with me being super annoyed by requests like this and getting kinda petty.

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            1. AnonEMoose

              LOL! Maybe it makes me kind of petty, too, but I love this SO MUCH. Because I’ve had people get all huffy at being redirected to the resource they should have been using in the first place. And it’s usually some version of “well, it’s just a quick question!” Or “Well, I just wanted to see if there was anything more…” when they should definitely know better than that.

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    2. eplawyer

      My response would be similar “I can work on the project and meet the deadline OR I can answer your emails asking for status, I cannot do both.”

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      1. ThursdaysGeek

        I call that the Business Corollary to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. You can make progress on the task but not know the exact status OR you can know the exact status, but it stops progress on the task.

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    3. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)

      I’d be really tempted to add a loop counter such as “as mentioned last Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 9.30 and 17.45, we are on time to meet the agreed deadline”.

      Reply
  8. KHB

    I wonder if Jane’s anxiety here is really as unwarranted as it’s being made out to be. The OP says that problems arise “a couple times per year,” which she classifies as “rare,” but from Jane’s point of view, it may not be all that rare. (If OP’s team missing a deadline means that Jane needs to clear her schedule and work all weekend to make up for it, for example, I wouldn’t blame her for feeling constantly anxious about that.)

    Even in that case, though, the near-daily check-ins are still a problem, but that’s just because they’re ineffective at getting Jane the information she needs. But then they need to be approached from the standpoint of “How DO we get Jane the information she needs?” (or maybe, if applicable, “How can our team be more reliable about meeting our scheduled hand-off dates?”) rather than “How do we get Jane to STFU?”

    Reply
    1. LBK

      I mean, they’re already having bi-weekly check-ins. What more does she need? And if the few times they do miss the deadline are cases where you won’t know it until it’s really close to the end, then Jane pestering them in the entire run up to it is still a waste of everyone’s time.

      Reply
    2. eplawyer

      Twice a year with a constant changover schedule is not that much. If Jane were ALWAYS having to work weekends to make up for late deliverables but maybe twice a year does not sound like it should raise major flags that you have to annoy your coworkers to make sure its gets done. Twice a year sounds like hey sometimes life happens. Which would happen whether she checked in or not.

      Reply
      1. KHB

        Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the world of advertising. What does “constant changeover” mean in terms of an absolute number of new projects per year? From OP’s mention that her team has each of these projects for at least a month, I’m assuming (maybe wrongly) that there are fewer than 12 per year, which means they’re missing deadlines more than 16% of the time. In my field (again, not advertising) that would be inexcusable.

        Working all weekend twice a year isn’t that much, but when you never know which weekend it’s going to be because there’s always a significant chance that a problem would come up at the last minute, it makes it hard to make plans for yourself.

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          1. LBK

            Twice a year really doesn’t sound that awful, especially since my understanding is that advertising is generally a field with fairly grueling schedules so this should be par for the course.

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            1. KHB

              “Working all weekend” is a hypothetical consequence that I made up. I don’t know what the consequences are for Jane when OP’s team misses their deadlines, and OP might not know either. If that’s the case, that would be a reasonable place to start in opening a dialogue about this.

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            2. Yorick

              Maybe you’re right, since I’m not in advertising. But for me, even one time of canceling evening or weekend plans to finish this project because Fergus sent me his part two days later than we agreed on is kinda too much.

              Reply
              1. Jadelyn

                I feel like you’re brushing the line of “expecting superhuman perfection from your very human colleagues” with taking a hard line of “even one time is too much”. Nobody likes having to cancel plans and work late or whatever, but sometimes things happen despite the best efforts of everyone involved – computer problems, a vendor didn’t provide their deliverable, someone got in a car accident and couldn’t finish their part of the deliverable, whatever – and just because it happened on Fergus’ segment of the project doesn’t mean it’s something Fergus specifically did to you. So to then go from “I had to cancel plans and work late once because I got Fergus’ deliverable 2 days late” to “I need to check in with Fergus about the project status every single day to make sure that never happens again” strikes me as being a bit over-the-top.

                Reply
                1. KHB

                  This kind of thing is so context dependent, though. In some fields, apparently the occasional snafu of this nature is to be tolerated. In others, you’re expected to build a certain level of resilience into your procedures so that you can still meet your deadlines even if things go moderately wrong. Of course, it’s always possible that things can go more severely wrong than you anticipated, but that’s a once-every-several-years level situation, at most.

                  I’m thinking back to a former colleague of mine. When everything on his projects went perfectly according to plan, he’d just barely finish in time. But whenever anything went wrong, he’d fall far behind. Each individual case of “things going wrong” looked like a legitimate excuse, and maybe one or two of them might have been, but in aggregate, it was a big problem. And you could tell because nobody else in an equivalent position came anywhere close to his level of unreliability – and it’s hardly because we were all examples of superhuman perfection.

              2. Susan Sto Helit

                Fergus sending in his part two days late should /never/ result in someone having to work a whole weekend when you’re working to a schedule like that – it would be insane for any company. People get sick, technical malfunctions happen, random unforseeable things cause delays, but those should all be built into a schedule as cushioning because you might not be able to forsee what a delay might be, but you can be pretty certain that at some point in any project there will be delays. If your schedule can’t handle a deliverable being two days late, whoever is doing your scheduling is doing it wrong.

                That’s not to say it’s ok for people to be blase about dates – it’s important that everyone do their very best to stick to their deliverable dates. But schedules should allow them to do so. If there’s been a problem at Fergus’s end, Jane’s part of the project should have enough time built into it at source that it can handle a delay of a couple of days (I’d generally say of up to a week, but wouldn’t expect longer than that).

                There are always going to be the occasional down-to-the-wire projects where everyone is on a super-tight timeline and any delay, of even a day, is going to have ramifications, but there’s no way that should be a company norm.

                Reply
              3. Yorick

                It’s not a good thing, but many companies create very tight schedules. You may estimate 5 weeks to complete your part of the project, but they only give you 3. But instead of receiving what you need and starting on day 1, Fergus gets it to you on day 4. Now you have to work around the clock because if you don’t finish by the deadline, the project won’t be ready for release on its scheduled day and you could be fired/won’t get a raise or promotion/will get yelled at/whatever.

                And even if Fergus is overall pretty reliable, if you’re the person who gets his late stuff a couple of times a year, you’re likely to perceive him as being kinda late.

                Reply
      2. LBK

        Which would happen whether she checked in or not.

        Yeah, that’s the other thing – what does she even gain by doing this, since it sounds like it’s not a problem until it is, and the OP is informing her as soon as they realize there’s going to be an issue? All she’s doing is driving herself and everyone else crazy while not actually getting any meaningful results out of this follow-up.

        Reply
        1. Yorick

          Maybe this behavior has accidentally gotten reinforced before. A scenario like:

          OP notices there is a delay
          OP opens email to send an update to Jane
          OP sees Jane’s daily “are we on schedule?” email and responds that there is a delay

          If something like that happened, maybe Jane doesn’t fully understand that she’ll get updates about any delays without sending a million status requests

          Reply
    3. Observer

      The OP ALSO says that they proactively communicate that when it happens. Also, someone’s anxiety is theirs to manage and this constant anxiety about possibly needing to work a week end is a bit of an outlier. I’m not saying that having to unexpectedly work over the weekend a couple of times a year is great or the Jane needs to be ok with it. But, the anxiety level you are suggesting is really on her. (Even if her particular circumstances make it more reasonable than most, that’s still her particular issue.)

      It’s also a stretch that she is being stuck with unexpected overtime and weekend work twice a year. For one thing missed deadlines don’t necessarily mean that kind of repercussion. Also, if the OP misses hand off deadline 2-3 times a year and there are multiple people who get these hand offs, it’s a huge stretch to think that SHE is getting stuck with this twice a year.

      Reply
    4. AthenaC

      I’m also wondering if Jane is effectively responsible when deadlines are missed, or if it’s perceived by her boss as “Jane’s fault” for not following up enough. I’m further wondering if Jane has been burned before by teams (not the OP’s team necessarily) who say, every day, “Yes we’re on track to make the deadline!” and then precisely 0.85 days before the deadline all of a sudden there is a completely foreseeable issue that the team knew about 3 weeks ago that causes the team to miss the deadline and causes Jane ungodly amounts of work.

      If OP’s team is truly as reliable as indicated in the letter, one would hope that Jane would relax a bit and be able to trust the OP’s team. But then again I’ve been in shoes similar to Jane and it sucks to trust your coworkers only to be the one holding the bag when things fall through and, to add insult to injury, it’s Jane’s “fault” for not more aggressively “managing the process.”

      I think Alison’s suggestion about taking it to Jane’s boss is a good idea for both sides – on the one hand, hopefully OP gets fewer annoying emails from Jane, and also Jane can get confirmation from her boss about what her expectations are regarding Jane’s responsibilities related to following up with OP’s team.

      Good luck, OP!

      Reply
      1. Tardigrade

        Even if that’s true – and I’m not buying it, frankly – Jane then needs to address that issue directly. Her behaviour as described doesn’t solve that problem, but it does cause issues for colleagues, makes her look bad, and sours relationships. If Jane does have an actual problem with the OP’s team’s reliability, this is not an effective or reasonable strategy!

        But my money is on the team being fine and communicating perfectly well, and Jane having developed this habit for reasons that are wholly about her own issues.

        Reply
        1. AthenaC

          Because in that scenario (which may just be more common in my job than others), being able to show your higher-ups that you followed up every day (regardless of how effective that behavior is) serves to cover your ass and show that you “did everything you could.”

          To be clear, I’m completely in agreement that Jane’s behavior as described by the OP isn’t effective teamworking behavior, but I also think KHB has the right idea with regard to addressing the source of the behavior. If there’s stressors on Jane’s end essentially forcing this behavior, no amount of “Jane, stop it!” is going to stop it.

          Reply
        2. AthenaC

          Also, Jane isn’t the one that wrote in. The OP did. It might be true that “Jane needs to address that issue directly” but until she does, we’re still advising the OP who is dealing with Jane.

          Reply
      2. Dame Judi Brunch

        I was wondering about perception too.

        At Old Toxic Job, everything was my fault, no matter what. Issues beyond my control that would have required a crystal ball to foresee, or mistakes made by me or others, it didn’t matter. If it was determined I was not following up with others enough, hell would break loose. Emails were my proof that I did my job.

        It was so annoying and frustrating to do that to people. I did my best to not bug people, but sometimes had no choice if I wanted to avoid consequences.

        However if things went right, I never got credit for that!

        Hope it gets better for you!

        Reply
      3. smoke tree

        My job involves trying to keep projects on schedule, and it can be pretty frustrating to feel like you’re responsible for an outcome that is more or less out of your hands. But even with contributors who have proven themselves to be consistently bad with deadlines, I don’t badger them every day for no reason, since that would pretty quickly erode our working relationship. I just give them fake deadlines.

        Reply
    5. Lance

      Even in those cases, though, OP states that they proactively contact Jane whenever something comes up. So even then, I feel like anyone reasonable wouldn’t find it warranted to nag the team daily to see whether anything’s come up.

      Reply
      1. Seriously?

        Although I wonder when she contacts Jane. Does Jane get an update when it looks like the deadline might be missed or is OPs team overly optimistic until the day before the deadline? Does the missed deadline result in wasted time for Jane that she could use on another project if she knows that the deadline might be missed?

        Reply
        1. KHB

          Very much this – thank you. Just because OP’s being “proactive” doesn’t mean that she’s being as proactive as she could be. For whatever reason, OP’s team’s procedures are not working for Jane, and it’s work asking themselves whether they could be doing anything differently that would work better. Maybe that means being more vigilant about developing problems so that Jane can have more notice when there are delays. Or maybe that means redoubling their efforts to keep even the twice-yearly problems from happening in the first place.

          Or maybe OP’s team is already doing everything perfectly and Jane is just crazy. But that’s not always the best assumption to start from.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            For whatever reason, OP’s team’s procedures are not working for Jane, and it’s work asking themselves whether they could be doing anything differently that would work better.

            But I think this presumes that Jane is rational. Some people are just neurotic and/or are butting in for unjustifiable reasons. I’ve had people who tried to co-opt a project of mine that they had nothing to do with by acting as though they were managing me – checking in on deadlines, giving unsolicited suggestions, etc. There was no valid reason for it other than a power play of trying to act like they had something to do with a very high-visibility task that I’d be doing just fine on for years without their involvement.

            The solution to that wasn’t to give in to their prying. It was to tell them to eff off.

            Reply
            1. KHB

              As has already been pointed out to you, though, this isn’t a project that Jane has nothing to do with. She’s receiving the OP’s team’s deliverables, so she DOES have a legitimate interest in whether their work is getting done on time. Her daily check-ins are ineffective and problematic, to be sure, and for that reason the OP needs to sit down with her and come up with a better procedure for communicating. But she’s not “prying” and she doesn’t need to “eff off.”

              Reply
          2. Jadelyn

            Given that it’s explicitly asked of commenters here that we take the OPs at their word, I feel like if we have to choose between taking OP’s word that they are truly being proactive vs speculating that Jane may have a reason for her behavior, we should err on the side of taking OP at her word.

            Reply
            1. AthenaC

              I believe the OP that they proactively communicate, but I still think it’s a fair question as to how Jane knows that from the outside. Assuming, of course, that it’s the reason or one of the reasons Jane is asking so frequently for status updates.

              Reply
              1. smoke tree

                I can’t imagine that there is really a legitimate need for daily status updates, unless the situation is particularly high-stakes, which I assume the LW would have mentioned. It sounds like they do have regular meetings, so to me this sounds like it’s more likely a case of Jane’s anxiety manifesting in an unproductive way. But I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to bring it up at their next meeting and ask Jane why she keeps checking in.

                Reply
    6. LQ

      I also wonder if the projects overall are only being missed rarely, but all those projects (for whatever reason, maybe even a really good one) are Jane’s, then Jane’s check ins make sense. And Jane might only have a couple projects a year (depending on how this lays out) so that might make it seem to her like everything. I’d definitely look at are all those misses Jane’s. (And then maybe a “hey, Wakeen’s projects are always at the top of the list and if one of his come in we’ll let you know, but otherwise we get them done,” might go a long way. Understanding why she gets bumped (if that does happen) can help and can give her a reason to report back.)

      Reply
      1. Fiennes

        I wonder whether there’s another team reporting to Jane that *does* constantly miss deadlines, which means she’s now paranoid about it to the point of checking in with everyone every day—even with people like OP, who regularly make their deadlines. It doesn’t change Alison’s advice, but it might be good to know whether Jane is a chronic worrier/micromanager, or whether there are other issues.

        Reply
    7. TKMG

      Hi KHB! OP here. You have a really great point – there have been occasions in the past with late deliverables that have likely caused some of this woman’s anxiety, but improvements have been made in the last 2 years and we’ve greatly reduced the amount of late hand-offs. Also, no extra work is involved for Jane (or anyone else) when a hand-off is late – it just means that her partners are unable to advertise a certain message on the day it launches, and instead begin to advertise it a few days late. I understand that this can be stressful but it’s somewhat the nature of a quick-turn promotional business like ours.

      Reply
  9. LBK

    I agree that asking if there’s some reason she’s concerned they won’t meet the deadline is the way to go – I’ve had coworkers who were this aggressive about wanting to know how projects were going and that’s how I fended them off, because they had to confess that they didn’t have any good reason other than being nosy. It’s so frustrating and frankly kind of insulting because it implies you can’t handle your job.

    Reply
    1. KHB

      That only works, though, if you have a stellar track record of meeting your deadlines, which it sounds like OP’s team doesn’t necessarily have. It’s no use being insulted that people think you don’t always meet your deadlines if in fact you don’t always meet your deadlines.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        You mean that if someone makes ONE mistake that means that their record is soooo poor that you need to micromanage them? That’s pretty much what you seem to be saying here – twice a year with this kind of schedule is not a lot. Given that those rare failures are also being proactively communicated, it’s really not fact based to claim that they have a poor record.

        Reply
            1. KHB

              It’s not “nitpicky and literal” to point out that there’s a salient difference between ONE mistake and a pattern of mistakes. In my field, twice a year constitutes a pattern. I’m commenting in good faith here.

              Reply
              1. LBK

                I don’t understand how twice a year would constitute a pattern unless you’re only doing something, like, five times a year.

                I guess it would be helpful if the OP chimed in to clarify what percentage of the overall projects “a couple” constitutes here, because generally speaking I don’t think doing some twice a year is enough for a pattern. I definitely mess something up at least twice a year and to my knowledge no one has written me off as unreliable as a result.

                Reply
                1. Guacamole Bob

                  Yeah, if they’re doing a bunch of projects and twice a year one of the approvers swoops in with major changes to the ad copy at the last minute or the print shop has some sort of backlog or they’re updating the software on the ad display screen system and the specs for the files changed, I’m not too surprised at “problems arising” a couple of times per year. That doesn’t necessarily mean a missed deadline or that someone messed up – but it does mean that a couple of times a year OP would need to give Jane a heads up about something.

                2. TKMG

                  Hi LBK and KHB! OP here.
                  We refresh ads on an inconsistent basis (i.e., it’s not every 15 days or a regular schedule). Some time periods are short and others are long. There are typically between 15 – 20 full advertising refreshes per year, with occasional ad-hoc refreshes more frequently (not a full messaging overhaul, but a change to one or two deliverables, like a radio swap when TV/digital/newspaper stay the same).
                  And as mentioned in a comment further up this thread, while it sucks when we’re late on a hand-off, since that means the new message isn’t going out right on time, it doesn’t involve any extra work for Jane or her partners. It just means they have a short gap in messaging.

              2. Observer

                Two mistakes in dozens (if you read what the OP says, it’s clear that they generally have multiple projects going, so that has to be dozens) is hardly a “pattern”. And that’s what I’m addressing. The idea that occasional mistakes need to be treated like a pattern that requires ineffective micromanagement is really corrosive.

                Reply
                1. LBK

                  Yeah, I mean, we’re talking PIP-level micromanagement here. You only check in with someone daily if you’re on the road to firing them.

          1. MamaGanoush

            The delay may not be through any mistake of the OP/OP’s team. If not, then there’s no reason for Jane to check in daily. And again, OP is keeping Jane informed frequently already.

            OP needs a canned email response to Jane, if other efforts don’t make her stop: Yes, we will make the deadline. We will discuss the project in detail at our next biweekly meeting. (Or, details about the project’s progress are in the status report.) Send the same email every time.

            Reply
          2. Myrin

            In addition to what LBK and Observer said, I was referring to the latter’s saying “ONE mistake” and your answering that twice a year is more than one mistake, because, well, it’s still only one mistake more than one single mistake, and also people often say “that happened once” when technically it’s happened three times but they want to stress the rarity. That’s what I meant by “too literal”.

            Reply
      2. Lance

        That seems… more than a little unfair to the OP, especially given the point of proactively contacting Jane should a snag arise, and, from the sound of things, only missing a deadline (if, indeed, the problems mentioned even mean the deadline was missed) very, very rarely.

        Reply
      3. LBK

        “A couple times a year” is not enough of a track record to do this level of insane follow-up, unless there’s only, like, 3 projects a year and they’re blowing the deadline on 2 of them.

        Reply
      4. Myrin

        From this comment and the one above, it seems that you’re quite focused on the fact that OP’s work doesn’t run 100% smoothly “a couple times per year”, which I think is a bit unwarranted – she doesn’t even say they fail their deadline on the rare occasions she mentions, only that “problems arise” sometimes, which seems completely normal to me. We’re also asked to take OPs at their word, so I think we should believe her that when she says that this constitutes as “rare” regarding her work (as opposed to, say, they only ever have to meet four deadlines all year and two of those they don’t meet; that’s still only “a couple” but also half!), that means that it is indeed rare.

        (Apart from that, I also don’t think your reasoning here is sound – asking someone if there’s a reason they’re concerned deadlines won’t be met doesn’t only work if you have a stellar track record for meeting deadlines. In fact, I’d say that’s a case where that question can bring issues to light in an excellent manner, because then your counterpart can answer “is there a reason?” with “YES, reason being that you miss your deadlines 8 out of 10 times!”)

        Reply
        1. LBK

          In fact, I’d say that’s a case where that question can bring issues to light in an excellent manner, because then your counterpart can answer “is there a reason?” with “YES, reason being that you miss your deadlines 8 out of 10 times!”

          Right – if there’s a meaningful answer to be had to the question of why they’re concerned about missing the deadline, then that’s valuable information worth discerning. But in my experience, more often than not it’s just them projecting their own anxiety and nosiness without any real action item beyond momentary emotional relief.

          Reply
      5. KRM

        But twice a year is hardly not always meeting your deadlines. If issues crop up only a couple times a year AND they are very communicative when that issue happens, this anxiety is all on Jane.

        Reply
      6. Christmas Carol

        Just because you couldn’t meet a deadline, doesn’t mean you made a mistake. I remember a shipment once that a customer tried to penalize me for as being “late.” We shipped on the agreed date, but my truck driver refused to drive into a hurricane. When he did arrive, two days “late” the customers receiving terminal was no longer in existence. Somehow, this “Act of God” was declared to be my fault.

        Reply
        1. Guacamole Bob

          Less clear-cut and dramatic, but we have a deadline that is sometimes in danger of not being met because we have to take data from one of our systems, export it and send it to the vendor, and then take what they send back and upload it into a different system (don’t get me started on why this is our process. They’re supposed to be fixing it, but we’re stuck with it for now). We can do everything right on our end, but if the vendor screws up it’s a fire drill to get it resolved. Sure, it’s on the vendor relationship manager to be sure it all happens right, but if it doesn’t it doesn’t necessarily mean that he made a mistake or is bad at his job.

          Reply
        2. Susan Sto Helit

          Yep, I’ve been at a company that got penalized for lateness because the shipment went out on time, but was on a train that derailed and shed its containers. Then you have the unexpected container ship fires, industrial strikes in other countries…sometimes shit just happens.

          Reply
    2. Yorick

      Not that I agree at all with sending all these emails, but I don’t think it’s accurate to characterize someone who wants to know about the status of their project as “nosy.”

      Reply
      1. LBK

        It’s nosy insofar as there’s no reason for her to ask this frequently except to satisfy her own curiosity. If she has no reason to believe otherwise, she doesn’t need to know literally every day that the project is still on track; at that point you’re asking information about someone’s day-to-day work beyond the level at which you have a reasonable expectations to know, which I’d characterize as nosy.

        Reply
    3. Specialk9

      I’m not sure “nosy” is the word – nosy means putting your nose where it doesn’t belong, where it’s not your business.

      Clearly the person managing a process has business to be talking about the process. Her frequency is out of whack with expectations, and she’s in “micromanaging” territory, but she’s certainly not “nosy” for doing her job.

      Reply
  10. Yams

    Goodness, I don’t have advice just commiseration. I have two internal customers who do the exact same thing. It drives me insane. One time they had an “emergency,” I was working on it, and they would not stop calling me requesting updates (literally three times in 5 minutes), naturally, I could not finish what they needed since I wasted so much time just dealing with them.
    They also like to go whine to my boss whenever I don’t reply to their emails within the hour. I hate them so much.

    Reply
    1. ginger ale for all

      You should google the words ‘interruption 23 minutes’ to see articles on why each interruption costs you twenty three minutes to get back into the groove and then e-mail those pests your favorite article from the google choices the next time they interrupt you.

      Reply
  11. Celeste

    Sometimes people think this kind of hypervigilance is a sign that they are being great at their job. I agree that it’s time she is told directly that her behavior needs to change.

    Reply
  12. Future Homesteader

    As someone with anxiety, all I have to say is: there but for the grace of god (and SSRIs) go I. OP, you’ve been wonderfully compassionate. That said…
    ***caveat to all of this – only applies if this is indeed an anxiety thing***
    Alison’s scripts are actually a great way to deal with it. Being firm and to the point will help her, not hurt her. Reassurance often doesn’t help when someone is anxious (in the clinical sense), it just leads to more reassurance-seeking. So please feel enormously free to withdraw that reassurance, because it’s not your job and ultimately it won’t do any good. She needs to handle these anxieties on her own, you can’t do it for her.

    Reply
    1. Zona the Great

      While incredibly kind and thoughtful, I don’t think we should get in the habit of assuming others have a condition that makes them unable to function professionally and reasonably. Always assume positive intent–even if that means assuming that others can handle normal daily interactions.

      Reply
      1. SarahTheEntwife

        I agree, but I don’t think Future Homesteader’s suggestion is doing that. If the LW’s boss has anxiety, being firm and to-the-point rather than giving excessive reassurances will probably be beneficial. If the LW’s boss doesn’t have anxiety, being firm and to-the-point is also almost certainly the right way to go. The advice here is almost all to avoid trying to compensate for someone’s possible anxiety because it’s a) nosy and not your job, and b) not actually helpful if the person does have clinical anxiety.

        Reply
      2. Future Homesteader

        You’re right, and I try not to make a habit of it! That’s why I put the caveat there – I’m in no way assuming this is the case, I just wanted to let OP know that if it is, she shouldn’t worry about the direct approach being an unkind one. I brought it up because the OP said that she believes it might be anxiety-related. Had OP not mentioned it, I certainly wouldn’t have brought it in. (And thank to Sarah the Entwife, who put it better than I did.)

        Reply
  13. LizzE

    In my experience, they tend to do this because (a) they have been burned in the past by projects falling behind and think this type of behavior is the only way to be preventative; (b) they currently have or have worked for a micromanager which forces them to get anxious about deadlines; or (c) they are insecure about the quality of their actual work, so they overcompensate by being the person who “enforces” the deadlines/project timelines. I can commiserate (to an extent) with the first two options, but the latter type sure know how to land in the ‘bitch eating crackers” camp really fast.

    Reply
  14. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

    I swear I just read a letter (might have been in the archives) from a LW that was bugging the people on her project for updates.

    It’s always interesting to see the other side of the coin

    Reply
  15. Sister of mine, home again

    Are you having bi-weekly check-ins, or semi-weekly check-Ins with her?

    It’s easy to condemn her, but I think it would be worthwhile to learn if she has some reasonable reason for wanting to be so tightly in the loop.

    Could you automate an email listserv that once or twice a day sends out a message “Project MK Teapot: Status: Green, all systems go”? Or, heck, just put a green flag on your door. If things go bad, change to a red flag.

    Reply
      1. Yorick

        Maybe biweekly isn’t quite enough. They could keep the biweekly call but also add an short email update on the off weeks, and let her know they plan to do that.

        Reply
      2. Elizabeth

        Yeah but lots of people say biweekly when they mean semiweekly.

        If it’s actually an hour a week that they’re spending on updates, separate from the emails, that seems like a lot! This isn’t my field though.

        Reply
        1. Yorick

          The letter says biweekly (every 2 weeks). Maybe OP was mistaken about what biweekly means, but I don’t think we should assume so.

          Depending on the length of the projects, 2 weeks may be a long time to wait to learn whether everything is on schedule. Of course, Jane shouldn’t email every day, that’s crazy! But maybe letting her know that you’ll send an update every Friday or whatever would help.

          Reply
          1. Commander Shepard

            Biweekly is twice a week, fortnightly would be every 2 weeks. Just in case OP isn’t American.

            Reply
            1. Jennifer Thneed

              Sorry, no. Biweekly is every two weeks — the same as fortnightly. Twice a week is SEMI-weekly.

              Think about years. Biyearly or biannually is every 2 years. Semi-annually is twice a year.

              And yes, the OP said biweekly BUT SHE MAY HAVE BEEN WRONG IN THAT USAGE. And I agree that a status meeting every 2 weeks is pretty infrequent for an ongoing project.

              Reply
              1. TKMG

                Hi all! OP here. At my company “biweekly” means every other week. This feels like the right cadence for check-ins, since we’re often discussing ad refreshes/hand-offs ranging from 3 weeks in the future to 3 months in the future (with a few in between).

                Reply
          2. bonkerballs

            While confusing, it’s not actually a mistake. Using the bi prefix is correct whether you mean twice a week or every other. Where ever you are may have colloquially decided that bi means every other and semi means twice, but the actual dictionary definition is that bi (weekly, annually, whatever) means both.

            Reply
          3. aNon

            Merriam-Webster says both definitions are correct so OP wouldn’t be wrong regardless of how they are using it.

            Reply
  16. Guacamole Bob

    Interesting to read the comments here and how much people project their own experiences onto the letter. “Problems are rare but arise a couple of times per year” means really different things to different people, both in terms of whether that’s a good track record and what people assume the consequences might be!

    Reply
    1. Observer

      That’s true. But it’s worth noting that the OP gives us some good context to judge what is actually happening.

      Reply
    2. Seriously?

      That’s true. I’ll admit that sometimes I ask for frequent updates because the timing of the handoff really impacts my productivity. My coworkers don’t update me when something will be 1-2 hours late, probably because there is nothing I can do to make it faster. I will get it when I get it. And the delay itself is fine. But knowing it will be an hour late would allow me to start another task instead of waiting around for something that isn’t coming. Due to the nature of my job, once the handoff occurs I literally have to drop everything and most tasks cannot be stopped in the middle.

      Reply
    3. LBK

      Personally, I take from the OP’s tone that in this context a couple times a year doesn’t represent a large percentage of the work. It’s just enough that she never wants to say “we will definitely, 100% for sure hit the deadline,” because obviously things happen, but it seems clear that it’s not often enough that this level of micromanagement feels even remotely justifiable.

      Reply
      1. Myrin

        Yeah, I honestly don’t think there are many plausible, varying ways of reading this letter. OP says running into problems (not even missing deadlines! Running into problems! That could be anything!) is “rare”, so I think we should believe her that it is indeed, well, rare.

        Reply
      2. Guacamole Bob

        That’s how I read it, too, and it seemed very normal to me. I’m just surprised at the people who reacted with a tone of “you’ve admitted you’re unreliable and it’s understandable that Jane is micromanaging you.” But deadlines mean very different things in different roles, so I think people must be reacting based on their own experiences.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Yeah, agreed. I think specifically people who have coworkers that are blase about hitting deadlines are probably projecting their experiences here – so they don’t buy into the “it’s rare that there’s a problem” line because they know people who think they’re rarely a problem but are actually much more of a problem that they believe.

          Reply
      3. animaniactoo

        Yeah. One of the comments in my one and only performance eval a couple of years ago was “Has never missed a deadline”. This is true. However, it is ALSO true that deadlines have been moved due to circumstances beyond my control.

        Reply
    4. SarahTheEntwife

      That’s definitely true, but if “a couple times a year” is unacceptably frequent in this industry/workplace, the answer still isn’t daily check-ins. If nothing else, it seems pretty clear at this point that it just annoys the LW and her colleagues without reducing the frequency of delays.

      Reply
  17. Imposter Syndrome Graphic Designer

    I work in communications on an in-house team for a nonprofit, and we have the same issue–but with one of our Big Bosses. It’s very frustrating, because we don’t have the authority to ask her to back off. If we don’t answer her constant check-in emails (on projects that have a clearly structured timeline and are clearly on track) within an hour, she’ll drop by our office to ask us directly, which just slows us down more.

    Also, to respond to some of the above comments–in my experience marketing requires so much input from so many different sources with so many different priorities that we have no idea whether the occasional deadline issues the OP refers to are her fault or not; regardless, she has a clearly structured way of handling deadline crunches. And even if Jane does feel (rightly or wrongly) that the OP is unreliable, she should address that head on, rather than engaging in time-wasting, nitpicking nagging.

    Reply
    1. TKMG

      Hi! OP here. You are 100% right about the delays stemming from many other teams when we do unfortunately have late hand-offs. We’re in a competitive industry, so sometimes when we are preparing ads, the promo/offer changes late in the game. This is a scenario where we do our best to meet the agreed hand-off date, but we may be a few days late, due to the extra work in changing the message.

      Reply
  18. Boredatwork

    OP – If this is essentially the only thing you have to communicate to this person about, and especially if her emails always contain the same subject line, why not create a rule in outlook to auto reply?

    Step 1:
    Create template:
    Open an email, add co-worker as the recipient, draft message. Save the email in the templates folder, as a template.

    “Jane this is an automated response. The project is on schedule to be completed on-time. We can discuss progress in detail at our next call. If this matter is urgent reply “Urgent” in the subject line.

    File>Manage Rules>New rule>Messages I receive> Select People & Specific Words> (click to add the offender and a good keyword like “Status”> reply with specific template> add template created above> add exception “Urgent” > Hit okay/Apply

    I tested this on myself and it worked. I get the initial email from co-worker, and immediate reply with my template, if I send it with urgent in the subject line, no auto reply is generated.

    If this sounds like the greatest thing ever (to you or anyone posting) I can help trouble shoot/walk through the steps in more granular detail.

    Alison’s advice is better, but if it doesn’t work, or it’s coming from her boss, this might solve her desire for a daily check-in without you having to do anything other than sigh.

    Reply
    1. Yorick

      I doubt Jane would be satisfied with an automated response saying that the project is on time. That might make me think Fergus doesn’t want to actually answer my question because he isn’t really on time.

      Reply
      1. Boredatwork

        This really only works with a simple “everything okay” check in –

        But if she’s asking legitimate questions about the project, OP needs to answer them and not complain that she’s requesting the information.

        If that was the case, I’d change the message to something like – “All questions relating to project XYZ will be answered by the end of XX time frame. Any issues will be communicated immediately, thank you for your patience”

        Reply
  19. Okie Dokie

    “I will no longer answer repeated status checks as they are eating up time better spent on projects. Please assume all deadlines will be met unless advised otherwise advised. Be assured I will let you know if I foresee a date slipping as soon as I know.” Then stop responding

    Reply
  20. Abe Froman

    I wonder if being so definitive on the timeline, as Allison suggested, could backfire if there is an problem. OP’s co-worker sounds like the type that would pull that email out and send it around the world to prove she’s not at fault.

    Reply
    1. pleaset

      I don’t see how that’s a problem for anyone because as far as I can tell in those rare instances she wouldn’t be at fault and the OP or whoever is at fault actually is.

      Reply
      1. Abe Froman

        Well if you’ve said for 3 weeks straight that you will hit the deadline, then something comes up a week before the deadline, what is her response going to be? I personally wouldn’t appreciate her sending my emails around to everyone to me it clear its not her fault and imply it’s mine out my team’s when it very well might not be.

        Reply
  21. Dame Judi Brunch

    I was wondering about perception too.

    At Old Toxic Job, everything was my fault, no matter what. Issues beyond my control that would have required a crystal ball to foresee, or mistakes made by me or others, it didn’t matter. If it was determined I was not following up with others enough, hell would break loose. Emails were my proof that I did my job.

    It was so annoying and frustrating to do that to people. I did my best to not bug people, but sometimes had no choice if I wanted to avoid consequences.

    However if things went right, I never got credit for that!

    Hope it gets better for you!

    Reply
  22. Workfromhome

    Personally I’d jus go straight to this:
    Since she asks for an update every day I’d wait for the first update request on each project and respond “Project is on track for on time delivery” In the unlikely event that the delivery time changes between now and XXX (delivery date) you will be notified by email immediately”. The absence of any such updates can be taken to mean the project is still on time.”

    Essentially don’t call us we’ll call you.

    If you receive another request for an update ignore it.
    If the person calls you or otherwise contacts you (maybe during the bi weekly status meeting you can simply say as per my email if you don’t hear from us between bi weekly meetings it means the project is on schedule. At that point if her boss is demanding daily updates in writing from her she will surely bring it up.

    Unless she has her bosses backing or is your boss I see little recourse for her other than to say “I know you told me unless I hear from you the project is on time but frankly I don’t believe you”.
    If this was the first time this had happened I’d be more gentle but since its obvious the behavior hasn’t changed despite trying nicely I’d feel justified.

    Reply
  23. Lisa Babs

    I think at the very least, get rid of these bi-weekly calls. Or cut them in half. I mean the OP says “Plus we’ve set up bi-weekly half-hour calls to give her the status on all hand-offs, in the hopes of reducing her excessive check-ins, but it hasn’t worked.”

    So since it hasn’t worked, get rid of them! I don’t know if it means twice a week or one every other week. But since they haven’t worked and you didn’t have them before (as long as it wasn’t something your boss mandated) might as well get rid of them AND use Alison’s script.

    Reply
  24. MicroManaged But No More

    On another thought: As someone who in a previous job was required to give daily updates to a boss because my equal coworkers would miss deadlines, I had a personal conversation with them addressing the issue. I asked them if they had known me to miss a deadline or not let them know when I was having issues. We talked through some of the requirements they were expecting and if and how I was meeting them. ONce we talked, face to face, about the expectations versus reality of my production, my boss backed off. They realized that I was a) meeting deadlines b) bringing up problems that I would need help solving as soon as they were known c) providing updates as required if timelines changed. The boss backed off from asking me about my daily progress.

    Reply
    1. AliceBG

      Yeah, this whole situation sounds like just talking it out with Jane would solve most of the problem.

      Reply
  25. animaniactoo

    Honestly, I think the time has passed for Alison’s opening scripts.

    I would go directly to one of two routes:

    1) She needs an update? Reply: “No changes in schedule to report.” That’s it, nothing more. She doesn’t need the whole spiel every day. She just needs to know that nothing has changed since yesterday.

    2) Alternatively: “Jane, I’d like to discuss how we handle updates and how frequently you’re requesting updates. We have bi-weekly check-ins, we are pro-active about updating you if something becomes an issue, and you still e-mail almost every day for an update. Is there a reason that the bi-weekly check-ins and pro-active updating isn’t enough for you?”

    And then depending on the answer you either bounce back to method one and agree to the one-liner instead of the excessive language you’ve been using to answer a daily request, or you ask her to wait for the bi-weekly check-in and trust that if there is a problem, you will reach out to her immediately to update her. But, if opting for method one, you might ask her to change her language to your new understanding of how this will work. She’s not asking for a commitment. She’s just asking for any schedule updates. So she can also one liner you: “Hi, any schedule changes to report?” “Nope, we’re good”.

    It’s small, it may be annoying. But it also might be part of what’s helping her keep the pieces of several things together. So… at the very least, find out more before you start asking her to dial it back.

    Reply
    1. Workfromhome

      Here is the issue I see with this. There should be no need to give even a daily one line reply ” Nope, we’re good” as you’ve told her if you are not good you will proactively inform her. If you continue ask “are we good” it indicates essentially “your word is no good”. I know you told me you’d tell me if there is a change but I don’t believe you will unless I ask you every day. That’s simply not workable.

      If she hears something or has reason to believe the schedule has gone off by all means ask. That would look like “Hey I heard that a tree fell on the office yesterday and it was closed will this impact the delivery date?” But if there is no good reason to0 think there is a delay then there should be no need to ask as you’ve given your word to let her know if there is.

      Responding to the unneeded inquires simply gives them validity. If there is no good reason behind them its essentially spam.

      Reply
      1. animaniactoo

        That there shouldn’t be a need doesn’t mean there isn’t, so that’s my point behind digging in before you just attempt to make it go away. OP has a theory of what’s behind it – but that’s all it is, a theory. There’s been no conversation to investigate that, and it’s gone on long enough that I think it would be rather strange to suddenly change up the replies as Alison advises without an attempt at that conversation first. And go into it with some minor benefit of the doubt that there’s a reason here which can be worked with to find something that works for both sides, rather than just assuming there isn’t and being completely focused on shutting it down. It may be that it needs to be shut down and that will be the conclusion the OP ultimately comes to – but then it can be approached as “I asked, and there wasn’t a reason that made sense to keep doing this, so I’m going to stop. If any issue comes up down the line, we can revisit.” Not as “I can’t think of a good reason, so I’m just going to stop.”

        Reply
  26. Triplestep

    I agree the coworker in this scenario is super annoying. But I had a vendor who used to use the “on track” language when asked for a delivery date, and THAT is super annoying as well. If my office furniture is not going to be installed by a target date, the impact will cascade through several parts of a renovation/move project team. As we approach that “tracking” date, I expect a confirmation – not a tracking commitment – so I can mitigate issues if there are going to be any.

    And it was most definitely an evasive move on their part. When asked for more clarification, they would just repeat the same statement over and over like a Stepford Wife.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      At the same time, though, you can’t predict the future. If every step up until now has been on time, you are on track, but that doesn’t mean something couldn’t go awry down the line. Would you prefer to have hedged “on track” language or the false peace of mind of being told “it will definitely be done” only to later have that reneged on?

      Reply
      1. Yorick

        Well, I’d prefer to hear “We’ve completed X and moved on to Y” or “We’ve finished 40% of X and that’s consistent with being complete on Date.” But of course that isn’t something I’d need to know every single day.

        Reply
        1. Triplestep

          Exactly. In my industry, I would expect “The furniture will leave the factory on x date, and be in our warehouse on y date.” Installation dates are typically estimated this way. We are all adults, we get that things happen to x and y. Occasionally time can be made up.

          But if I don’t even know those are assumptions the vendor is making, I’ve got nothing to go on, literally. I am their customer (so I deserve this info) and the project manager on my end (so I need this info). I am trying to set expectations, so they need to set mine.

          Reply
  27. DanniellaBee

    I work in the tech field and we do daily stand ups where everyone shares what is they did yesterday, what they will do today, and if they are having any issues or blockers. This takes less than 15 minutes every day. I do not understand why it is a big deal to send a basic daily status to that person if she is seeking them probably under direction of management. The reality is that projects come in late all the time in part because of poor communication and this individual is closely monitoring progress so that if a red flag goes up it can be communicated quickly so that impediment can be removed. This is a basic project management practice and a good one at that. People get way too sensitive when people are just trying to do their jobs.

    Reply
    1. RES ADMIN

      A daily standup that takes less than 15 min a day is great. Someone consistently interrupting work flow–esp. if it is more than one person–can post much more than in productivity.

      Reply
    2. Oxford Coma

      I hate scrums because I’ve too often worked with long-winded blowhards who don’t respect the purpose. Done appropriately, they can be useful. In my case, switching to online project management software with detailed time tracking was a better choice.

      Reply
      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        I have seen them work very well in several different instances, but for them to work, the person leading the scrum 1) must be able to convey the message that long-winded verbosity is not acceptable, and 2) must not be the long-winded blowhard themselves. It does take talent. OTOH, in this case we are not talking about a group of 10-15 people. We are talking about OP, Jane, maybe one more teammate of OP’s and that’s it. I think it can be done. Agree, PM software with time tracking and daily updates would be helpful here too!

        Reply
    3. Former Marketing Project Manager

      Thank you, thank you for this comment! I thought I was the only one who found some of the comments here (and Alison’s advice) to be a little adversarial. Getting a daily update is very, very normal for some places — we did one at the digital marketing firm I worked at, which primarily delivered PPC campaigns. Especially in lieu of any clear tracking or project management software. I 100% believe the OP when they say that they think they are meeting most of their deadlines. I’ll also be generous and assume that when they set up the biweekly calls, someone talked with Jane and explained that daily email is time-consuming and that a mutual plan (endorsed by both OP’s team and Jane equally) was made for those calls to compensate for the daily emails.

      Why not say instead, “Hey Jane, our team noticed you’ve returned to daily emails. Do we need to revisit our communication plan? We agreed on xx date to move to biweekly emails, and if you’re not getting what you need from those calls, let’s discuss what is missing and how we can best get that info to you.”

      OP, say in your email that this is a waste of your time and Jane’s. It’s not fair of you to speak for Jane. She might get tremendous value out of this that you are unaware of. I’ll push back and say that 1 predictable, daily email (the response to which is predictable) is not that much of a time-suck. Especially when you already know what you’re going to say. This is my “woo-woo” granola answer, but I wonder if you’d feel better about answering the email if you tried approaching the situation with a different mindset … instead of focusing on assumptions about how Jane feels towards you or your team, revisit with gratitude that you get to be of service. For less than 5 minutes a day, you get to support your coworker in what I assume is their designated job. Good luck!

      Reply
      1. LBK

        I don’t get paid to satisfy my coworkers’ unjustified anxiety. This is along the lines of saying you should be happy to be the one who gets stuck making the coffee every day because you’re being of service to your coworkers – that is not what you’re here to do. Why should the onus be on the OP to do all of Jane’s emotional labor?

        Reply
    4. TKMG

      Hi DaniellaBee and other repliers, OP here! I appreciate your perspective, and I do think there’s a time and a place for daily updates. In this case, we just don’t have day-to-day changes on whether or not we’ll meet Jane’s deadlines. Imagine a hand-off date is 6 weeks out – My team won’t have daily changes in status until we’re only 1 week out from the hand-off date. And yet Jane is hoping to hear every single day (or at least 3-4 times per week) if we’re still on-track. To me, this seems to be anxiety provoking her emails, and not an actual business need for updates.

      Reply
    5. LBK

      Daily standups make more sense when you’re doing sprints and it’s expected that things will be rapidly changing day-to-day. They’re not really appropriate for work that moves more slowly and where there’s nothing additional to report from one day to the next. I had an old boss who tried to institute daily standups pretty much solely because they seemed like a hot buzzwordy kind of thing to do, but we weren’t doing project work. We did queue work that didn’t really change from day-to-day, so basically every standup was “Yup, we’re gonna go do the thing we do every single day today.”

      Reply
  28. Anxietygirl

    As annoying of a practice as this is, I have been on the other end of this situation (excessively checking in) as a result of the fact that the team I was checking on was regularly (every single month) missing deadlines, even though during our weekly check-ins, everything was “on track”. Now, I don’t now that this was the correct way to handle the situation (my manager directed me to check in daily as our entire team & workflow was affected by these missed deadlines) but that’s what I did. (It ended up only partially working and in the end we changed the whole process/timeline anyways)

    Reply
    1. FD

      +1 Yeah, I’ve been between a rock and a hard place here too, where I’ve been working with multiple parties who had consistently missed deadlines so I simply didn’t trust that they would.

      If this is the scenario, I’ve found that a good script could be, “I understand you’re worried about the deadlines. They’re important to us too. That said, if you look backwards, 98% of our projects have been on time, and in each case, we’ve alerted you about a problem within 1 day of it coming up. Given our track record, we’d like you to start trusting us.”

      Reply
    2. LQ

      I totally agree. I have been on both sides, and prior performance counts for SO much of this. Getting people to look back at my work and say, yeah, you’re always on time, ok I’ll stop bugging you. Or acknowledging that your business area (even if not you personally) is sometimes behind and so you’ll do better about updates. It doesn’t matter so much if YOU are always timely if the thing has a bottleneck for your entire area or chunk of the project. Like if Development and Security are in the same shop and dev is always on time but security is always late? You can’t just throw up your hands and blame them. If you all work together, you are all on the hook together. (This happens in a lot of sort of nearby areas. It might not be you personally, but the area of the thing.)

      Reply
  29. Cassandra

    A question for OP: Is Jane junior among her peers? Does she get handed the “worst” (whatever that means in your shop) projects? Do other departments dismiss or backburner Jane or her projects, or does management do so? Alternately, does your workplace have a culture of getting things done by eschewing whatever formal project-management and workload-management structures are in place in favor of going and talking directly to (often means “leaning on”) the people who do the work?

    I wonder if you’re getting blowback from how Jane and/or her projects are treated by others. If so, I think discussing with your management might be an appropriate next step.

    Following on the agile-standup comment from DanniellaBee above, one way to surface such problems organization-wide is to use the sprint method of project planning. Your department has X person-hours in the next two to six weeks, and Y projects to work on. Ergo the owners of those projects need to decide among themselves (this part is key!) which projects get how many hours. If Jane is getting repeatedly screwed, sprints make that hard to hide.

    Reply
  30. RES ADMIN

    I had people checking in like this a LOT in my previous job (lot of incoming traffic and only me with no backup). So often, in fact, that I was probably spending hours a day just responding to status updates. So, depending on who was asking:
    (1) explain that it is being worked on and that if they don’t hear from me in by x date, email me–otherwise, assume all is going as planned. Most reasonable people responded very positively to this–or gave a good reason why that deadline needed to be moved up. They also tended to keep this in mind for next time and not ask me the same day they submitted the paperwork.
    (2) yes, as I’ve told you, I am working on it and expect to communicate back with you by x date–has something changed? No? Then it would probably be better if they let me work on it rather than having me spend time confirming that I was working on it.
    (3) only answer every third or fourth request–or, in some cases, ignore completely. (We had some people who would call, email, IM, call someone in another department to find out why I wasn’t answering immediately, and then call and email my boss’s boss–which worked the first few times and then she realized she was getting played).
    (4) in cases where someone was successful in harassing the grand boss into bumping their project ahead of everyone else’s, I would make it clear that I was working on a project for Y department that had been given priority by the grand boss and I would let them know what the new deadline would be as soon as I finished–but that I expected a delay of at least x days. If that was a problem, they were welcome to contact grand boss.

    I probably come across sounding really witchy with a lot of the above, however I was always very nice and sympathetic about it and actually had a really good reputation throughout the organization. Tone of voice (verbal or written) can really make a difference.

    Reply
  31. FD

    I do have to wonder–it sounds like you two work for the same company? It sounds like your team is good at delivering on time, but is this generally a problem in your company as a whole? I wonder because I usually see this behavior when someone has been working in an environment where people are (a) really bad about hitting deadlines and (b) don’t tell anyone until the deadline sails past.

    Reply
  32. LQ

    I strongly agree about a firm. “We will be done by June 15th.” It makes me itchy but for a lot of people the more nuanced answer I want to give is too much detail and only confuses the problem more.

    If none of the things suggested work I’d just set up a quick reply with “We will be done by June 15th.” for each project and it’s date and then fire it off first thing in the morning (or last thing at the end of the day I suppose). And just hit send. Assume it’s part of what you get paid to do and let it go, this is worth pushing back about clearly and explaining it. But it’s just annoying and especially if your projects are big enough that they take weeks it’s worth just finding a quick and easy way to manage it on your end. (If you were expected to do a dozen updates on constantly changing problems I’d suggest something different, but it doesn’t sound like that.)

    Reply
  33. Greenbird

    I would also look at cancelling the biweekly meetings since they don’t seem to be accomplishing anything. Reclaim that time.
    Would it feel any easier to simply send a daily email to Jane saying some version of, “FYI, the project is continuing to proceed as expected. We’ll let you know if that changes.” Don’t wait for her to email you, just every morning or every night send her the generic “still good” email. You could write up 4 or 5 versions with varying wording and just send her one every day. Then at least you’re not waiting for her to email, and then having to respond to her specific wording. Also, you can send it out when it’s convenient for you instead of being interrupted. It’s still extra work that you really shouldn’t have to do, but maybe that approach would at least limit it more literally to just an actual minute of extra work each day.

    Reply
    1. Workfromhome

      Careful with that. It might make her emails stop or it might not as soon as she catches onto the fact you are sending them all the time. If she doesn’t trust you to make the date even when you’re communicated any rare delays she probably will not trust that you actually check on the project before sending your generic message.
      What’s worse is if you forget to send these daily generic emails one day or go on vacation and don’t send them which will throw her into crisis mode. “I didn’t get a email telling me everything is OK so there must be an impending disaster. If these daily reassurance emails don’t really serve any purpose then they need to stop. Doing extra work simply because someone cant accept a normal business practice makes little sense. There is a big difference between doing what people NEED vs what they WANT.

      Reply
  34. Manager-at-Large

    Is there any chance you can set up (or already have) some intermediate updates for these projects?
    Sometimes waiting for work that has been handed off to another team with no visibility to internal processes seems more like a black hole than just a black box.
    If you have intermediate phases – like mockup, design proof, 3D model – putting those on a calendar and sharing them can provide confirmation that the *project* is in fact on schedule for the final hand-off as made clear by meeting these intermediate steps.
    Of course, you’d do this as a matter of course for all your stakeholders, and not just Jane.

    Reply
  35. trilusion

    Sometimes I worry that I seem like Jane to people. For example, I receive Project X from A and then pass it on to B for approval, then to C and they have it printed by D. But I usually make sure to communicate to A, B and C that there are other people involved after them and e.g. if A doesnt meet their deadline, everyone else suffers in some way. I wonder if that might be the case with Jane, too, and that she simply needs to keep other people informed as early as possible in order for the project to run smoothly.
    Still no reason to ask so excessively – but maybe context/further reasons might help?

    Reply
  36. NW Mossy

    I read this and feel kind of sad for Jane. Much as Jane’s behavior is legitimately frustrating for the OP, being a Jane is also really tough. It’s hard to go through work life feeling so unsure that other people will hold up their end, and putting so much effort into following up to try to manage that uncertainty is exhausting. It’s impossible to say whether Jane’s behavior is due to past experience, innate temperament, or a combination, but it’s clear that she’s gotten unmoored from normal expectations for status updates.

    I’ve managed someone with Jane-like tendencies before – her trigger was lack of quality, and it provoked a lot of stress and anxiety for her when she pulled The Sole Bastion Of Excellence mantle around herself and took on so much more mental responsibility for other people than was at all warranted. I finally had to tell her bluntly, “You need to let them be wrong on this, because this is not a thing you can or should fix for them.” We talked a lot about what was reasonable to expect from others, particularly in areas where she was the expert and the other person only touched it occasionally. I won’t say it was a total success, but she started to get better at recognizing when she was getting into her version of Jane’s excessive follow-ups and curbing the behavior. It can be really hard to break these patterns, so even partial success was a real positive for improving her outlook.

    Reply
  37. Anon attorney

    I am occasionally tempted to be like Jane, although in my workflow it’s less about seeking daily updates as checking that my task is being dealt with and the person understands the deadline. In my work it’s sometimes difficult to get people who don’t do litigation to understand that a filing deadline is not negotiable, and if someone else doesn’t do something it will be me, not them, getting my butt kicked by the judge. Not saying this applies to OP, because she is being proactive, but could it be that the consequences of failure would land heavily on Jane and she’s seeking an understanding that OP gets this and isn’t going to leave her holding the bag? In my world, doing that to me once only would be enough that I either would never ask you again, or I would fight the temptation to sit on the edge of your desk until you’d done it. Maybe Jane really needs reassurance not so much that you’re doing X, but that you understand the significance of X?

    Reply
  38. Evie

    Why not just send Jane an email saying that her project is on track each morning?

    The best way to end the requests is probably to have a direct conversation with Jane about the situation. That will probably take more time than a month of first thing when you get to the office daily updates. And, you will be burning goodwill with Jane or forgoing goodwill with Jane by having that conversation. At this point, you have already spent lot more time and effort to avoid a one line email than it would take to send daily updates.

    We may never know why Jane wants daily updates, but it seems like a small thing to give her if you simply do it on your own schedule.

    Reply
  39. just me

    This is possibly coming from her boss – believe me I’ve worked for managers who are always getting me to chase up staff.

    Frustrating for everyone but I wouldn’t lie to my manager and say I’d checked if I hadn’t.

    Reply
  40. MG

    Oh jeez, I work in client services and have this problem with certain clients, which is definitely trickier than with an internal teammate.

    The contract clients sign says they will get a response to any inquiry within 24 hours, but we had one client who would send an email, and then call once an hour to check up on it. I did finally have to say, echoing a couple comments above, that her repeated calls were taking time away from actually working on her issue.

    The other thing that helps, though it may not apply in every situation, is to give an action item and a timeframe. So I will say “I have to work with [colleague] on this, and one of us will have an answer for you by tomorrow afternoon.” Then at least it’s pretty clear a) why I can’t just give an answer off the top of my head – it requires making time with another person – and b) that if she tries to check in multiple times before tomorrow afternoon, she is the one being unreasonable.

    Reply
  41. Miles

    Sounds like this peer struggles with uncertainty. If Alison’s scripts don’t work you can try something along the lines of “It’s too early to predict any unforeseen circumstances but we’ll let you know the moment we do.”

    Keep it positive but ambiguous. – But don’t be a source of short-term relief for her anxiety or OCD. Breaking up the ritual and/or letting her get used to living with not knowing yet is usually more promising as a long term solution as well, not that that’s your responsibility or anything.

    Reply
  42. PickyD

    I shuddered when I read this email. I’m a very laid-back person married to a high-anxiety worrier. I’ve had to deal with his constant check-ins for over 25 years.

    For instance, he’ll say, “Oh, hey! I just thought of this… did you ever call to get the icemaker fixed?”
    1. He knows whether I have or not because he gets a notification on his phone that I’ve added an entry to our shared calendar.
    2. He didn’t “just” think of it… it’s been percolating in his head all day.
    3. He stopped himself from mentioning it 30 times earlier in the day, so he thinks asking me once in the morning and once in the afternoon is not too often. But seriously, he’s asking me every day about every thing, at least every 4 hours.
    4. I’m a responsible adult who knows this is my job. I’ve never missed a deadline.
    5. He doesn’t even CARE about ice.

    If I didn’t love the guy so much…

    Reply
  43. Matt

    Following up by email is not so bad – I, as a developer, have had project managers who would CALL me about status, multiple times a day!

    Reply
  44. betty (the other betty)

    I find it makes people feel more secure in my ability to meet deadlines when I give them more concrete updates:

    “That’s on my schedule to start on Thursday.”
    “We started the initial ad layout, so once we dial that in we will create the web banners to match.”
    “I can show you a rough first look on Tuesday, then plan to finish up by (day before deadline).”

    Reply

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