how much do deadlines really matter in your field?

A reader writes:

I’m an English professor, and I would love some advice from you and your readers about how to prepare students for deadlines in the work world. My colleagues and I have a disagreement about this.

My back story is that when I was a procrastinating college student, I got into the habit of turning in papers late. Since I was otherwise a good (if immature) student, my professors accepted my late papers. As a result, I internalized the idea that deadlines didn’t really matter. It took me years, and a lot of stress and depression in grad school, to unlearn the idea.

Now that I’m a professor myself, I am generous with extensions when students ask for them ahead of time, but I don’t usually accept work after the agreed-on deadline. I don’t want my students to end up like me. I figure that one or two bad experiences in college will break them of the habit early, when there’s only a grade and not a paycheck or job riding on it.

My colleague thinks I am too rigid. He would prefer that I be lenient with students who turn in late work, particularly if they are first-year students who are still adjusting to college.

What’s missing from this conversation is a sense of how deadlines work in the rest of the world. Reading Ask a Manager, I’m realizing that this varies a lot. So I’d love to know from you and your readers:

–In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?

–What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?

–What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?

Thanks so much for any help you can provide.

I’m going to let readers tell you what the answers are to these questions in their fields, but I want to touch on a particular element of this myself: the importance of keeping your word.

In every job I’ve ever managed people in, repeatedly not meeting deadlines (especially without advance warning) would be a firing offense. One reason for this is the impact on the work itself. But the other reason, which is at least as important, is that managers have to be able to rely on their staff to do what they say they’re going to do. If someone develops a track record of not keeping commitments (and deadlines are commitments), then I have to change the whole way I’m managing them: with anything I’ve assigned, I can’t simply trust that they’ll turn it in by the agreed-upon time, which means that I have to check in more often to see where things are and ensure they’re still on schedule. That’s really annoying for both of us, and it’s not feasible to do that long-term.

And since you asked if missing a deadline even by an hour matters: Yes, sometimes. If I’ve pushed back dinner plans because I need to edit something when it comes to me at 6 p.m., I’m going to annoyed as hell if it doesn’t show up for a whole extra hour. Or if you’re supposed to get me something by 4, I might be planning to use that hour to give it a final edit before sending it to the printer at 5 in order to meet our printing deadline. And so forth. Of course, ideally deadlines wouldn’t be so tight and you’d have buffers built in — but sometimes things are unavoidably tight and there’s no room for buffers.

Now, in many cases, if someone speaks up before the deadline and says, “Hey, this is taking longer than I anticipated” (or “this got delayed because of Higher Priority X” or whatever), that’s workable. That kind of advance heads-up lets us move around other people’s pieces of the schedule if needed, and — most importantly — it tells me that I can trust you to give advance warning if there’s a problem. If I can’t trust you to do that, then we’re back at “now I need to check on you more frequently than I should have to because who knows what’s slipping in your realm otherwise.”

So: being reliable and keeping your word matters. It impacts your professional reputation, how your manager manages you, how much trust and autonomy you get, and in some cases whether you keep your job.

Readers, what are your answers to the letter-writers’ questions in your industry?

{ 802 comments… read them below }

  1. DG*

    As an adjunct instructor with a very strict policy on late assignments, I’m curious to hear everyone’s answers.

    Since I’m “only” an adjunct and I’m one of the professors with a real job I try to structure my courses around what it will be like to have a career in the industry I teach about. So, I mark 30% off of all assignments turned in late UNLESS you’ve cleared it with me first. And clearing it does not mean “call me 15 minutes before it’s due and tell me it’s late.”

    Can’t wait to read more!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, at my massive public university, where I went for undergrad, extensions were almost never allowed and were seen as an exception reserved for sure emergencies. There was greater flexibility in upper div (read: smaller) classes and seminars, but only if you asked well in advance. If you didn’t turn something in on time, you failed that assignment.

      1. Amber T*

        Eek. Non academic here. I went to a small private college… biggest class size was maybe 30ish. I understand the necessity for it, but that sounds terrifying for me. It wasn’t that I was ever really that bad with deadlines, it’s more of the non-ability to be.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          I also went to a small college, with classes ranging in size from just me to 8 or 10 people.
          It never occurred to me before this post that deadlines in college might be flexible (except in cases of illness or death in the family). Might be a UK thing, but I never heard of anyone trying it.

            1. Honeybee*

              I didn’t assume it to be negotiable until graduate school. My undergrad professors were all pretty strict about deadlines, but my graduate professors usually didn’t care much and a simple request could earn you an extension.

              1. Midge*

                It’s not uncommon in some graduate programs for students to take incompletes on the class itself, not just extensions on individuals assignments, and finish up the work after the semester is over. Learning that blew my mind!

                1. StrikingFalcon*

                  I know where I’ve seen it, it’s because the expected course load is truly unmanageable. Which is explicitly recognized as an issue and ought to be addressed directly, but getting academics to agree on a course of action is apparently like hearding cats.

                2. Word Turner*

                  I wonder what the academic equivalent of the feather toy I use for herding my own cats is.

                3. Philosophy Prof...*

                  I was almost done with grad school when I found this out… and it made me really mad that I’d been taking courses at a pace I could manage and breaking my ass to finish papers on time..

              2. Sam*

                Same! But now I work at a university where the institutional culture leads a lot of profs to treat undergrads like grad students. If taking longer means a better paper, so be it. As an administrator, this neglect of deadlines is the bane of my existence. I feel like I’m constantly fighting a silent battle with faculty to teach students that deadlines do actually mean something.

                1. PBu*

                  I find extensions for a shaky reason rarely lead to a great assignment. The only time it did was when the student was in hospital for a serious medical condition/emergency and was an excellent student.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                That’s also been true for me! More flexibility in grad school, to the extent that law is a kind of grad school… although they still don’t let you delay deadlines or take incompletes with the same leniency/frequency of other grad programs.

                But part of what makes grad school and being an academic so hard, imo, is that you have to set internal deadlines for yourself in order to meet the “big” important deadlines to (1) complete your degree, and (2) make tenure.

            2. Cath in Canada*

              Same – I never asked for an extension in my 7 years of undergrad or grad school education in the UK. I don’t remember any of my friends doing so either. I might have asked if I was really sick or there was a death in my family or something, but not with much confidence that it would have been granted. My cousin’s doing a degree in the UK right now as a mature student, and they only gave her five extra days for a major assignment when her dad passed away in December.

              1. Chase*

                I am currently doing a degree in the UK as a mature student and had an assignment due for the week after my mother’s funeral in February. The day after the funeral I realised it probably wasn’t going to happen for the deadline and they were really lovely about it. I ended up submitting a week and a half late and the tutor got it back to me really quickly.

                I guess it depends on the uni?

                1. Lyn*

                  I work in a medium-sized college and I’d say a lot of the decision to extend a deadline has to do with timing. If the semester is ending and grades are due shortly, I’m willing to bet an instructor is less willing to extend a deadline. They have a deadline for grades to be entered. I’ve only experienced the “incomplete” process (finishing work after a course has ended and turning it in late for a grade) a few times in my 10 years.

          1. Hanna*

            Nope, me neither, and I went small public university in the U.S. I never considered asking for a deadline extension for any reason other than a crisis, and I’m fairly certain that none of the other people in my program did either. The professors never explicitly said “no extensions.” We just assumed that was the case.

              1. Doodle*

                I’m not sure exactly how to phrase this, but I’m also thinking it’s related to whether you see something like “paper due April 13th 4pm” as a starting point or a hard-and-fast rule.

                It never occurred to me that I could ask for an extension unless it was for serious illness or family emergency — the deadline was the deadline was the deadline. I found out later that many of my friends/peers (in the same classes) were regularly granted extensions just for asking.

                1. the gold digger*

                  I asked for an extension on a paper one time in college. (My dad was coming home after having been working in Yemen for a year and I wanted to go home to see him.)

                  My professor said no.

                  It never occurred to me any other time that getting an extension was Something That Is Done.


                  An English major who took 18 hours a semester, worked 20 hours a week, typed my papers on a typewriter, walked to school uphill both ways in the snow, and still turned my work in on time.

                2. Lady Julian*

                  @golddigger. That was me too, the not realizing extensions were a thing. I started papers literally a month and a half in advance to make sure I had them ready on time (those were the big, twenty pagers I wrote for grad school).

                3. Hanna*

                  I’m also thinking it’s related to whether you see something like “paper due April 13th 4pm” as a starting point or a hard-and-fast rule.

                  For people who see it as a starting point, I’m interested in knowing whether that manifests in their life in other ways, particularly when it comes to punctuality. If the “starting point” person is supposed to meet their friends for lunch at 1 pm, does that person actually show up at 1 pm, or do they see it as “sometime between 1 and 1:20”?

                  I’m an extremely punctual person myself, but almost all of my friends throughout my life have not been. When I text to my friend, “I’m leaving now,” it means I’m walking out the door. When she texts back, “Me too,” it means that she is planning to soon get off the couch, get the mail, go to the bathroom, check the DVR to make sure she’s recording that show later, refill the dog’s food and water, and then walk out the door.

                  I’m not saying any of this to complain or scold or anything like that. I really am wondering if the “deadlines are negotiable” mindset extends into people’s personal lives as well.

                4. AnotherMel*

                  @Hanna I am often late unless it’s work – and even then sometimes I’m late (not an issue in my job which is why it happens). I am usually 5-10 minutes late anywhere else. It drives my husband nuts. But I NEVER asked for an extension in university. I dropped a class once due to family circumstances but I never asked for or received other accommodations. My course outlines always made clear what the penalties were for late papers, normally it was at least a full letter grade per day and we didn’t dare be even an hour late or the penalty applied.

                  I was shocked when my sister went to a small private college and saw deadlines as fairly flexible and her teachers let her get away with it. We’re 4 years apart and I went to a nationally ranked university (Canada).

                5. JAM*

                  The only time I asked for an extension it was coupled with a “Hey, I’m getting chemo Monday and I know the paper is due Tuesday. Can I email it to you instead of turning it in during class or should I just wait until Thursday?” and I had already cleared missing 3 Tuesday classes with the professor. It really never occurred to me that I could actually just ask if I could have until Thursday period. Then again, I often did group papers for business classes so a missed deadline meant the entire group fell behind.

                6. Jesmlet*

                  Only times I ever asked for extensions were due to a surgery I was having a couple days before it was due and the recuperation time was significant enough to make it difficult to complete, and when there was a significant college related extracurricular taking up a lot of time and that was just asking for 1 extra day a week prior.

                  My thoughts are that professors are humans too and they’ve probably had circumstances come up where they’d genuinely need an extension, so doesn’t hurt to ask. If I were a teacher, I’d give it if they asked far enough in advance. Even if someone turned something in late without notice, I wouldn’t punish them too much. In the real world you’re not docked pay for that stuff so why mark it incomplete or take significant points off? Most of my professors did 10% after the first day and another 10% every 2 days after… and I think that’s pretty reasonable.

                7. misplacedmidwesterner*

                  Oh me too. I never asked for a deadline extension in college (undergrad and grad) just because I had long before that internalized deadlines are set in stone mentalities and you are a lazy slacker if you can’t do it. I had one high school teacher who had an old (1950s or earlier and this was in the 90s) time clock you used to punch in your assignments. I kept that attitude until I read this post and was like “really? huh!”

            1. Chicklet*

              Same for me. I got extensions three times in my 4 years of undergrad: once because I had to leave early for winter break so I could have surgery, once because of the death of a close family member, and once because of an on-campus tragedy that really shook me up. And honestly, I think when my family member died, I didn’t really have anything due because I only missed a couple of days (although I do remember doing the reading while I was home for the funeral). It would have never even occurred to me to ask.

          2. MsNarwhal*

            I, personally, learned in middle and high school that deadlines for papers, etc. were non-negotiable except for extreme circumstances like illness or a death in the family. So it’s really interesting to me that some of these students haven’t already learned the importance of deadlines. I guess a lot of it comes down to how strict a primary school you went to.

            1. Persephone Mulberry*

              I *kind* of think my teenager’s school is doing her a disservice, because they do some weird weighting thing with assignments where everyday homework is cumulatively only worth like 15% of your grade and tests/papers/presentations are 85%…so you can literally do almost no “learning” homework and still pass easily. As a very smart kid who often doesn’t need the daily work to grasp the concepts being taught, she tends to blow off a lot of those assignments, which IME is not something she will be able to get away with in college.

              1. Spelliste*

                One vote in favor of your suspicion. I was one of those students and it caught up to me hardcore in college. Wish I’d developed the discipline back then, but it took most of my 20s to build better work habits. Being smart is not enough.

              2. Jesmlet*

                This was me. I did homework assignments the morning of because I really didn’t need the practice and I could just sit in class and learn by osmosis. Ended up with a 5.0 weighted GPA. Got to college and it was rough because I wasn’t in the habit of studying and doing homework. My freshman year GPA was about a 3.0, then I finally got my sh*t together the following year. As far as work, I don’t think it’s affected my prospects at all, but it was a really hard transition and my self-esteem definitely took a bit of a hit.

              3. Sunshine*

                As a current college senior (almost done!), I honestly have less daily homework now than I did in high school. I’m a bio major, so those classes are mostly tests with occasional lab reports as grades, and also a Spanish major, which often has reading assignments and then maybe one or two short essays, and a big term project. But nothing I’ve taken in college has come anywhere near the level of homework I had in high school, in terms of boring busy work.

              4. Bad Student*

                I was this student in middle school and high school.
                I did basically none of my daily work, but was smart enough to do very well on the tests (and the ACT & SAT, AP tests, etc), so no one gave me much grief about it. I ended up with a TERRIBLE high school GPA and had to a much, much less prestigious college than some of my peers. In college, I had 3 semesters of almost failing classes before I finally hit a breaking point and snapped out of it. I had a giant upward grades trend during the next 2 years, but my GPA still ended up a 3.2, too low to get into medical school. So yes, it DID come back to bite me. Not to mention all the scholarship money I could have gotten with a good GPA.

                I don’t know what the magic solution for me would have been. I was a stubbornly independent teenager and the more my parents got involved in my grades, the more I dug in and and refused to do my homework. I don’t know what advice to give to parents with kids like me.

                To the OP, re: the extensions: I’d say DON’T GIVE THEM.

              5. Astor*

                It can also really depend on the subjects, and your relationship with the subjects.

                I had a math teacher who would waive all homework assignments as long as you were getting an A on the test, with the theory that you were doing the appropriate amount of preparation on your own. If you had less than an A, it was expected that you’d do the homework that he’d assign, so that you could either bring your grade up or get help to figure out what you were struggling with. I loved it at the time, and it really matched the expectations for me in university level STEM classes, where each assignment would only ask one question of each type and it was assumed you’d practice outside of the assignment. And then the tests would be a more controlled and heavily weighted version of the assignments.

                But I also had an English teacher who required that we write SO MANY essays, essay after essay, and she’d only grade random ones so you never knew ahead of time which one you had to spend time on. At the time, I hated it, I thought it was terrible and cruel because it was really stressful. But as an adult, I have a much better idea of how important that practice is for getting better and that the structure of having to write an actual essay every week was really useful.

                There is certainly ALSO the problem where I didn’t need to spend a lot of time or have good habits to be successful in high school, and that caught up to me later. But I can say with confidence that homework wouldn’t have solved the problem. Only having more challenges in the classroom would have made that difference.

              6. DArcy*

                Whether or not your very smart kid can continue blowing off regular homework really depends on the college, and may even vary from class to class.

                I’ve had college classes where the homework was weighted to the point where you could skip either the midterm or the final without lowering your grade if you’d done all the homework, and the syllabus explicitly stated that this was an intentional feature and if you did it, you’d earned it.

                I’ve also had college classes where the homework was purely optional — they’d grade it if you turned it in, but it didn’t count towards your grades at all and was framed as an learning tool which was provided for your choice.

            2. AnonAnalyst*

              Same here. Starting in high school, it was always spelled out in the first class that turning in an assignment late would, at the very least, result in a lower grade. Some teachers went even further and said they wouldn’t accept any assignments after the deadline.

              I guess I never thought about asking to turn in something late since they had been pretty clear up front about what the late policy was. I knew of a few students who had gotten exceptions in various classes due to family emergencies, but there wasn’t a widespread idea that you should ask for an extension just because you hadn’t gotten the work done. I don’t know if that’s because the other students were like me and assumed you couldn’t ask, or if it was because the teachers were pretty strict about sticking to the policy when people did…

            3. LadyMe*

              I was a hyper diligent student in middle school and high school who had a tendency to take on more than I could chew, like doing *more* than the project required, and stuffing my schedule with advanced classes. I’d sometimes fall behind, and because the thought of getting a 0 for a late assignment made me literally distraught, I’d beg my teachers for an extension. Because I was a good student who was polite, well-behaved in class, contributed to discussions, asked questions, and otherwise turned in all A’s, my teachers would grant me an extension every time I asked.

              College and professors who didn’t even know my name and said “no” to extension requests before I even got a chance to explain was a bit of a culture shock.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            USA. I asked for an extension once in college because I was genuinely, verifiably-by-the-health-center sick and *desperate*, but otherwise it would never have crossed my mind. (I think I may have given the prof a copy of my unfinished work as proof I had something, but it’s been a billion years and I can’t remember.) Due dates were due dates.

          4. Lore*

            Oh I know! I would never, ever have thought you could ask for an extension and get it without penalty in school. Of course, I never thought you could negotiate a job offer either, at that point in my life, so some of that is just naivete and ingrained social expectations.

          5. Alton*

            I’m in the US and I’ve definitely witnessed a lot of students not turning their work in on time, both as a student and an employee at a university.

            The thing is, I think people who ask for extensions proactively are often the ones who do take the deadline seriously and are good at communicating with the professor. The people who were just bad at finishing stuff usually wouldn’t say anything until after the deadline had passed. A lot of times deadlines are negotiable, but only if you’re responsible and communicative about it. I’d try to handle a difficult deadline at work the same way, and talk to my boss if I foresaw a real issue with completing something by deadline.

            I think I only asked for an extension twice. One time I missed the deadline on an online quiz because the due date in the syllabus was wrong and I was too distracted with a relative in the hospital to think to double-check it (normally I would have noticed that the date appeared odd). The second time, I signed up to do a presentation only a few weeks into the semester and I realized that the book if agreed to present on (which was in addition to our regular readings) was longer than I’d expected. So I asked my professor if it’d be okay to take a little more time to finish reading.

            I hated asking for extensions, though, and generally didn’t consider it an option. I’m bad at procrastinating, but I knew that getting an extension would rarely help with that. I considered extensions only in an emergency or if I knew the professor was flexible and that a few more days would make a real difference in the quality of work I could produce.

            1. Stitch*

              I totally agree that asking for an extension is very different from simple turning in something late. I am usually very prompt with my work, but if I know I’m going to have a busy week I’ll alert the professor/boss. And sometimes I do, in fact, turn in things past the deadline if I know that the deadline is flexible (a weekly progress assignment vs. an application are very different beasts) AND that I will produce better work if I give myself breathing room.

              So, here’s one vote for “There should be a late penalty, but not big enough to discourage completing the work, and waivable with good communication”. In my experience in the working world, deadlines can very from “absolutely must have on time to the minute” to “I won’t even read it until a week after, so take your time”. Communication gives people who want to do their best work the chance to weigh the pros and cons of flexing the deadline.

              I hesitate for anyone to recommend a policy of “no late work, ever” because, no, that’s not how the real world works for all but a few circumstances. I once had a professor tell us a “horror story” of when she aimed to submit a grant application at midnight when it was due, and the computer malfunctioned. Horror! But she emailed them and they still allowed her submission. In my mind, that’s not a horror story at all, it’s an example of communication, flexibility, and good intentions. Of course, it probably taught her a lesson about keeping a buffer for technical problems, but that’s something I think most people have to learn on their own anyway.

          6. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            The only time in college I saw someone get an extension for a reason other than illness or a family death was when my hallmate’s ceiling fell on him while he was sleeping the night before a final exam. He wasn’t hurt, but the professor was willing to let him take the exam a day late since he got pretty much no sleep that night.

        2. Nan*

          Originally went to a small, private college. Got fussed at by my religion professor when I asked to reschedule my final because I had to run home because my mother was dying. Like I had planned that. That was 20 years ago, and I still think he was an unreasonable jerk for that one.

          Barring a true emergency, things are due when they are due.

          1. Alucius*

            that’s rough. I would think at a smaller school it wouldn’t be THAT hard to accommodate these things. I’ve let a few students write exams in different slots this term for much less serious concerns that that.

          2. Lady Julian*

            Yes, he was a jerk. There are some things students get an automatic extension for, and a death in the family is one of them.

          3. Honeybee*

            I remember my senior year in high school my mother had to get an emergency surgery during the end of the school year, and her recovery period was during finals week for me and my two siblings (17, 15, and 13). She couldn’t walk and needed to be cared for, and my father had to work full-time, so we took turns staying home and caring for her. I called all of my teachers whose finals I would be missing on the days it was my turn to care for my mother to let them know the situation, and they were all pretty sympathetic and agreed to let me reschedule my finals.

            Except for one, who tried to tell me that if I stayed home to care for my sick, recuperating mother she’d give me a zero on the final and fail me.

            Lucky for me I had a good relationship with the principal – I was an honors student for crying out loud – so my next call was to the principal. I got a call back within minutes telling me of course they could make that accommodation for me.

          4. Sprinkled with Snark*

            That’s a tough one. Every single semester that I taught, there was at least one student with a dying parent or grandparent, whose imminent death would be occurring the very weekend before the assignment was due. Never once did a student approach me at the beginning of a semester and tell me they have a father with cancer, or a sister with leukemia, or a mother on the kidney transplant list that might mean an emergency trip home during a period when the student would not be on break. Every single situation was an emergency. However, I would always express my deepest concern, and then advise the student to report to student services to get a family emergency waiver, and receive any additional assistance they might need. After all, I’m sure they have assignments due in ALL of their classes. They would then be given until the end of the next semester to make up any missed assignments.

            1. Amber T*

              So there were probably a few liars in your bunch, but in defense of the hopefully truth tellers –

              My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer the summer before my senior year. I (in hindsight, stupidly) told very few people – only two of my best friends and my manager at my job (and only because I broke down crying during a one-on-one). Halfway through the semester, when my grades were not as fantastic as they should be (and I got myself to a counselor to figure out how to handle things), I emailed my professors explaining the situation, why I wasn’t as good as a student as I should have been, and that my mother’s surgery was scheduled for Dec. X, so could I please have some leeway around finals (this was maybe the end-ish of October).

              Now I realize that I should have told them as soon as I realized it was going to affect me… but the truth was, I was so adamant that I was going to focus so hard on my studies that it would be fine, I was in pretty deep denial. Thankfully my professors were amazing about it and helped me figure out a schedule for finals and studying and the like (even if one professor did get a bit too detailed regarding his own father’s colon cancer).

              (Mom kicked cancer’s butt, by the way :D )

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Oh, congrats to your mom!

                Oftentimes students (especially undergrads, but grads, too) are very unlikely to disclose a close relative is ill until it becomes a crisis to their academic life. And I’ve found that folks whose family members’ are grappling with a medical issue are even more unlikely to bring it up because they’re focused on their family member’s well-being and support (not their own), and because they don’t want to risk “false alarms” if they think they’re adequately managing their stress.

                Often we don’t disclose as a self-preservation move: it’s exhausting to manage your own emotions, let alone the emotional responses/reactions of others when they hear your news. And many of us are raised believing that medical information is private and that we don’t share our business if it’s not necessary—especially when the “business” being shared is about a family member’s health.

                Sometimes I wish that professors were more proactive about extension policies in high-stakes circumstances like these, either by announcing the class policy on the first day and/or by including it in the syllabus. I have a feeling it would encourage people to come talk to the instructor earlier than later.

            2. Philosophy Prof...*

              Two amusing student stories…

              One student told me a horrible and tragic story of her father’s death and brother’s suicide and all kinds of drama. She told different stories to different professors. Counseling called her home number, and her dead father answered. That same student ended up at my community college the next year…

              The semester I had breast cancer and was doing chemo and teaching. One student claimed that his aunt had breast cancer and he couldn’t come to the 7:45 class to turn in his paper because he was sitting by her bedside. My response was a) my husband is in law school and has not missed a class, you can come in..b) I missed exactly 1.5 days for cancer, so he can come in to turn in his paper, and c) chemo is exhausting and he should let his aunt sleep and come to class.

          5. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            On the flipside, not to excuse that professor, but… an instructor, you hear about an awful lot of dying parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings, and cousins, awfully often.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              But isn’t it possible that a lot of those stories are true? I mean, there’s one instructor and loads of students, and I think it’s easy to feel like “all my students are lying about this” when in fact, you’re just experiencing hearing about it more frequently than you’d expect.

              Although if a student is lying about a death in the family, they need to seriously reevaluate their behavior.

              1. Recovering Adjunct*

                I had a student have her dad die not once, not twice, but three times in a semester. I was super sympathetic on the first death, sceptical on the second (maybe she forgot that she told me but needed a mental health day?) and the third time, I called her on it. Turns out her dad died when she was a kid, so whenever she was in a jam, she’d say her dad died. It wasn’t a lie, really, he’d died, just not recently.

                Certain students lie a LOT to get themselves out of bad situations. I’d say 5% of the student population will say anything to get more time on an assignment/avoid a charge of cheating/etc and 5% wouldn’t say a word to a prof if they were diagnosed with a fatal illness. Everyone else falls in the middle 90% of only speaking up when things are really dire. Those 5% that lie lie a LOT though and make it really tough for professors.

              2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                I’d say maybe 20% are true. It’s usually obvious which ones are BS.

          6. SJ*

            Similar story with my mother — small private college (where I ended up going to school!), and the only time in four years that she asked for an extension was right after her father had died and she had to help her mother with arrangements. I think she asked for an extra 2 days to write a paper. Prof said no. And this was after my mom had kept going to all her classes for the full week that her dad was dying in the hospital because her mother didn’t want her to miss any classes.

            1. Amber T*

              I think that’s real disservice to your mother… actually I think that’s a real shitty thing for that professor to do to her.

              So there’s a lot reasons below why companies/departments have certain deadlines, and they all make sense. If we had a letter here where someone wrote in, saying their parent was dying and their manager wouldn’t let them leave because of an arbitrary deadline (which, let’s be real here, *most* academic deadlines are, especially at the undergrad level), we’d probably tear them apart and put them up for “worst manager of the year.”

              When your department/company has a deadline, there’s usually a team around you that can cover you if you have an emergency. And if there’s no emergency protocol, and literally everything in the company hinges on solely your ability to complete a task 100% of the time, that’s a poorly set up system. So that’s an instance where the professor was far too strict with deadlines. I’m in full support for strict deadlines if the reason behind it is laziness or poor time management skills, but not for an emergency like this.

      2. Anonymous 40*

        I went to a small, private religious university as a working adult in the evening program. In my capstone class during my final semester, the instructor (a working adjunct like DG) had a very clear grading policy in the sylabus that laid out the value of each assignment and the amount deducted for late work. I had an A average going into the final paper but had been so busy with work, school, and a baby on the way that I hadn’t started on the paper until the weekend before it was due.

        Then my grandmother died and I had to go home (two states away) that weekend for her funeral. I knew I wouldn’t be able focus on either the paper or the family properly if I was trying to write it while I was away. My grade to that point was high enough that I could not turn in the paper at all and still pass. The instructor thought I was crazy but that’s exactly what I did. Lowered my grade from an A to a C. I’ve never regretted it for a moment. Graduated a couple of weeks later, which was all that mattered to me by then.

        He was the only instructor whose policy was that clear, but it was so helpful. Some of the others would take late work, some wouldn’t, and some depended on when, why, who, their own mood, position and phase of the moon… That clear, consistent policy made an awful time so much easier because I didn’t have to beg and explain.

        So my advice is whatever the OP does in the future, clarity and consistency are the key.

      3. The Final Pam*

        I went to a large university too, and while I got one or two extensions in some classes for the most part if it was late it was docked points. The only time I got any major extensions was when I simultaneously broke and dislocated my ankle during finals week, but even then only a few classes let me – I remember I wrote one of my final papers for a class completely on pain meds, beyond caring about grades at that point (though I somehow managed to do OK).

      4. Anxa*

        Yeah, I always through deadlines were for things like being physically unable to be there, like a car accident (with a police report) or being in the hospital.

        And as a procrastinator, I felt it was a moral and logistical failure not to have done what was needed to be done to make it untime. Hit by a car on the way to class? Why weren’t you already on campus just to be safe? Had to go home for an emergency? Why couldn’t you concentrate on the train and write it? Etc.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I guess I’m probably more lenient :) If you’re hit by a car or need to go home for an emergency, I wouldn’t hold it against you that you couldn’t be on campus earlier or that you were too distracted to work on the train. (But I understand and agree with your larger point re: planning and time management.)

          1. Anxa*

            So I think that my issue was that I was a procrastinator and I knew it was bad, but that schools seemed to think that that meant I was lazy or unmotivated. And not that I would stare at my ceiling for nights at a time worrying about a paper, but literally not knowing how to start cutting through the self-doubt and anxiety without the adrenaline rush.

            So I was really hard on myself, but it didn’t actually help me perform better. But in a way, it was kind of like the ultimate excuse: I’m a lazy, unmotivated person and you’ll never believe otherwise, so let’s just try to avoid each other because I’m too ashamed that I’m an adult that can’t make myself do what I want to do. And when there was a major issue that kind of was reasonably out of my control, I could always pinpoint where I failed to prevent it.

            Then again, I think in general I was just not the target audience for anything as a teen and young adult. I never felt invincible. So all of those scare campaigns about how big of a responsibility driving is? Yeah, I was terrified to drive. And I cannot begin to list all of the opportunities I probably lost out on living and going to school. And so on and so on.

    2. Lady Julian*

      I’m a community college instructor (English), and while my late policy is more generous (10 points/day it’s late & zero points after seven days), I’m convinced it’s a much stricter policy than many people have at my institution. I regularly have students coming into my office asking for help on a paper that was due two weeks ago in another class, and I’m amazed they’re getting points for it at all. I would not accept a paper turned in that late. In my view, it’s important to have clear deadlines & get stuff in by deadlines, because most people are not going to accept things that are simply turned in *whenever*. Certainly they wouldn’t accept it if I turned grades around two weeks after they got turned in!

      One thing I’ve learned to do over the years is structure assignments so that students turn in a series of smaller assignments as a lead up to the final project; if students regularly complete the smaller assignments on time, they’re likely to be ready to submit the last big one on time too. My hope is that this trains them to start early and do work in smaller chunks, rather than leaving everything till the last minute for a Red Bull induced panic.

      1. Lowercase holly*

        Lady Julian, that would be an interesting early exercise. Tell the students you’ll get their grades back on this date then be late two weeks. Ask them if it matters afterwards. I’m not a teacher; maybe that is the worst idea?

        1. Kopper*

          I actually did that once because on one batch of essays about half of the students submitted late, even with a policy of deductions for deadlines…I was not popular…months later that was the main complaint on my student evaluations for that class.

          1. lowercase holly*


            other questions that would work well with younger undergrads: how do you feel when your pizza delivery is late? maybe the orders were backed up, maybe there was traffic. special circumstances!

      2. Larina*

        The 10 points off per day late policy was what most of my professors did. It was good, because sometimes students would want to turn in their paper just one day late, but have to ask themselves if one extra day of working on the paper would make up for 10 lost points, where the highest grade they could get was a 90 (which classified as a B in most of my classes. Curse the 7 point grading scale).

        1. Newby*

          I had some professors do this also. The policy was one letter grade per day. If you were four days late, the highest you could get was a D. I think that any policy is ok so long as it is explained ahead of time. Not accepting anything late works if the students know ahead of time that there is almost no flexibility in that. Just saying that you won’t accept things late isn’t really good enough considering how many professors don’t really mean it. Acknowledge that other classes might allow late assignments, but you really will give them a 0.

          1. Sprinkled with Snark*

            It’s good enough. Telling students on day one that you will not accept late assignments is good enough. Putting it writing, printing it out, handing it to them in class, going over it verbally in class, then posting a copy of the syllabus and grading policy online where they have full access is ALSO good enough. Telling them when every assignment is announced, including the due dates and the grade expectations and telling them again that late assignments will not be accepted is also good enough.

            However, the look of shock and disbelief when a student hands in a paper an instructor won’t accept, and then claiming that they were NEVER told of this policy, is NOT good enough to make an exception.

      3. Recovering Adjunct*

        TOI — The Other Instructor is an acronym I used a lot with my colleagues. TOI is more understanding, accommodating and laid back than anyone else on campus but, sadly, none of us have ever run into TOI on campus…

        I used to have all kinds of late policies for my students and about five years ago, I went to a “no late paper accepted period” policy but I would extend a deadline for any student who came to me a minimum of 24 hours a paper was due to request one. Worked wonders!

        1. Decima Dewey*

          In my library system, it’s The Other Branch. The Other Branch will let you print out War and Peace without paying, regularly waives fines, lets you swing from the overhead lights…

    3. Artemesia*

      When I taught I always had penalties for late papers. There is really no reason for missing deadlines in college for most students. We were at a residential college where partying began Thursday evening. Most students were not working so needs for extensions were mostly about procrastination and bad planning. You can train people to always be late, but why would that be a good ideas.

      If a student had a serious issue like significant illness, death in family etc then if they approached me ahead I would work something out. But ‘I have another test to study for’ — they are students, that is what they do. They need to learn to plan. The result FWIW is that I almost never had a late paper. People generally do what it expected.

      With grad students, I had some who were working professionals and if they contacted me for a little bit of extra time because of sudden work issues or whatever, I was flexible But generally people with full lives, are not the problem — they organize themselves to get it done.

      I think it is important to have the expectation that work will be turned in timely; I at least found that it almost always was when that was clear. I also put all assignments of papers and such in the syllabus, so for major projects students could begin at any point in the semester. I included a clear description of the requirements and a rubric for assessment, so it was crystal clear what was required. Of course early on they did not necessarily have the resources and knowledge to do the work, but knowing the challenges ahead also sharpened up their focus when I was teaching the material they needed to do the assigned work.

      It is no kindness to let this slide. Exceptions should be clearly exceptional.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        And even with most personal emergencies….yeah, yeah, your printer crapped out, and that’s too bad, but if you getting this to me on time was predicated on your printer working perfectly, and you didn’t have enough time even to go print it at the library….that still boils down to poor time management.

        1. Newby*

          I once had my printer break, the printer at the library break and the printer in the computer lab break. I was terrified that my professor wouldn’t believe me. Even to me it sounded like something made up.

        2. Anonygoose*

          Yes! As a student I always tried to be done one day ahead *at the latest*. I would rather work hard all day Thursday and then chill out on Friday than panic all day on Friday then run to campus to hand something in….

        3. JAM*

          My university library didn’t open till 8 but classes on some days started at 7:30. I remember that being such a pain.

        4. Sprinkled with Snark*

          THAT was my favorite – -my printer crapped out! I would then ask my students, are you aware that your tuition costs include a $250 “tech” fee per student? That’s to make sure that every single building on this spectacular Division 1 SEC university campus, including every residence hall, dining hall, fraternity/sorority house, rec center, locker room, football stadium, library, and even the outdoor pavilion off the quad is fully equipped with internet access ports, laptops, and printers, just so you, the student, will never be without the tech resources you need to be fully wired 24/7. In addition, it’s all FREE to you, the student. Our students no longer have the hassle of trying to make nickel change at the library in order to print out a fuzzy microfiche newspaper article or a middle of the night assignment. In addition to THAT, if they happen to live off campus somewhere, the entire city takes a version of university cash, like BeaverCASH, or BulldogCASH, or GopherCASH that is connected to their University accounts that are swiped from their student ID. If they are completely out of cash (pre-paid money in an account usually paid for by their parents), one online funds transfer from their personal account or their parent’s account, available 24/7, will have them ready to print out those huge assignments at Campus Copy, or Best Buy, or Staples, or Office Depot. Failing THAT option, they could then send the completed document to me personally by email, they could turn in the completed assignment to me on a jump drive, they could send the document to a friend who could print it out for them, or they could send the document to their campus email as an attachment that they could open and print out themselves at any of the university buildings mentioned above. Or they could take their colorful drives that students wear around their necks and go to any of the university buildings mentioned earlier and print the assignment out right then and there, or do it in the morning sometime on their way to breakfast. Our university is like a little city, where every building has a small reception desk of some kind for the sole purpose of doing things for students. If we didn’t, parents would call and demand why can’t Fergus get a lousy 5 page paper printed out at 3:00am? Or at 9:00am while he eats his breakfast?

          So, when a student tells me their printer crapped out, yes, I go through that ENTIRE rigamarole with them for a couple of reasons. One is, it shows him that I, even as an ooooold 40ish woman, that I am tech savvy enough to not be duped by the “printer crapped out” excuse. Secondly, it shows Fergus that he is the recipient of amazing technology and resources, some of the greatest in the country, all bought and paid for by his tuition dollars, and he has every right to take full advantage of them. If he doesn’t, that’s on him. Thirdly, it tells him that he needs to do a little bit better job at thinking, problem-solving, resource and time management, skills he is definitely going to need if he wants to be successful. I am not doing him any favors by being the “mom-like” professor who fake frowns and says, “Oh, okay, I’ll take it THIS time, but don’t be late again.” And finally, if Fergus ever showed up late to a sports practice, media days, the coaches meeting, etc, would any of his coaches, assistant coaches, strength training coaches, nutritionists, or coordinators give him a smile and say, “Oh okay, just this once?”

          1. CJ Record*

            I bypass the whole “printer” excuse and request everything be submitted through the campus LMS. Which, conveniently, they have access to anywhere, especially campus. (It also cuts down on my losing papers and the “but I submitted it” shenanigans.)

          2. Zombii*

            I appreciate that this works for you but as a general PSA for others reading this thread: I worked while going to community college (the first time, now I’m in online school). This community college did not offer free money for tech use or any other use, printing pages cost $0.25/page. There were times I couldn’t afford to pay $1.25 to print a paper. I lived in a house with other students and the printer was frequently out of ink. Ink is expensive. If I couldn’t afford to print a paper at the library or computer lab, I definitely couldn’t afford ink. Most of my professors would take papers by email; this was very much appreciated. Some of them wouldn’t; my GPA suffered from my lack of funds.


        5. OtterB*

          In one of my daughter’s high school classes – I think it was AP English – the list of supplies for the course included “spare printer cartridge.” Therefore, “my printer ran out of ink” was not an acceptable excuse for failing to turn a paper in on time.

          This assumes a printer at home, but that’s not an unreasonable assumption for that school.

      2. KG, Ph.D.*

        This is basically my approach, too (I’m faculty at a large state institution). I’m flexible if you have a good reason and/or approach me in advance, but otherwise – no late work, no exceptions. I give extremely straightforward and detailed assignment descriptions, rubrics, tutorials, etc., and I set intermediary deadlines to force them to do things in chunks rather than all at once. For example, my students are currently writing a term paper, but I had them turn in annotated bibliographies and outlines earlier in the semester. This is a bit of overkill, but learning to break big goals down into smaller tasks with deadlines is a skill that not everyone has — I didn’t — and I figure this is an opportunity for them to learn.

        That said, on the faculty end of things, deadlines are honestly just one big joke. Anything that isn’t a large funding agency (NSF proposals don’t get accepted late!) is flexible, and I hate it. It honestly feels like no one even tries to get things done by the deadlines; instead, they view a deadline as the time to start working on a task. I try hard to get my work done in time, and it’s sooooo annoying to be on a committee where no one else does. To be fair, there’s a larger conversation to be had about faculty workloads and unrealistic tenure expectations, and we’re long overdue for a shift on that front, but STILL. At least pretend you give a shit about this stuff.

        1. Murphy*

          I’m staff at a university and I definitely feel your last paragraph.

          Recently, I had something due from ~20 faculty, and the day after the deadline eight people hadn’t completed it. (They had weeks, knew the schedule ahead of time, and it could probably be done in an afternoon.)

        2. Dankar*

          So true! I think academia (faculty side) is one of the few professions in which deadlines really do not matter.

          I needed to get faculty credit card reimbursements signed (so they could get their own money back!!) and that ended with me printing the forms, physically going to them during their office hours and actually watching them sign the forms. That was the only way it was getting done, and three weeks past the “deadline” at that point.

      3. Lady Julian*

        One other thing I’ve done that I’ve been happy with is the “24 Hour Free Late Paper”. They can turn one paper (out of 2-3, depending on the class) in 24 hours late without penalty. One of the most popular majors at my community college has a tendency to schedule massive tests on the same day that my papers were due; and since I teach freshmen who are still learning to organize their lives, the papers would often not be very good. If students let me know in advance, they could turn the paper in up to 24 hours late without penalty.

        While a “free” 24 hours is not a real-world thing, I’ve been pleased by the way that it encourages my students to communicate with me about their progress. They also have to do a little planning in deciding when they want to use the “free” paper, since they can only do it once.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          I used to teach a freshman class when I was still in higher ed and did a “free skip”. According to the handbook they were supposed to lose 1/2 a letter grade for just once absence (because it was only 1 hr. a week) in this class but my session was at 7:30 on a Monday. This was definitely before texting and email was not as commonplace as it is today. The most surprising part was that out of 30-40 kids each semester less than 10 actually used the free skip. It was kinda cool.

        2. Sprinkled with Snark*

          I had a similar policy. I made it clear that I did not accept late work. But I also would tell students on the class period before a big assignment was due that it was due on (Wednesday). I would accept the assignment either in my hands, or in my office, any time between now and Wednesday midnight. Some would even turn theirs in right then and there, happy to get it out of their hands. If you didn’t start it at all, or didn’t even start until Tuesday night, odds are it was going to be late, or late and poorly written. C /D students are C/D students — you can’t really change that by the time they get to college. What’s an extra few hours anyway – -a lifesaver if you are almost finished, almost nothing if you didn’t even start. Who knows when I’d finally get to start grading them anyway?

          But I was surprised that it made a big difference for some students. Some would come to me after class and say, is it okay if I hand it in Wednesday at 5:00pm? I have a (meeting, practice, test, extra shift at work, etc) and if I could turn it in later that would really help me out? As long as it was here by midnight, it was okay. I found also that some students even took that extra afternoon or early evening to rework it a little, or get some printer paper, and it was even better. They could get it done, but a little extra time meant they could get it done better. The people who took the advantage of that were the good students, pressed for time, with a lot on their plate (maybe too much) that used that time to make what they had a little better.

      4. Aurion*

        I remember once I came down with the flu and missed a week of school. In my flu-haze I managed to email my lab director that I wasn’t showing up, but I forgot to email my TA. Every week the lab report for the previous week’s lab was due, and we got docked marks for being late.

        I handed my lab report in a week late. I actually had a doctor’s note but no real explanation than “sorry, I forgot to email you, I was too sick.” I still got docked marks for being late even though I actually had it prepared on time. At the time I thought it was so unfair, but in retrospect it was the lack of communication that was the issue.

        Exceptions should be exceptional, but even so, communication is not optional.

    4. anon for this*

      I work in mental health at Fancy Schmancy University and there’s so much flexibility offered to students, often to their detriment. I understand instructors’ desires to be lenient with their students but from where I sit, it often leads to students not experiencing consequences for their actions and then the problematic behavior gets normalized.

      Two caveats to that: (1) I tend to see people who are really struggling, so this likely doesn’t apply to all students and (2) FSU graduates often go on to powerful, high-paying jobs where a ready excuse and family money can get you out of just about any scrape, so the importance of consequences is really questionable.

      1. Snargulfuss*

        I teach a university course and every semester I encounter at least one student with mental/emotional health issues who fails to turn in multiple assignments. Occasionally a student will come to me in advance and let me know that he or she is having difficulty, but often the student won’t come to me until the end of the semester. I recognize that depression and anxiety can make it difficult for a student to even communicate that he or she is struggling, so I tend to be lenient, but I wonder if I’m being too lenient.

        1. Formica Dinette*

          There has been a lot of discussion about this on Twitter recently, and from what I’ve read, many professors would consider your approach reasonable without being overly permissive. Yes, students *should* tell you they’re struggling ASAP. However, as you acknowledged, the reality of anxiety and depression means they often don’t (can’t?). Students who are dealing with serious problems aren’t in a position to learn anything about rules, time management, the “real world,” etc. by you being more strict.

          FWIW, I have a few family members who are college professors, so I also hear plenty of stories about less sympathetic students. ;)

        2. Anon Charity Bod*

          In the UK the student needs to go through an official assessment to get allowance for this. The disability office then communicates with the faculty about accommodations.

        3. turquoisecow*

          I suffered through depression all through high school and most of college. For me, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Usually at the beginning of the semester, I was feeling fine and thinking I could handle everything, who even needs therapy right now? But then, mid-semester, I’d sink into that funk and maybe skip a few classes or half-ass some homework. Sometimes I’d feel better and bounce back by the end of the semester, with no obvious decline in grades, and sometimes I wouldn’t. But I almost never started a class thinking, “Oh, I should tell the professor I sometimes feel like crap and it might interfere with my studies,” especially because I wasn’t on medication or going to therapy, so why should they even believe me?

          1. Zombii*

            Similar story. There’s also the general stigma surrounding mental health issues, especially ones so poorly understood as depression/anxiety, not to mention the professors who think they can just “snap you out of it” by “not coddling you like everyone else has been” and “that’s your whole problem.” (Wtf.)

            Tl;dr: I’ve been through some shit. Going to my professor and playing Russian roulette as to whether they had any concept of what depression/anxiety is was never something I wanted to do.

            1. turquoisecow*

              Yeah, I’ve had to be careful how I explain it. Some people are immediately understanding of mental health issues, and other people are basically like, “oh, just get over it.” I’ve come across quite a few people who are incredibly naive or dismissive of mental health issues, who think you should just be able to handle it, or that it’s some sort of personal failing. Explaining “I have depression” to those sorts of people, is not going to help anything.

              1. Brrrrr!*

                There’s another blog I like to read called Hyperbole and a Half that does a really good depiction from someone who had depression about what it’s like.

        4. anon for this*

          I think that’s a empathic approach and I appreciate professors who can respond appropriately to mental health concerns. I think my original post was more cautioning against erring on the side of permissiveness because students often use lack of consequences to rationalize that everything’s okay and so they don’t need to seek treatment, change their behavior, etc. Universities are often cast in a parental role so there’s room for that empathic understanding. At work, though, not keeping your boss in the loop about factors that affect your performance and then performing poorly would often be treated very differently and that can be a tough switch for students to make.

        5. Anxa*

          So, that was probably me in college. I had major anxiety issues. I’m sure a lot of people would have experienced schadenfreude because I was one of those people who didn’t understand studying. Throughout school, my biggest issues was always performance anxiety, lack of concentration, perfectionism, and other organizational skills. I struggled in high school, but wanting to remain a “good kid” and a “smart kid” kept that in check. I thought was I was a horrible student, but I had a 94 average with sports and works and clubs.

          Then it fell apart in college. Even at my safety school (I actually think being at a less selective school made it easier for me to succumb to my issues).

          I never wanted to be a complainer or whiner or seem irresponsible, so I just would take my zeroes quietly and finish the papers on my own after the semester. I can’t tell you how many papers I wrote after the due date and never submitted and how many chapters I finally covered over winter break and summer break after bombing the tests.

          I guess I find it strange because so many times I hear instructors talk about how they’d rather students just reach out, but I also hear about how they are sick of students asking for EC, extensions, etc. So I was always just really quiet because I figured that was better than reaching out. Now that I’m graduated, I wonder if any of my instructors would have rather I let them know I was struggling? But then again, I felt that that’s what A is for: for not struggling. I never have associated good grades with knowing the material and doing the work, because I associated school with a test of your organizational skills. Which I’m great with when it comes to things that other people depend on me for, but not so much for independent things like school.

        6. Gogglemarks*

          I’m pretty close to being one of those students right now – I keep starting the semester telling myself that my depression from the previous semester was a transient thing, I’m better prepared this semester, everything is going to be perfectly fine, but right now it’s a struggle to even make it to class some days. Right now I’m getting my assignments in on time (mostly) and just desperately hoping that it doesn’t get any worse; I haven’t been able to bring myself to talk to most of my professors about it because I feel like they would think I’m just one of those students mentioned by people upthread, who just want an excuse because they were out partying or didn’t bother to start on time (and sometimes I secretly think I am just one of those people and if I just worked a little harder all of my problems would go away).

          I don’t know the exact situation of any of your students, obviously, but if they’re feeling anything like I do, some flexibility isn’t usually going to make it feel like everything’s perfectly fine and deadlines don’t matter. I don’t think there should just be no consequences ever for turning work in late, but I feel a lot less like a failure who doesn’t deserve to be here if professors are willing to be a bit lenient and work with me.

        7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think it’s too lenient because I think many students with mental health issues don’t realize that they’re in the middle of a crisis until it gets Very Bad.

          I was depressed throughout all of college but wasn’t diagnosed until 4 years later. I’m pretty self-aware and had helped other friends with depression/anxiety go to the student health center and get the support/referrals they needed, and I still was completely oblivious to the fact that I had a massive problem (you would think having a small-scale nervous breakdown sophomore year would have tipped me off, but nope). Sometimes it’s hard to pull yourself out of the hole, take a step back, and realize there’s something bigger at play.

      2. Sam*

        We work at very similar universities. But I’m an administrator, and, unlike the faculty, I do enforce deadlines. You can imagine how many times I’ve had to have a “being an adult means dealing with the consequences of your actions” talk with baffled and sometimes irritated students. I know the faculty think they’re helping, but most times they are not.

      3. Gloucesterina*

        The advice I got from my university’s mental health center is that instructors should prioritize students’ learning. Giving flexibility (e.g. agreeing on a later deadline to submit work for a student struggling with their mental health) will help that student learn; never enforcing the new deadline will _not_ help the student learn the material or help them develop skills in time and health management beyond the university.

    5. Vin Packer*

      This is basically what I’ve done with my students too. I’m surprised this professor is getting pushback; not accepting late work is pretty standard in my experience.

      (Side note: I didn’t love the “real job” dig. Adjuncting pays like shit and it’s precarious that’s really shady but it’s def a job.)

    6. Kathleen Adams*

      My degree is in journalism, and so the tolerance for lateness was…well, darn close to non-existent.

      1. Sylvia*

        My degree was in psychology and there was a high tolerance for lateness. I’m naturally terrible at time management and I have diagnosed ADHD, so I just thought this was how things would be for me, got some lower grades, made excuses, etc.

        My first job was at a news site. Suddenly, my mistakes affected more than just me. They happened in front of an audience of thousands. I got my act together in two weeks flat. I wish that college had been like that.

    7. Nan*

      It’s due when it’s due, and not a moment later. I have clear expectations of my staff that if they don’t expect to meet a deadline, they need to give me a heads up sooner rather than later, so I can pull more resources in if I need to. To be fair, I also am very clear if something is urgent or not and when I need it back by, and give as much advanced notice as possible.

      As you’re a professor, I’m assuming you have a syllabus and students who can read. I wouldn’t accept late work. They have the info they need to get it in on time, each and every time.

      I cannot stand when I am part of a process at the person before me doesn’t get their work to me in a timely manner, either. Patience is not a virtue I possess much of, but I’m working on it. I’m also perpetually early, because I like to give a little wiggle room for unforeseen circumstances.

      I have a 16 year old son and a few of his high school teachers will accept late work with no penalty, keep extending deadlines, or allow them to make up for bad grades. Drives me nuts. I don’t think that helps prepare kids for the real world.

      If my work is not done the day before it’s due, I consider myself running late. That give me time for a last proof read, any IT issues, the power going out, a family emergency, or whatever may crop up.

      1. Anxa*

        So, you really can’t assume this, though, now.

        I work in an open admissions community college, and I have serious doubts about several of my students’ ability to read (whether it’s dyslexia, poor reading comprehension, not knowing how to scan a sheet of paper, not knowing what many of the words mean, etc.)

        1. Anxa*

          Whoops. And it does make a it a lot harder to communicate over the material, when you spend a good portion of your day going over what a syllabus is, that all of the italicized sections have something in common, how to interpret a table, etc.

    8. Alucius*

      Been on faculty now for just over 5 years, and this is the first semester where I’ve actually managed to stick to my guns and NOT grant extensions without documented reasons like illness. I’m at a small school so I know my students by name and have friendly interactions with them so it’s been a challenge to hold firm. However, like others have said in this thread, it’s not helping them if they are shielded from the consequences of not adequately budgeting their time.

      I’ve had one student write to all his former faculty actually complaining about our leniency with extensions. He’s now in a position where a particular task MUST be completed weekly and he was struggling to break the mindset of just wanting to ask for a little more time.

      1. Stone Satellite*

        I should be complaining with your student from the other side of the problem. When professors told me there was no leniency for late work, I assumed they were being honest, and I ran myself ragged sometimes to make all their deadlines and seriously compromised my mental and physical health. To find that my classmates were easily granted extensions after the professor said “no extensions”? Pissed does not begin to cover how I feel about that.
        So I would say it’s not helpful to any of your students to be unclear or wishy-washy about your extension policy. Be honest, be firm.

    9. Don't Be Afraid of the QE*

      I work in new product development & the importance of hitting deadlines really varies. We have constantly changing priorities and so, for example, the deadline for teapot testing report 1 that we established on Monday, might no longer be relevant by Wednesday. These kinds of changes are understood, and generally no cause for reprimand or alarm. Bigger deadlines though, like “Finalize Teapot Design” are much stricter, and the entire team would expect to be penalized in our annual review if we do not meet them. This can be mitigated somewhat by keeping management informed, but the reality is that our company’s overall budget is dependent on us getting the project done so that we can start selling the new teapots. If we miss the date, the bottom line is affected, and generally so are our personal finances.

    10. SimonTheGreyWarden*

      I’m also an adjunct; my main student population is high school students in concurrent enrollment. Because they aren’t *actually* college students yet, and many of them are used to a lot of flexibility with assighments, I will tend to accept late work within a window. So for example, if something is due by 10pm and I can see it was in the dropbox by 2 am, I will generally not dock points. I know other instructors do and that I would be within my rights to, but it feels like a hard punishment that many of them don’t quite deserve.

      1. Noah*

        @Simon — High school sure has changed since my day, I guess. When I was in high school, late assignments (without making prior arrangements) wouldn’t be accepted at all. College was marginally more flexible (as noted in my previous comment). I’m not that old, either (38).

    11. Herdingcats*

      My full time job is research management at a large research university. My side job is TAing (Teaching Assistant) for graduate level intro courses in my field. I think the key thing I emphasize with my students is communication. Often times, students turn something in late (via our online system so its timestamped) and I’ll count points off. When they realize this at the end of the semester (grades are kept up to date throughout the semester so its not like they are caught off guard) about the point reduction and then try and give an excuse for why it was late, I don’t let that fly. I tell my students at the beginning of every course that I can be accommodating. I know life happens and many are working other jobs/ managing families. They just need to communicate that with me rather than assume I know why something was turned in late (you’d be surprised how often this happens).

      Now in my full-time job, since I set the deadlines for our project so I have control of the flexibility. But again, if my research assistant isn’t able to get something done by the proposed timeline, something as simple as sending an email with an estimate on completion is enough for me. Since we are federally funded, there a few reports per year I have to get in by a very specific deadline (or risk losing our funding) but those are few and far between.

    12. ArtsNerd*

      I like reading all these comments from people never requesting extensions because I always turned my papers in late in undergrad. Honestly, I think I turned in more late papers than on-time ones.

      Many of my professors had specific published penalties for late papers, like the full letter grade/day AnotherMel mentioned. So when it was the morning the paper was due and I was wallowing in my typical anxiety/procrastination/ADHD/writer’s block agony, staring at a blank screen* after staying up all night finding excuses to not look at the screen… I would calculate the hit to my GPA if I got a C on this one paper or what have you. My grades were really good so I saw it as a totally fair trade-off worth making.

      Other times, I would have ‘real’ reasons I couldn’t complete it that cropped up the day before e.g. my sister was hospitalized, or my computer died (before backing up data was super common) – but of course, had I actually started on the paper before the last day, even these wouldn’t have been as big of a problem.

      Once I turned in a paper WAY shorter than the assignment, and several days late. When I got the grade, I straight up told the professor, “Wow I don’t deserve this mark.” Her: “I know, but I am a sucker for interesting, difficult ideas written well.”

      So my “glide through on being clever” lack of discipline made college miserable, but otherwise I was basically never penalized for the deadlines I missed.

      Now I am only doing business writing (so concise and straightforward!) and mostly editing existing copy at that. Still terrible at judging my time and being prompt though. In my job, there’s a lot of events (see username) so lots of deadlines that are strict within the day, though only event execution is as specific as the hour. Even the “noon” Washington Post ad artwork deadline can get pushed as late as 7pm in a crunch… I will, however, stay at my desk until the things that need to get done get done.

      *Through a mix of strategy and luck, all my assigned papers were 10 pgs and under.

    13. only acting normal*

      I studied a physics degree at a UK Russell Group uni, and if you handed in work late you got zero marks. (I think I only ever missed one.)
      I’m now studying an “Open degree” at the Open University (free mix of subjects by distance learning). In all subjects (arts, maths, sciences, humanities) if you submit work late you get zero marks. You can ask your tutor for an extension in exceptional circumstances (I’ve had two one-week extensions in total on a whole degree course, due to my husband being hospitalised and me being ill. In each case I didn’t use the whole week’s leeway.) But even they can’t give extensions on final assignments, only mid-course.
      At both unis all those assignments counted to your final degree classification.

    14. BananaPants*

      I’m in grad school part time and this semester’s prof has the rule that if you hand something in late without at least 24 hours’ notice of a conflict or issue, it’s marked late regardless. As long as you let him know you’ll be on a business trip or your spouse is in the hospital or your computer hard drive died, then he’ll work with you.

    15. Philosophy Prof...*

      When your colleague repeatedly accepts late work, they train their students that deadlines don’t matter in college — so, when they get to my class and I enforce deadlines it comes as a surprise.

      Also, even within higher Ed, deadlines are important — if your colleague doesn’t believe that is true, they should try turning their budget request or teaching preferences in a month late sometime and see how that works for them.

      Finally, there is research showing that students from privileged backgrounds ask for and are granted extensions on papers that students without privilege don’t even think to ask for. Instead, they either hustle to get something in on time, or they don’t turn it in at all and miss the points. Further, do you really think i’s fair to grade the on-time paper and the significantly late paper on the same basis, when the late paper had significantly more time to work on the paper? Extensions can also put students into a death spiral of work from which they may not recover.

      I say, in higher Ed, deadlines ARE important.

      1. Gloucesterina*

        The point that Philosophy Prof… makes about students’ different backgrounds influencing how aware they may be about the possibility of asking for an extension or how willing they may be to ask for one is really important. I come from a working-class, non-white immigrant family and never thought to ask for an extension until my very last college paper, during a week in which I had 60-70 total pages of writing due. The professor I finally did ask was my advisor, and I’d had three years of history working closely with him, so I felt that I had secure standing for my request.

        When I teach a college class, I offer students up to 36 hours of extension they can use over the term for major due dates. They take the extension simply by filling out a form that they submit to me in place of their paper, which lists the number of hours of extension they will take and when they will submit the paper. Making the process of obtaining an extension automatic, transparent, and open to all is very important to me; equally important is that the number of hours available doesn’t exceed what I’m personally comfortable with as an instructor.

    16. Julie Noted*

      I studied science, and taught undergrad science lab classes for a few years when I was doing my PhD. From my experience across 3 unis, late by any amount of time attracted am automatic penalty. However, across the same universities my friends studying arts/humanities subjects reported handing in late assignments as a matter of course, and either receiving no penalty for up to a week late, or such a small penalty that the extra time is worth it (e.g. 1% deduction after the first 24 hours). Dunno if that discipline split is common elsewhere.

      Don’t allow lateness to become routine. It’s a terrible habit for students to start their adult lives with.

  2. Kyrielle*

    Much the same as what you said. I’m a software engineer, and software estimates are notoriously difficult. Software schedules are prone to slip, both because the estimate can be wrong, and because other higher-priority items come in. So being late isn’t automatically a huge thing…but being late without alerting your boss ASAP is.

    Some deadlines are more critical than others – and it does good to get a sense of what those are by your company – but the most important thing is keeping your boss in the loop so they know where you are.

    “Hey, if I focus on these bugs, project X is going to slip,” lets my boss tell me that no, project X is more important and he’ll put someone else to work on those bugs…or he may tell me that project Y, which needs to use project X (and that’s most of why we’re doing X in the first place), has already slipped, so slipping X doesn’t matter, as long as it doesn’t slip further than the schedule shift in Y.

    And sometimes the response is to ask me to pull extra hours because we DESPERATELY need X and the bug fixes and we’re just swamped. Rare, but it happens. So in case the students are wanting to slip the English paper for their programming lab…sometimes you don’t get to.

    1. Alice*

      I also work in IT (specifically in software), and I’ve had similar experiences with deadlines. The key for me has also been communication with my manager. Deadlines aren’t hard and fast because the priority of different projects determines when things need to get done, but I have to make sure she’s aware of what’s slipping in order to complete other projects.

      I agree with what Alison has said – so far, keeping your word has meant more to anyone in my field than meeting a deadline. Open communication means that deadlines can fluctuate, and coworkers/managers are more apt to trust me or my colleagues in IT with work when they know we’re willing to come to them when priorities in projects shift. This probably doesn’t apply in other areas with true deadlines (like publishing), but in IT it seems to work that way.

    2. The IT Manager*

      A major difference is that a student’s paper is the effort of a single person. And the paper’s deadline was probably given with enough advance warning that “I have another project due the same day” is not a good excuse because there was time to complete it earlier. Work isn’t like that.

      Software development is a team effort, and there are many moving parts – some of which the team has very limited control over so there will be more missed deadlines than I think students should be allowed. However there should also be good explanations/root causes for work delays (obviously I was doing something less important or just being lazy is terrible reason) and advance warning to the boss as soon as the delay is recognized.

      I think the LW’s policy is a good one for students. I’m a procrastinator myself – I was a usually on time with student work but I started last minute and rushed it. If I had a lenient teacher, I probably would have taken advantage – not consciously – but it would have happened.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yep. Also, software engineering can include surprises. A well-structured college assignment is hopefully not as “surprise-prone” as an attempt to add a feature that requires interaction with a third-party tool, for example. (I always love when the documented API is only almost accurate.) Or Fergus checks in a major change that’s in some of the same files you’re working on. A college paper really shouldn’t be subject to that. :)

        1. JokersandRogues*

          Or the third party changes something without telling anyone and then complains when they don’t get the data they wanted.

          Yes, dude, requiring an extra field without telling us means things break.

        2. Sprinkled with Snark*

          Academic assignments aren’t – -especially on the freshmen level. These students certainly aren’t doing Nobel prize level research yet. But the “surprises” come in their personal lives and how they can manage and cope with stress, and completing independent work. Seriously, some of these students come from such helicopter or tiger mom backgrounds that their moms proofread and edited homework for them only a month or two ago. Mom also wrote flash cards and study schedules, cooked all their meals, woke them up for class, and packed all their school supplies every day, all in the comfort of their private bedrooms and family entertainment centers. These students have the hardest time adjusting to independent life, then throw in the goodies like sex, alcohol and drugs, or even no curfew or no family dog and you have got a new level of personal mismanagement happening. You literally can watch them implode throughout the semester and it’s really tough to decide when to be firm and say no means no when you just want to give them a hug and say, “Sweetie, did you get any sleep last night? “

    3. JHunz*

      I’m a software engineer as well, but I do software related to consumer hardware. So if we miss a drop-dead deadline, we end up with products on retail store shelves without software support. Which is obviously completely untenable if you actually want to sell those products. It’s actually happened once, but because of a broken street date rather than a missed deadline, so luckily that was a sufficient response to the angry customers.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yep. Some things MUST be on time. Others don’t have to be. You’re creating a tool for something, X/Y/Z have to be there, but Q and R are optional nice-to-haves. If you’re telling the boss the must-haves are going to slip, the boss is probably going to ask you and others to go the extra mile and avoid that. If you tell the boss a frill won’t make it…gosh that’s a pity.

        And “X is going to be 2-3 days late” may mean we only have to rearrange the QA schedule to focus first on Y, which Jane is ahead-of-schedule on. (And, OP – this *absolutely* makes Jane look like a star. Whether or not it makes you look bad depends on why X got delayed.)

    4. BWooster*

      Kyrielle, I find it’s the same for me. In tech, it’s the whole attitude around schedules: we’re a new team that’s quite new to the system we’re working in, so one of the things that we’re still working out is how to allocate enough work for ourselves without taking on too much. If we treat deadlines and schedules as optional, we’re never going to get better at estimating our own capability. We’re never going to be able to judge our rate of improvement or be able to prove it to our stakeholders. Not a great place to be.

    5. Bits and Bytes*

      By way of counterpoint, I manage an agile, continuous delivery, SaaS product engineering team. We set loose “deadlines”. They slip often for all the reasons you and other commenters here have suggested. When they do slip, we evaluate what happened so it doesn’t repeat on us, but it’s generally not a big deal.

      I have and would never consider deadline issues a firing offense. That said, it’s possible that scrums keeping me abreast of product status is a bit mitigating.

      1. BWooster*

        We actually work in an agile scrum team, and that is exactly why deadlines are important. We need to know both how much we can deliver in a sprint and how to accurately assess complexity of stories. We have to justify a schedule to the customer and then hold ourselves accountable for delivering on the schedule we set. We can’t do either if we treat that schedule as something we can easily slip. Mistakes happen, yeah, but it isn’t anything we can readily go into a project getting all that comfortable with.

        1. Bits and Bytes*

          I agree that we need to be able to predict delivery, but I disagree that it can’t be done without hard deadlines. In my experience, you can assess velocity even if your estimates prove to be wildly off. In fact, knowing how far off your estimates trend can be valuable data.

          And, to be clear, slippage isn’t always about mistakes. We might not fully understand the problem before we start. Other things may leapfrog in priority and disrupt the sprint, affecting delivery timing. There may be hidden complexity which you’d have no way of knowing up front.

          All that said, it sounds like we have a different set of constraints. Since we release continuously, as features are ready, we don’t commit to hard release dates. Our customers occasionally ask when something will hit, but we never go more granular than quarters, which are broad enough to be accurate 90% of the time.

          1. Bits and Bytes*

            Although, now that it’s out of my virtual mouth, I struggle with/giggle at the idea of the OP being told, “Yeah, I’ll have that paper to you, uh, sometime between Q1 and Q3”.

      2. Jaguar*

        Yeah, I’m a programmer as well and the idea that missing a deadline is a fireable offense is both laughable and shocking.

        Currently, I’m a developer for a company that doesn’t do software development as their product, so what I do is stuff that improves product delivery (cellphone apps for clients, streamlining product delivery methods, etc.), improves productivity (reporting tools, training systems for employees, etc.), or replacement of antiquated systems (no more printing things out). Nothing gets held up as a result of me missing a deadline which, when I even have deadlines, rarely happens, and I’m usually setting my own deadlines in a, “When can we expect this thing to be done?” sort of way. I don’t think this maps to school well, though. While I think I’m a good (or even excellent) employee in terms of deadlines, I was a terrible student, and this includes when I went back to school after being in the professional world and was still a bad student. When I’m the only person handing something in late affects, I rationalize it away. When I’m being paid and people are expecting things of me, it’s vastly more important to me. And this isn’t even taking into consideration that in the working world, I’m at my desk for 40 hours a week working away at things. At school, there’s lectures and then nebulous homework time. I really don’t think you can compare school assignment deadlines to work deadlines at all.

        That said, there’s another component of this which when people above you / adjacent to you / below you miss deadlines which affects your work. My biggest frustration at work, by far, is other people missing deadlines or waiting on others to complete work I need before I can proceed with mine. That doesn’t exist in university, either, but it’s an important part of the deadline dynamic in the professional world.

        1. Jaguar*

          Oh, and I also wanted to add, I’ve also worked in a number of other industries (plumbing and structural engineering being the two big ones, while my current is construction-related as well) and deadlines were constantly missed up and down by suppliers, us, clients, etc. It’s a chronic part of the professional world to the point that when dealing with clients, I basically expect they’re going to deliver late and am pleasantly surprised when they don’t.

    6. Phantom*

      I’m also in software development, and I couldn’t agree more that communicating about your ability to hit dates tends to be much more important than your ability to hit them. In my office, the person who makes the call about what to do when we can’t deliver what we want to deliver when we want to deliver it tends to be a peer in the business department rather than my boss. But, the conversations are similar. Sometimes there are contractual obligations and missing a deadline means a hefty fine, loss of a client, or loss of a partner. Sometimes getting something out late means a loss of potential revenue or bad PR. So, we talk about whether we release with fewer features, with lower quality, or later.

      If I were trying to mimic my work experience with regards to dealing with deadlines in the classroom, I would allow late assignments as long as the student told me in advance they were going to be late, and I would either grade late assignments to a harsher standard or otherwise penalize them. I would also put some reality-based limit on how late assignments could be. I’m not sure where I’d draw the line, but I wouldn’t let students hand all the assignments for a semester in the day before my grades were due.

      I actually had a professor allow me to turn in all of my papers for a philosophy class right before the end of the semester because I kept putting off actually writing them. My entire grade for that class was based on those papers, so I’m grateful that I was allowed to turn them in late. Trying to write 5 papers in the middle of finals was no picnic, but I got an A in that class, and I’m still not sure I deserved it.

    7. Hannah*

      I work in software also. Echoing others that prioritization and communication are really key skills. You have to be as to deliver your work, but meeting deadlines for the sake of meeting deadlines is not that valued. In fact there are entire software methodologies based on the idea that software engineers are not that great at making and meeting time estimates, and that reprioritization is unavoidable. OP, can you create some projects that build in real stakes where there is a reason for meeting a certain deadline? Like an activity in class that day that rests on the assignment being completed? Otherwise it’s hard to argue that the any deadline other than the end of the semester is really that critical (other than making sure you have a buffer of time for grading, of course).

      1. turquoisecow*

        The only time that not meeting a deadline in school had consequences was in my creative writing seminar. The usual format was that people would bring in something they’d written, and read it (or a section of it) aloud to the class. We would all offer critique, including the professor. One day I went to class without having written anything, assuming that at least some of the other students (there were about a dozen of us) would have written something and they would be the focus. Well, nobody had written anything. The professor yelled for several minutes and then left; there was no point to holding the class.

        The idea of having something prepared that you need for that class is a good one.

    8. Formica Dinette*

      I’m in a different field, but my experience with deadlines is similar to yours–especially the part about them being company specific. They blew by regularly at one place I worked, but it was still important to keep everyone informed. I found it irritating when I’d go the extra mile to make sure my pieces were in place, only to find out on the due date that the things I needed from someone else were going to be late and they didn’t bother to tell me.

    9. Annie Moose*

      I’m a web developer, and this is very accurate in my experience. Software schedules slip, this is a known thing (even if we try not to do it!). However, it’s essential to let your boss/project manager/clients/whoever know well in advance! That way, they can plan more effectively and come up with contingency plans and such.

      As for timing, an hour is probably not going to matter. A day probably won’t even be that big of a deal, unless you’re on a tight schedule or it’s happening frequently. More than that, though, and yes, it’s an issue. In any case, if deadlines are being exceeded repeatedly, that’s a definite cause for concern and you’d need to go back to figure out if the problem is estimating poorly, inefficient use of time, etc. It can’t just be overlooked.

      1. Annie Moose*

        I should clarify–in my second paragraph, I’m referring to missing a deadline without telling anyone. If you tell your boss you’ll have something done this morning and you don’t get it done until 1 PM, it’s generally not gonna be a big deal. If you don’t get it done until tomorrow, still probably not going to be a serious problem unless you do this all the time. If you don’t get it done for a week and still didn’t alert your boss ahead of time? That’s more of a problem.

        I definitely agree with everyone else responding to this that as long as your team discusses schedule slips ahead of time, even if it’s a slip of days or weeks, they are usually not a big deal; you just estimate better next time.

  3. Dani X*

    I work in computer software and I am the last part of the process. So if i am late that means that the product will be late which means the customer won’t get it when we promised them. Which is a very big deal. Sometimes things happen – an issue is discovered late in the cycle so I get it late and I can’t make up the time (yes I am usually expected to make up the time of the people who were late before me). In those cases as long as I speak up and let them know early what I can do, what I can’t do and what the new realistic timeline is then it is okay. And that doesn’t happen very often – I think only 2 – 3 times in the last 15 years. Just being late? yeah that would get me into my managers office and I am pretty sure I would have been part of a layoff by now. If I am late for reasons and keeping people in the loop there are daily meetings and people 2 – 3 levels above me who want to know the hows, whys and what is happening. It’s not something you really want to deal with.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Not being the last person in the process doesn’t really make it any more acceptable. If you are first or middle, you’re getting all kinds of pressure from everyone else you’re holding up, who are also working on other projects, and can’t accurately plan their resources and project Y deadlines if you’re not getting them your piece of Project X on time! You can’t just not keep everyone looped in, and expect it’s fine to be late.

      1. Hannah*

        In my experience there is definitely truth to what Dani X is saying. I have worked in a job that was last in the software development lifecycle, then in a job that comes first in the lifecycle. There is, of course, pressure on both roles, but the difference when you’re earlier in the process is that the pressure is high for you to complete your job on time to avoid causing downstream impact. When you’re the last line before delivering to the customer, the pressure is on you to do your work faster than you even planned, to absorb delays that were caused earlier and were out of your control. I found it more stressful to be more downstream in the process because more was out of my control.

      2. Liz*

        Being a designer at a web design agency, it’s absolutely true for us that our developers (last in the process) are expected to make up for time that was lost earlier in the process for reasons completely out of their control. Anecdotally I have heard this is common in my industry. My company is actively trying to fix our process to combat this because it’s obviously not fair to them, but when the client’s product is launching in 5 days and there is 7 days worth of work left to do on the product’s website, you better believe developers are pulling longer hours even if the time was lost in the design stage.

    2. Liz*

      I work at a web design agency so kind of similar line of work. I will say that at a project and agency level, not meeting deadlines is a Very Big Deal. Our web work is often synchronized with something on the client’s side – a major product launch, for example – that cannot be adjusted. If we don’t complete our part of the project on time, the client loses trust in us, our reputation is tarnished, and over time we will lose business.

      On an individual level, missing deadlines varies in severity. It’s not unusual to shift deadlines when a situation comes up like, “Priority Project X has come on my plate, I can either work on Project X this week and miss the Project Y deadline by three days, or we can push Project X back to next week.” That’s fine and normal. Occasionally an unexpected issue comes up and something just takes a longer than estimated and that’s okay as long as it doesn’t happen too frequently.

      What is *not* fine is not communicating with our project managers that I’m going to miss a deadline in advance. Also, it needs to be reasonable. If I am frequently having to re-negotiate schedules like this that means my estimates are consistently too low, that I’m not working at a reasonable speed, or that my project managers are scheduling me over-capacity.

  4. Kopper*

    I can relate, having been a grad student in English and also a former university-level instructor. I was terrible at meeting deadlines myself, but now find myself working as a speechwriter where deadlines are non-negotiable and there are major repurcussions to a speech not being ready in time. We also have a lot of last-minute assignments that come up. It took some getting used to, but has also made me realize that it is best to take care of those things that I have a long lead time right away so that I’m not scrambling to complete them at the last-minute if something urgent with a tighter deadline comes up. It also means I have had to learn how to work well with others to get speeches approved in time for the event and to provide context for why something is urgent. The sooner a student can learn how to juggle competing priorities, the better in my mind.
    With that as context, I think the letter writer is taking the right approach and it’s one that I wish my own professors had taken with me, although I admit I would not have liked it as a student.

    1. Honeybee*

      Yeah, I remember being a graduate student and all my professors and colleagues treated deadlines like suggestions, sometimes missing them by weeks. They were so frustrating to me because I tend to treat deadlines like deadlines, and so I’d do something like send a dissertation chapter draft to my professor and say “I need feedback by the 12th” because I’ve planned out how much time I need for revisions so that I can submit the thing by a specific date, and I’d get it back on like the 24th or something with no contact for the 2 weeks in between. Even when I started trying to psych my advisor out by giving him a deadline a week or even two earlier than I really needed it I’d STILL get it late.

      I ended up having to pay for summer session during my last year because my advisor’s comments were THREE weeks late, meaning I missed the deadline to distribute my dissertation by the last day of the spring semester in order to avoid paying for the summer. My dissertation defense was also actually delayed by two months because in my department, your committee needs to have your dissertation for 30 days before your defense, and by the day I was finally able to distribute, 30 days from there was when everyone was going on vacation and I had to wait until they all came back. I was livid. That was nearly three years ago and I still get mad thinking about it.

      1. Midge*

        That sounds so frustrating, Honeybee!

        Sometimes academic deadlines kind of confound me. For example, my partner has a piece for publication that he was planning to turn in this past July. Though, I think July might have been an extension from the original date. Every couple of weeks he’ll be like, I’m gonna do it *this* weekend. And then it doesn’t happen. I keep asking him how it could possibly be ok to delay it this long, but he assures me that there’s no real deadline. Speaking of second hand stress (from the update today), it’s stressing *me* out that he keeps pushing back his timeline.

      2. anon for this*

        I had the same exact experience doing my Masters degree. When it came thesis time, I very closely adhered to the schedule they gave us regarding how to turn it in: proposal, draft 1, advisor feedback, draft 2, advisor feedback, final thesis.

        What happened was… my advisor disappeared? As in, I got my proposal in on time, it was approved, and then I sent my advisor draft 1 when it was due… and never received edits from him. Like, ever. I took the bus 2 hours once at 5:30 in the morning to meet him at his office to discuss my thesis and he skipped the meeting!!!! I remember standing in front of his locked office calling him repeatedly, checking my schedule fifty times to make SUPER SURE I had the right date and time (though I knew I did), and trying so hard not to cry because I Was A Graduate Student, but I cried anyway because I was so tired and frustrated.

        I ended up having to tattle to the director of the program because my advisor was completely ignoring my calls and emails (I was living 2 hours away, so it’s not like I could hunt him down whenever I wanted), and my advisor, just to get me off his back, ended up submitting my shitty first draft of my thesis to the university as my FINAL THESIS. I was LIVID, not to mention HORRIFIED, because I was a great student and my first draft needed SO MUCH WORK that I was counting on my advisor to help me with, and he never did. I never got final feedback from my advisor, which I was owed, and I never got final feedback from my 1st reader. The 2nd reader gave me GREAT feedback that pointed out the flaws in my paper, and I just remember crying while reading it, thinking that he was pointing out the exact things I knew I needed help with but never got.

        I got the Masters in the end, but it felt so hollow, after I had to extend my graduation by a semester and then put up with all that bullshit.

      3. Sprinkled with Snark*

        Oh, Honeybee, I could not agree more! I got married right in the middle of graduate school and transferred from one big state school to an even bigger Div. 1 SEC school. At Big State, nobody had any deadlines for anything. Write your thesis whenever you want, teach as an IA for years if you want, assemble a committee if you want, take a class or not, it was really surprising. Since I knew I was going to transfer and would have to take additional credits anyway, it didn’t matter to me if my committee was hard to get together or not.

        But my friend Kelly, who was in my program and determined to be finished and out in 2 years tops, was moving along right on schedule. When we all returned for our last spring semester, she was ready to defend and revise in January. She talked to all three faculty committee members who told her they “doubted” they could get together before Spring Break in March, and then at that point it would be too late to assemble for final approval, essentially telling her there was no way she could get a finished thesis approved in a semester. She was furious! She went to the dept chair, and then the dean before she finally was able to get her committee to meet.

        When I started in the fall at MY big new U, I was given a printed schedule of my thesis process. I had deadlines I needed to meet every semester, deadlines to select the research topic, pick an advisor, select a committee, get the committee members signature and have that approved by the university, and then the university notified ME when my committee would meet and when I would propose and defend, like Feb. 22, 2:00pm, room 311. When I showed up, my entire committee was there, along with the department chair, and even my alternate committee member in case one of the original 3 dropped dead or something. (That happened to another friend of mine)! It was a complete night and day change, and it made me feel like big new U was 100 percent committed to making sure I earned a MA and was on my way. My PhD work is the the same thing. It’s totally the academic culture of the institution.

      4. Anonymous Post Academic*

        Very much echoing what people in this sub-thread have said. In my experience, graduate school deadlines vary hugely, depending on the University, program, and instructor.

        In undergrad, I “learned” that deadlines “didn’t matter.” Professors would post stern warnings about meeting deadlines, but, so long as you had some sort of communication with them, they’d be willing to let things slide, most of the time. I got in a little trouble a couple of times when I took it too far, but never into too much trouble. Deadlines were in 80% cases secondary to doing superb work.

        In grad school, this was even more obvious. Deadlines were also in 80% cases secondary to doing superb work, but the instructors would talk about that openly. The penalty for missing deadlines was essentially the feeling you weren’t making any progress. It was up to you, the student, to graduate. I’ve had massive scheduling issues with my committee, like other commenters, when it came to thesis defense. I had multiple committee members basically flake out on the job of reading my thesis. My favorite story was my thesis adviser, who literally gave ME one of those excuses (my kid spilled water over the computer, he said) for returning critical thesis comments a few weeks late.

        Now that I’m in research industry and interact with academia a lot, I see the other side. What I have observed in my own experience and conversations with friends in similar situations is: academics at a certain level are expected to be managers, but they are a) overbooked, and b) many have terrible time management skills, because academia did not train them for those. So to bring it back to the OP, I think assigning hard deadlines and sticking to them can even help the instructor become a better manager, especially if they’re junior. And certainly I think it does help the student learn good time management skills, whatever their career down the line.

        To finish, I think time management is one of those things that is really not emphasized enough in college / grad school in the US. One of the biggest things I’ve had to learn is that, outside academia, it’s often better to do a worse job on time than a better job late. I can’t say how many times I’ve reached out to my boss saying “I won’t be able to make the deadline doing X, Y, Z” to hear the response of “just do X, I know it’s not very good, but it’s good enough for this project.” I don’t think this is laziness or doing a bad job — I think it’s a valuable skill to do the appropriate amount of work for the project, and I wish I’d learnt it earlier!

    2. turquoisecow*

      Competing priorities were probably more important to navigate than deadlines at my last job. There were several times where someone would be taking their time working on a specific task that wasn’t nearly important, which then would hold up them completing a more important task that came in later. The boss was constantly checking with people to see what they were working on, and asking people to ask him for assistance if they weren’t sure how to prioritize things correctly. Most often it wasn’t that a task didn’t get completed by a specific deadline, it was that another, less important task was taking priority.

  5. Summerisle*

    It can make a difference if the deadline is internal or external, in my experience. I once worked for a company in two departments over time – in Department A, the deadlines largely came from third parties (i.e. customers or prospects). When I moved to Department B, which often needed to send time-sensitive information to Department A so that they could meet their deadlines, there was a lot of talk about how tight and rigid they were about timings. Department B’s deadlines were largely based on internal issues and were therefore more flexible in many cases, which is where the misunderstanding was coming from.

    1. Kowalski! Options!*

      Same here, in the Learning and Development Division of the Ministry of Teapot Procurement. All of our deadlines are based on internal priorities, so generally we have a fair amount of flexibility, depending on how internal the client is (i.e. are we updating one of our own learning products, or creating something new for another division?). In the beginning it drove me nuts, having just come out of grad school, but now that I’ve been here for a while, I’ve learned to roll with it.

      However, to answer the questions you asked….
      –In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project? That depends on how “big” big is, and if our deadlines are going to get thrown off course by other deadlines that we can’t control.
      –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?
      Again, it depends. If it’s for a Minister or Senior Teapot Departmental Head, we’re not the department that gets the “do it or die” projects, so we’d generally get a fair amount of time to complete whatever it is we have to do. Also worth mentioning: if something does come down the pipe that is “do or die”, there is no guarantee that we’ll get any kind of feedback or action points any time in the future. We deal with a lot of “hurry up and wait”.
      –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?
      Probably the most productive piece of advice I can offer is to get the students to understand that deadlines, in a lot of cases, are context-dependent, and students should seek out information that lets them respond accordingly. In the case of course work, where it’s between the professor/instructor and the learner, then yes, the learner should definitely accommodate the professor/instructor to the best of his/her abilities. Otherwise, the organizational structure and culture will dictate how things get done.

    2. Person of Interest*

      My situation is similar here in nonprofit Teapot Advocacy land. We have internal projects with somewhat flexible deadlines: these are usually guided by funder deliverables which might be quarterly or longer, or might be part of a larger project like our annual conference that have harder deadlines. We also have external projects with many moving parts besides ours, and so those have firmer deadlines that we may not be able to push back on. The nature of my work also means a lot of last-minute external things happen that we have to respond to immediately: presidential budgets that cut all teapot funding and so we have to mobilize our network, media requests, etc. so there’s a bit more understanding internally when some other project has to get back-burnered for a day or two. But, we are generally an office culture where we might work longer to catch up on something, and then be able to flex that time later.

      I think my advice for students would be: until you have a reputation for getting shit done, and really know the culture of the place you are in and understand where flexibility is going to be okay, you want to be on top of your deadlines.

    3. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      I agree with so much of this. I work in the public sector with grant management. Our deadlines vary from external “not a minute after 4 pm or no funding for you” and fiscal year end hard deadlines, to very soft “sometime this summer unless we get distracted, then later” internal deadlines.
      What is key is clear communication on the front end about the flexibility, consequences, and process for negotiation. I’ve had to learn how to communicate up front when something will be an issue, and at what level we can be flexible. If the deadline is set, can we negotiate other parts of the project? Can I shift other things on my staff’s plates so they can take the time they need on a hard deadline? How do I ask for clarification from that one director that is notoriously bad with clear expectations?
      I used to work in higher ed, and it always seemed to me that the deadlines that taught students the consequences of being late the best weren’t those from professors. They were enrollment and add/drop deadlines. Those had big external consequences. Where professors could help is in modeling clear expectations for communication and consequences. Which doesn’t mean don’t be lenient, it means be consistent, explain the why of your extension policy, up front and at when talking with students one on one… and for heaven’s sake please try to give your poor support staff the same timeliness you expect from your students. (Or more.)
      The other very hard thing to learn is that sometimes the people with power over you and deadlines that affect you don’t hold themselves to the standards of timeliness they expect from you. It’s a hard lesson but not one I suggest modeling to your students.

      1. Another bureaucrat*

        Same here, public university in grant management. Working with federal agencies and funders can mean very hard deadlines around submissions and reports/invoices. I’ve been told of grant submission web portals that SHUT DOWN at midnight on the day it is due. If you’re late, you simply cannot submit your grant, which may have taken months and months of effort.

        Recently, I was 40 minutes late sending in a revision on a submission because I misread the deadline as 5 pm when it was noon. I had to sit with the possibility that it was entirely within the funder’s rights to not accept our submission, and then it would be on my head that thousands of dollars of student scholarships would be lost. I felt sick for a solid day, even after the funder replied accepting our email.

        We consistently have issues with internal partners being late on deadlines, which has resulted in me moving up their deadline so that I have a week buffer if/when they are late with their items. By and large, they are a nice, competent team with good ideas…but their consistent lateness has definitely impacted their reputation, not only with myself, but in my larger institution. If you’re late all the time – you’re known for it.

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          Oh yes that reputation is key whether you know it or not. I recently watched as a long-time grantee who had a reputation for being late with deliverables and status updates lost their funding for the coming year because the review committre had lost faith that they’d deliver. It was tough to watch because I think most of the delays came from one project manager. But the team had let her get away with it for years. It finally caught up to them.
          Deadlines and I have a naturally adversarial relationship. I took it as a useful reminder of why I can’t let them get the better of me.

      2. Hannah*

        As a grant writer, I’ve definitely found more often than not that “I missed the deadline” equates to “I am now not eligible for thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Missing an important grant reporting deadline could burn a bridge with an important funder. Meeting deadlines is absolutely essential in my work!

    4. SystemsLady*

      Agreed, internal co-workers tend to give some professional leeway to each other (especially when both understand the other’s situation well), but you won’t do very well if you expect customers to do the same, save the cause being external to both of you.

      In my situation there are also external relationships where some deadlines are closer to internal and others are coming from above the person you’re working through the schedule with and are a lot more absolute.

      In general, good practice to stick with deadlines, but know and inform as soon as possible when you can’t, and get it as soon as possible after the original deadline.

  6. Josie Prescott*

    Accountant / Auditor. Some of the deadlines you just have to meet. Some are more flexible. I’ve found the key is consistently asking for clarification about which are which.

    1. Laura*

      I’ve had the same jobs.
      Accountant subsidiary of a public company, yes, and advanced warning is crucial because everything is stacked to meet SEC, etc deadlines.
      Internal Auditor, less hard deadlines but communication is way more important. Some audits may fly and others have to be expanded.
      Accountant private company – this was something highly important to the boss and she wasn’t a flexible person even if the results weren’t leaving her desk.
      Nonprofit seem somewhat flexible unless it involves donors than they need to be impressed

    2. Pixel*

      Public practice accountant, and my entire job is about deadlines and the best way to meet them without losing your mind, the client or the patience of CRA (that’s Canada Revenue Agency for the non-Canadians in the audience).

      The consequences of not meeting deadlines are hefty fines and interest paid on taxes owing, that we have to reimburse the clients for. Another consequence is upset clients who may very well found another accountant, and an unhappy boss that will be much less likely to give us raises. So yes, deadlines are kind of a big deal.

  7. Early Annie*

    I’m a data analyst in healthcare with over 300 clinics across the US. I start work at 4:30am to take the overnight uploaded data, run queries and prepare reports of upcoming procedures that must be complete by 7am east coast time when our clinics open.

    You better believe that 7am deadline matters. And if the data upload is borked, or the server crashes, I MUST give a heads up to all the centers that may be impacted. These are missed deadlines out of my control.

    But for me to decide I wanted to sleep in one day? Forget about it! You are doing your students a true service to impress upon them the importance of deadlines. They may end up in a job where having that discipline matters to someone who is sick or injured.

    1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      I work in data migration, and our deadlines are similar.

      Not all deadlines will be met – things happen: people pull outdated files and review them, the server clogs itself to death with registry errors, the scope suddenly shifts because some low-level reporting wasn’t thorough enough. But we can’t assume that because a deadline might get missed, that it’s not a big deal, or that we shouldn’t work hard to keep it from happening.

      Data migrations are notorious for overruns – we had a 14 hour delay during one wave due to bad scoping. But we still brought the migration in on time, because if we hadn’t, the client would have begun to hemorrhage money while they waited for their production lines to be allowed back on.

      Please, LW, teach your students that the discipline of getting things done on time is not just an academic skill!

    2. Nan*

      Thank you, Annie, for running non-borked reports on time. We have IT reports that have to be ready to roll at 7am. When they are borked up or do not run, it creates down time that goofs our whole day. Ugh.

    3. SarahKay*

      Oh, so much this. In my previous job (in a department store) I managed someone who was required to be in for 8.30 am to run the reports so that the Store Manager could have the previous day’s sales figures ready for the review with *his* manger at 8.45. My staff member was new to the job, and it had been made very clear in the hiring process that the 8.30 start was non-negotiable, for precisely this reason. She was consistently in five minutes late, which meant the Store manager didn’t have the reports for his meeting (or, as actually happened, that I had to stop what I was doing and run them instead, because as far as he was concerned it was my team, and fundamentally my responsibility to make sure he had the data he needed on time) and she couldn’t see why it was such a problem.

      We had two discussions about why I needed her to be on time, with her telling me why it was just too hard! So many things to do in the morning! How could I possibly expect her to be there then, and really, did it truly matter?

      Thankfully before I got to the third meeting, which would have been a written warning that she wasn’t meeting the specific job requirements, she left.

      And don’t even get me started on the sales staff who couldn’t see why it was important that they were on their departments, ready to go, when the store opened! Thankfully, they were the exception, rather than the rule, but seriously, how can you not see that?!?

    4. DataQueen*

      This. Early Annie, you are a saint. While my name implies that I deal with data and analytics as well – and I do – I manage the strategy, the long term projects and business process improvements, and the staff who run the analytics. And every time we have a staffing gap in my department, I’m asked to batch in revenue, run queries, kick off the overnight processes, push the imports… and I say no. I can’t work on a rigid deadline, and I can’t manage that schedule. I will fail, I will let everyone down, and Something Bad will happen. Coming to that realization sucked, but knowing I’m That Person has helped me identify awesome people to hire to be Early Annies. So as a manager, I have to make sure I’m setting the expectation, helping build contingency and communications plans for failures/vacations, appropriately explaining consequences, and showing a lot of appreciation and support for my Early Annie (mines a Late Josh, actually, but same thing). Some people just aren’t deadline people, but we know how important you are!!!

    5. SystemsLady*

      Some people have problems with sleeping in involuntarily every once in a while, but I bring that up because I think it’s important for people to realize that they are in that group and to NOT take jobs where such an exact level of punctuality is required. If you know that’ll happen, deal with the issue before you’re placed into a situation where it’ll be a serious problem.

  8. Critical Roller*

    I’m going to answer this from my position as a civilian contractor.

    –In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?
    In my current vocation, my deadlines are relatively flexible. We strive to meet deadlines set by our government manager, but if we need a day or two we can ask for it 48 hours in advance.

    –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?
    I haven’t seen a formal reprimand as of yet, but I imagine the formal consequence would be a verbal discussion as to why the deadline was important, what I can do to address the problems that led to me missing the deadline, and a verbal warning not to do it again or it would result in punitive action.

    –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?
    Explain to your students that in college, the only person they’re really affecting if they miss a deadline is the two of you. (Harsh, but true in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.) In the work world, regardless of your position, you affect far more than two people. You can affect the deliverables of the a small team, a contract or a company. They need to learn now that even though they suffer minimal (my assumption) outcomes in college because of deadlines, that their effect can be far reaching in the working world. I work in a field where intelligence is crucial. Push back a deadline on a product, and you can mess up a whole lot of other things that you may never know about.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I work in education administration. It’s not necessarily true that the only people affected by a late assignment are the student and the professor. During a semester, that’s probably true. But at the end of a semester, if a student turning in an assignment late causes the professor to be late submitting grades, that can mess things up for the administrators who may need to do things in response to those grades.

      An example would be, if a student failing or getting a low grade in a course would be what pushes the student into academic probation – getting that notice out late due to a late grade could be a big deal. Because academic probation can affect some things that might also have some tight timelines.

      1. Critical Roller*

        I understand that situations can be different. That’s why I included a caveat that your mileage may vary, and that the statement was my opinion.

    2. Antinious*

      I love hearing this perspective because civilian contracting with the government is so different depending on area/field/customer every time I talk to someone. I worked as a civilian contractor before and deadlines for our customers in our area of work were completely Must Hit non negotiable stay until midnight and come back at 4am type deals to get stuff done on time. The only time deadlines were changed was if the customer was the one asking because it didn’t work for them. But that isn’t the same for a lot of contractors! It’s a crazy field of work tbh

      1. Critical Roller*

        Oh yeah, I was a little surprise at the difference in deadlines. In position #1 in my civilian contracting job I had roughly the same deadlines. In position #2 it was a hard and fast deadline that COULD NOT be violated. Then inevitably was due to human error, and I seemed to be the only person worrying about it.

  9. Delta Delta*

    I’m an attorney. If a court order or rule says X number of days, it had better be filed by then or you could potentially lose a case, which might cause serious consequences to a client. Sometimes you can ask for more time, and courts are often pretty good about that, unless it’s a jurisdictional issue, but even then you have to ask ahead of time and you have to be prepared to have the request denied.

    I’m also an adjunct professor. I tend to be pretty strict with deadlines and I impress that upon students. However, if students timely seek an extension, I’m pretty liberal with granting the requests.

    All that said, I have really tried to make sure I am filing things well in advance of any deadline(s). I know some people file lawsuits or other pleadings at the last possible second, but it makes me very nervous to do that on the off chance I’ve miscalculated a due date. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yup. You can get fired for missing even your first deadline (including internal deadlines) in law practice, and depending on what was at stake for your client, you could easily be sued for malpractice.

      Deadlines matter. I only relax deadlines (internally) if someone has a demonstrated track record of turning adequate work in on time. I think it’s better to establish the norm, early, instead of starting with deviations. But deadlines also matter because lawyers often work in teams. Being late can destroy the next person in the review/editing chain.

      I think it’s better to help folks understand that reliability is an important professional skill and character trait to develop.

    2. Thinking Outside the Boss*

      To add on top of that the malpractice that comes with missing a deadline! Potential court sanctions, ticked off clients who may sue you and who definitely won’t pay you, losing your job with your employer, losing referrals from other attorneys because of your bad name, and if you do it frequently enough, having your license suspended or revoked.

      17 years ago I switched from private practice to working for the government, and even though my current role doesn’t require court appearances, there are still important deadlines that can’t be extended or missed. It could be a deadline in the state constitution or statute, it could be a deadline imposed by the court has some sort of settlement with a third party, or it could be the first step in 10 things that need to be done and one delay causes the whole thing to derail.

      Delta Delta, I like your approach with your students.

    3. Revolver Rani*

      In legal practice, filing deadlines. I’ve worked in patent law and as a litigator. In patent law, missing deadlines – even by a few hours – means extra fees to the patent office, if you’re lucky and the deadline you miss is an extendable one. If it’s not, it means forfeiting your client’s rights. This is not good for your reputation.

      In litigation, the judge has discretion to do pretty much whatever she wants, and can grant deadline extensions or not. If both parties file jointly for an extension, which often happens when they are close to negotiating a settlement and want to focus their efforts on that rather than on briefing some motion, judges are likely to grant it. But single-party requests for extension are much less likely to be granted. And if you file a motion brief late without asking for an extension? You could be in serious trouble.

      In other fields, I’d say how much deadlines matter depends upon how many people are counting on your work. Knowing what happens to your work downstream is really important. Does someone need to review and edit it? Does it need to be incorporated into a larger document? Does it need to be sent out to a third party like a printer, or a client, or a regulatory agency? If you don’t understand how your work fits into a larger context, you run the risk of creating a situation where a delay that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you is in fact a very big deal for someone else.

      I work in the software field now (as a technical writer), and we have submission deadlines that are important because code from different groups in the company needs to be integrated and tested. There has to be a point at which we say “submissions are closed for release X”. Those deadlines can’t really be fudged, because at some point the code has to move on.

      1. Revolver Rani*

        First sentence should read, “In legal practice, filing deadlines are serious business.”

      2. Chinook*

        I work in one of those industries where one of our regulators will fine us heavily if we don’t meet a given deadline without at east an engineering assessment in place (the other publicly shames us on website few people read). They don’t care if it has been raining for the two weeks you have been on site, trying to do the work, that another government agency won’t give you permits to work in the other area, that protestors have taken over the site, border security won’t let the 3rd party we have contracted to verify the work is completed over the border to look at the site 500 m from the border, or even that you know that you can complete it tomorrow. They want written proof available ahead of time that we aren’t endangering the environment or the public.

        And I don’t blame them.

        So, where I work, deadlines are hugely important and non-negotiable. If you can’t meet it, you better have a darn good reason written up and approved that explains why you couldn’t do it and why it isn’t going to cause a bigger problem. It is up to us to make sure we start the leg work the minute we are given a “to do list” with a 30 or 180 day deadline and that our processes are in place that tell us when something is causing a hiccup in the process that may cause a delay which then triggers another process to verify that we are okay to be delayed.

        And, if we miss a deadline, our bosses immediately want to know what we are going to do to make sure that it won’t happen again (which may include firing the employee who never handed anything in on time).

        1. Chinook*

          The flipside to our non-negotiable deadlines with various things that can cause delays is that our budget is very loose and “we don’t have enough money” is not an acceptable answer (I feel bad for our director at budget time. He can estimate a cost per repair but that can fluctuate greatly depending on whether they are working on the prairies near a city or in the Rockies in the middle of nowhere. And there is no way of predicting the number of repairs per year).

          So, in order to meet strict deadlines, we are at least given the resources to pay overtime and hire contractors to get the work done if it is physically possible.

    4. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

      In addition to court issues, as my name suggests, being a lawyer also means putting out fires. So not only do you have the deadlines you know about, you have to proactively leave time for some sudden issue you didn’t expect, which will come up.

      Criminal defense work is a never ending cycle of stuff you didn’t expect, so much that I expect it to happen.

      1. lawyerkate*

        + infinity to this – I budget up to 20% of time during any given week for issues that arise without warning; if I don’t use all of that time, I simply get ahead on the backlog of work I have, or set some additional networking appointments.

        I would not encourage undergraduate students to negotiate deadlines. However, law school is different – people have spouses, children, etc much more often in a grad school setting. They also usually have some work experience and the judgment to know when an extension or a special request is appropriate.

        For example, there was a student in my law school whose parent had a terrible cancer diagnosis, and that student asked for the accommodation of not being cold-called in class for the few weeks that things were at their worst. That request was granted, the parent recovered, and the student went on to finish in the top quarter of the class.

        I know another law student who had a seminar paper due, with extensive source documentation that had to be organized in a binder in a specific way. The student spilled coffee all over the interior of the binder, ruining the source material the day the binder was to be turned in (PS this is my nightmare scenario for any litigation binders) – and the professor permitted the student to hand in the paper and the ruined binder as a placeholder while the student prepared a replacement source binder.

        These are things that could happen to anyone – but in each case, the professors had tremendous goodwill for the students in question, because all of their previous work/contributions were of sufficient quality that they knew they could rely upon the students’ word.

        By contrast, someone asking for an extension on an assignment when you have not seen outlines, rough drafts, had extensive conversations with the student so that you know the assignment is well underway – well, that automatically has less credibility.

        1. Delta Delta*

          This. In my 6 years of adjunct professing (I made up that verb and I rather like it) I have, unfortunately, had 4 different students with cancer and other very serious health issues. They have all been fantastic about telling me what accommodations they needed, like not being called on or needing to do an assignment out of order because of treatment and I always say yes. I also assume that if a student tells me he or she isn’t going to make it to class due to illness or some other issue that they’re being truthful and I let it go. Where it doesn’t work for me is the last minute or late extension request, or turning in something in the wrong form (because local rules count, and in my class I make the local rules, which we discuss a lot).

        2. SystemsLady*

          Agreed, even outside of school this applies to the softer deadlines. If you miss them all the time or turn in poor quality work, you’ll get a bad reputation fast, but if you’re generally on time and high quality, you’ll be forgiven when metaphorical coffee spills all over your work.

      2. Delta Delta*

        I am also a criminal defense lawyer. If there’s a week that’s ever too quiet I become suspicious of the universe.

    5. Iura Scriptor*

      I am a capital defense lawyer in a state that still executes. Therefore, blown deadlines in my line of work can spell the difference between life and death. Missing a deadline her can mean that: (1) your client will never have the constitutionality of his conviction and death sentence reviewed by a higher court, (2) his execution date will be set, and (3) his petition for clemency (mercy) never heard.

      Because I have worked as a journalist, I have no trouble writing in combat conditions on tight deadlines. (In fact, my office sometimes seems too quiet and peaceful for vivid copy.) I wonder if some of your students have difficulty with deadlines because they are unused to writing quickly, compellingly, and efficiently. I learned to do so via timed writing drills in journalism courses. And while journalism is not an academic subject, I found that the writing skills imparted in those classes later allowed me to graduate with honors from law school, be published in several law journals, and enjoy a fascinating law practice that frequently requires drafting on deadline.

      1. Anon attorney*

        Good reminder for those of us who risk “just” a ticking off from the judge or having to write off a fee. While some court deadlines can be wriggled out of, I take them incredibly seriously. We have multiply redundant diary systems in my firm. I’ve never met a litigator who wasn’t deadline focused. I find it very frustrating, in fact, to work with non litigation colleagues who seem to think there’s all the time in the world. Nooooo! Do it now!!!!!!!!!!!!

    6. Naruto*

      The problem I have with this is that some legal deadlines are real, and some are not. Even for internal deadlines some are more real than others. This depends on your practice area, your firm, the particular lawyers involved, and even other parties like the judge and the other lawyers in the case.

      Like, if you’re getting a partner a brief for their review prior to filing, that internal deadline probably matters. If you’re just working on a long-term research project with a “get me this by the end of next week” AND if there’s no actual reason that next week rather than the week after matters, then it may not matter. If you have to file your opposition to a summary judgment brief, the deadline matters. But if you have already served your objections to interrogatories or document requests and later owe the answers or documents, that second deadline may not matter because there may not be any consequences for missing it.

      Now, if you’re going to try to push any kind of deadline, it’s for sure way better to try to do it in advance rather than after the fact. But I, at least, don’t think that deadlines are so black-and-white in all areas of law practice.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      I manage paralegal staff, and we start drilling in at the interview phase that you don’t miss deadlines. Period. If you want to work somewhere with flexibility to have an extra day to do something or you are not willing to work beyond business hours (paralegals are paid OT), this is not the job for you. We also do not have time to redo it, so please ask questions and ensure you know what the attorney needs and by when.

      I do work with a lot of people who work up until the last minute, and it’s crazy-making, but they’re the one whose name is on the signature block. I don’t miss the guy who, having everything prepared and receiving a 24-hour extension, would rewrite substantial portions of the brief. The support staff and the associates hated him.

    8. mcbqe*

      Yep, I’m in the intellectual property game, and deadlines mean DEADLINES. There’s no ‘uh, I was too busy’ or ‘can it wait until tomorrow?’. You miss a deadline and your application lapses, which means (if you’re lucky) paying late fees for missing the deadline, or perhaps fees plus statutory declarations, or (worst of all) it’s time to contact your professional indemnity insurer….

      I HATE working with attorneys who leave everything to the last minute, with no allowance for unexpected events which might throw the schedule off. I’m lucky that most people in my current firm share the same get-it-done-in-advance mindset.

    9. Aussie Lawyer*

      I’m an australian litigator in civil / commercial litigation. Court deadlines are pretty flexible, and 90% of the time can be met a few days later. If you have the consent of the other party, you can be many weeks late, as long as a court date isn’t affected!

      The only deadline that are so important you could be sued for malpractice here is the requirement to commence a proceeding within 6 years (limitation period). Basically everything else is pretty chill.

      Occasionally the court will be managing a case very strictly, and those cases fall within the 10% that being a couple of days late is not OK.

      Also, seemingly similar to the US lawyers who have commented here, so much of our work is unexpected. If I had a non-crucial deadline, and something urgent popped up, my managers would EXPECT that I drop the non-crucial deadline work and do the urgent work – and be totally fine if it meant that the non-crucial deadline was met a week late!

  10. Simplytea*

    I’ve worked everywhere from academia, to government, to contractors, to law firms. The importance of deadlines is variable–if it’s a client asking for it by a specific deadline and they’re paying a lot of money to get it… well that deadline is solid. If it’s a partner asking for it, they need it immediately. But if it’s a long term project that isn’t actually going anywhere–is internal, efficiency boosting, etc.–deadlines can flux as needed with other important projects.

    I think what is MOST important here is communication. If we absolutely 100% cannot get the document finished by the deadline (or the project, or whatever), we should know ahead of time. And we should be working on it the whole time. So there should be some type of UNFINISHED but existing project still in the works that we can tell our partner, or client, or boss exists but needs to be finalized.

    Now what stage it is in is questionable. So I think here you could say–well send me what you DO have and I’ll give you an extension based on that. Or ask follow up questions (what stage is it in, how much time do you need, what questions do you have about the final product). Depending on the circumstance of course (if their parent or someone died, or they were in the hospital, of course the deadline can be extended). But of course, don’t make it easy (barring extreme circumstances)! I agree that deadlines are important, communication is even more important, and keeping your word is crucial. If you want to prepare them for the real world, act like their boss and not their colleague. Don’t let them off easy–while at the same time providing understanding where possible, just like a (good) boss would in the real world.

    Furthermore… stress is different than pressure. It’s okay to pressure your students and make them feel like the deadlines are important. It’s not great if there is UNDUE stress due to these assignments.

    1. Another bureaucrat*

      I think you’re completely right here about communication…but reflecting back to my days as a frequently-overnighter-pulling student, true communication would haven give away the reason for the extension..which was that I didn’t start the paper until two nights before it was due. Which would have been–rightly so–embarrassing for me, ha.

      But I think this strategy would definitely work for students who start with enough time ahead of them and can competently and clearly articulate their progress and reason behind the delay.

  11. Nicole*

    Working in print and marketing, our deadlines are extremely important and cannot be missed. We often determine our deadlines based on how much time is needed to print, ship, and sort our products. While instances do come up where the deadline is pushed back, it rarely happens. And even though i was much like the OP throughout college, my first job taught me to strictly adhere to work deadlines, and I’m glad I worked on that skill because it’s been relevant at every company I’ve been with. Additionally, (unlike college) I usually don’t have weeks or months for a project…most of our timelines are “go go go” or very last minute, so I learned very quickly that not adhering to a deadline (and a short one at that) would cause me to go under pretty quickly!

    1. Archmage of Ink*

      I also work in the print industry. Just think – how critical is it to get your programs for a conference​ on time? Or any event collateral?

      Other pieces can be less critical, but it all depends on timeline and budget. If a cruise ship orders materials late but needs them before leaving port, how much will it cost to rush the job thru the shop versus shipping to the next port?

      Good account managers know their accounts and can help clients navigate their deadlines, which means they need to know them as well or better than their clients. If I routinely miss deadlines, my client is going to be pissed off, my PM is going to quit from the stress level, and I’m going to lose business and possibly my job.

      So some deadlines are flexible, but most aren’t. And the ones that are flexible still need prior communication in order to keep the client happy.

    2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      I was horrible at deadlines in school but thrive in a deadline oriented industry, go figure. Both teapots and teapot marketing are “go go go!” from early morning to night, although teapot marketing and merchandising can have much longer range deadlines which become a skill set to manage.

      It’s relatively easy to say “if I don’t have this done within 1 hour, This Thing will blow sky high, go go go” and much harder to say “entire large Holiday Teapot Collection must be launched August 15th, what do I need to get done when and by whom to make that whole thing happen on time”, and THEN stick to those incremental deadlines.

      I doubt school could have ever taught me that although I think they did try.

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        Eh, and then another important aspect that doesn’t relate to school at all (I don’t think), is getting things “as good as possible” within a certain time frame, dropping that, and moving onto the next thing. This is really valuable for us.

        Just last week I prioritized (read “suddenly jammed in”) an unscheduled project. I pulled some resources to give one week and one week only to a redo of a certain area. When the clock struck midnight (metaphorically) that was it, how good could we get it (adding products, redoing images, rewriting copy) within that time.

        More like a timed test: pencils down, hands up, move onto the next thing.

    3. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

      I work in corporate marketing which includes advertising, trade shows, email marketing, corporate events, direct mail and promotional marketing just to name a few.
      – Missing some deadlines like purchasing exhibitor services for a trade show after a certain date costs us more $$.
      – Missing some deadlines with print ads or articles could mean our ad doesn’t run
      – Missing deadlines for direct mail pieces may mean the piece arrives after the event and is thus pretty worthless and a waste of $$
      – Missing deadlines with promotional materials could mean we are without materials for an event or we have to spend extra $$ expediting shipping.
      If a pattern of this develops, odds are you will be out of a job very soon!

    4. cadasha*

      This is my field, though my particular job is to make samples for the company’s sales team. So my deadlines typically look like, “We don’t have X, Y, nor Z from the ABC collection in stock, so make 8 mockups of those to arrive by this date.” The earlier I get the mockups done, the less it costs for shipping; the better the mockups are the more likely the salesperson can win the account or make a better deal [to an extent anyway]. Usually the deadlines are reasonable, though it can get a bit tough when they start stacking.

      But then these few weeks are the busy season with sales meetings for major accounts. If I miss these shipping dates the samples will not make the sales meeting, & the buyer probably won’t order products they can’t see nor feel. That could mean MILLIONS in lost revenue, & likely cost more jobs than just my own. So 50 pieces need to be made & shipped within a week? I get overtime, maybe get some extra help, & my boss coming in on a holiday so we can get it done on time.

      Quality of work is also critical, but receives slightly less emphasis in such deadlines.

  12. Anonsaroo*

    I am a tax analyst handling property tax for a large corporation. My life is deadlines. A late tax return filing or bill payment could result in payments of penalties and interest. Even missing softer deadlines like responding to a tax representative by an agreed upon date could result in an unfavorable decision for my company. I am human and sometimes have made mistakes. However, if I would make a habit of missing deadlines, I would soon be out of a job.

    1. Anonsaroo*

      Others here mentioned the importance of communication. There are times when I have softer deadlines for responding to internal inquiries or inquiries from tax jurisdictions or customers. Maybe there is no set deadline, but if I don’t think I’ll be able to respond within a day or two, I will let the person know when I think I’ll be able to provide a proper response and then I keep to that timeline. I do this because I want to be known as reliable. The last thing I want is for coworkers, customers, or anyone else to think that I am not reliable or considerate.

    2. Jill of All Trades*

      I was wondering when I would come across someone working in tax. My job includes a lot of international compliance deadlines. Given the political reputation of the US, other countries are not necessarily lenient when US-headquartered clients miss their tax return and other compliance deadlines.

  13. DropTheDatabase*

    I work in higher ed IT (database admin group), and for much of my work, the deadlines are flexible, but like Alison said, it matters more that we honor those commitments and get the work done, and provide our customers and colleagues with as much advance notice as we can when deadlines change. I’m not working on anything like payroll or accounting where there are very strict fixed deadlines, but I do more reporting, development, and admin work, so the deadlines tend to be pretty flexible (unless of course, we have a “this must go live NOW” from the president or something). 99% of the people I’ve worked with – they are totally cool with changing a deadline as long as we discuss it with them beforehand, and the reason for changing it. The thing people hate most is being left out of the loop and not getting their deliverables. I try to be as transparent as possible with the people I work with, and that goes a long way – especially in higher ed, where it seems like being siloed and keeping things close to the chest is a chronic problem.

  14. AMG*

    I am a PM also, and I do everything I can to meet the deadline. If it looks like I am going to miss one, I ask my boss who will tell me we absolutely need it, or as long as I have it by Thursday (or whenever), it’s fine. I have worked very late into the night finishing things, but more often than not it’s okay as long as I check in with my boss ahead of time. Projects, especially IT ones, can run late. In some places, it’s the norm. Others, it Had. Better. Not. Be.

    1. AMG*

      It also matters WHY it’s late. If my boss prioritized something else, then that makes sense and he can see that as working on Y so much that there’s no way X could get done. If X is the only thing on my plate, and there are no issues with the deliverable, it better be on time or I will have to justify how I have been spending my time during the week. Was I coming in early to work almost every day and submitting drafts and follow-up questions at 8 pm at night? Or was I rolling in 20 minutes late most mornings and taking my full lunch breaks? That stuff matters too.

  15. MommaCat*

    I work in theatre, and opening night is opening night, whether or not you’re ready. Theatre runs on a tight schedule, and if you’re running behind, things have to get cut (usually scenery). So, deadlines are quite solid in theatre.

    1. Zathras*

      True! I did stage carpentry in college, and anytime we had to slap together parts of the set due to schedule crunch, the set designer was famous for peering at the subpar elements of our work, shrugging, and saying “We will fix it with the lights.”

      Opening night is a firm deadline, but in my experience curtain-up isn’t – I don’t think I’ve ever been to a performance that actually started on time. Admittedly this may be the audience’s fault most of the time, if they have not seated themselves in a timely manner.

    2. Hard@ss*

      I work in a similar area, dance production. We work with many groups of people for MONTHS with benchmarks and regular check-in’s for producing their audition videos, they have six months make the work, and a one month window to get it in. Our deadline is rock solid. If they miss it, they miss the opportunity all together. Similarly when it’s show time, call times are call times, show time is exactly that, show time, if they’re not on deck they’re not performing. Period.

      I also work with annual art grants with same submission period and deadline every year, and our submission deadlines are firm. The song and dance people come up with to get in past deadlines always amuses me. But I’m a task master, late is late.

      When people have months to get it together and have regular prodding, if they miss deadlines the opportunities goes to the people who can follow directions.

  16. Stop That Goat*

    System/Support Analyst here. It kind of depends. High priority tickets are rather strict on deadlines since that’s time where some sort of work is not getting done by users. Lower priority are a little more flexible. However, in both situations, there’s a customer waiting for an issue to be fixed. Taking too long is going to be a hit to customer service.

    As for project work, I tend to have a little more flexibility within reason. I’d proactively give an early heads-up if I expected something to be late though so everyone is on the same page.

    1. Stop That Goat*

      That being said, I support a college teacher being strict on deadlines. Besides the life lesson of deadlines, it was a bit of a thorn in my side when I’d bust my butt to meet a class deadline (while working a full time job) and other students would ask for extensions the day it was due.

      1. JM60*

        I always turned in my work on time in college and had school. However, I’m not a big fan of setting strict deadlines in school merely for the sake of teaching the importance of deadlines. To me, it’s more important to teach why deadlines are important. To me, “I’m trying to teach you a lesson before you enter the real world” is a lot less satisfactory than “In many jobs, missing deadlines means that your employer failed to meet contractual obligations and won’t get paid. To prepare you for that, late submissions will be penalized. However, I may grant extentions on a case by case basis of notified ahead of time for the midterm paper. However, I can’t be as flexibile with the final paper, since late submissions makes me unable to meet my deadlines for submitting grades.” I think the former doesn’t really teach much of a lesson.

  17. N*

    OP, I would say that if any of your English students are going to go into any sort of writing-related field, deadlines are probably going to matter a lot. I currently work as a nonprofit grantwriter, and I can tell you that when it comes to submitting proposals to funders, there are very hard and fast deadlines and there are definitely no extensions. If anything, you need to add in additional buffers and submit well BEFORE the deadline to account for any possible system failure. I’ve heard that the same can be true in fields like journalism and copywriting, although I’ve never done this myself.

    1. fposte*

      Except for publishing. There deadlines are in a perpetual arms race against late submissions.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        I’m in publishing. While it’s true that (where I’ve worked) deadlines don’t have the same urgency that I’m reading in the other posts here, I’ve noticed that missing one or two can really damage your reputation.

        1. Anon for this*

          That explains why my publisher was so ecstatic when I actually turned my manuscript in early.

    2. Mari*

      As a fellow grantwriter who lives and dies by deadlines, I have to add that I hugely resent it when colleagues who aren’t as deadline-oriented send me their deliverables (budgets, timelines, drafts, etc.) late. I’ve had to work late on several occasions because a carefully padded timeline wasn’t followed. That being said, most people are pretty good about this.

    3. Observer*

      I was going to say this, as well. If you are in ANY place in the chain of a grant proposal, those deadlines are generally cast in stone, and even being an hour late can mean losing a significant grant. I remember early in my career hearing of someone who lost her job because the grant proposal she was managing was late – and thus effectively not submitted. As this was a grant that they knew they would almost certainly get if they got the paperwork in, it was seen as her actually losing a (fairly large, for the organization) grant, and she was shown the door.

      With government rfps / grants, you get deadlines like 3:00pm and if you get there (or on-line) at 3:05, you are late and your proposal is not even getting looked at.

      1. Mari*

        I was trained to submit those government grants two weeks early. I still remember my first boss explaining how she lost a significant grant early in her career because she went to submit the day of the deadline, and lo and behold but there were problems with the registration. Ever since, she submitted two weeks early (as in, more than 10 days) so there would be enough time to fix any issues or call for online support.

        1. Another bureaucrat*

          I have a boss who, back in the day, had to drive a grant submission to the state capital (hours away) before it was due. You can believe she makes us work ahead….

    4. NC*

      Grant writers unite! Deadlines are king, and God help you if you try to explain to a funder (especially if it’s a federal government agency) that you just need another day.

      1. Seuuze*

        I have over 20 years of municipal, state and nonprofit experience. As a former executive director of a state AmeriCorps program, our annual online grant application to the federal government was due on time or you didn’t have a chance because it was shut off at the stated deadline. No extensions, no whining. We also did our state time sheets online and that too was a set deadline.

        I also went back to school for a graduate degree and our papers were due online by the deadline or else. However, if you did have an emergency, or family issue and let the professor know in advance, they usually would be accommodating. But some professors that didn’t use the online system didn’t always care if your work was a little late. This varied widely, but for the most part was pretty strict.

        To me, the syllabus was like a contract. Here are the expectations for your work in this class and the dates these assignments are due so that you can earn YOUR degree. These are important lessons to learn about expectations in the working world.

        I agree that deadlines are really important. I have been on the receiving end of needing reports from grantees by a certain deadline in order to consolidate reports for the federal government. When the reports were always late, I instituted an earlier deadline so that I would have time to do my work on them before the deadline. But I felt like this was a work-around that shouldn’t have been necessary. These organizations got their money and it was in their contract to supply the reports, but it was a struggle getting them to comply in a timely manner. Frustrating.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        We were denied a two-day grant extension by a federal funding agency when the lead author needed an emergency appendectomy. They are not kidding around with their deadlines…

        1. N*

          ^Right, and that’s another thing OP needs to note–one of the reasons that deadlines (and especially federal deadlines) aren’t extended even in extreme cases is so that it’s fair to everyone else.
          It’s the same reason they won’t give any information about a grant before the RFP/NOFA/whathaveyou comes out–they want to make sure everyone has the same information all at once. I recently wrote to a federal agency to ask what the minimum enrollment would be for an upcoming program, and they literally wrote back, “[Agency] has established minimum goals for enrollment.”

          As my former boss used to say: the state is so cute.

    5. Someone Else*

      Ooh golly, yes! Everything N says, with (alarm) bells on.
      I write tenders for government (and other) contracts and basically, if you miss the deadline, that’s it. No second chances, you’re just out of the running for that contract. On occasions the tender deadline might be extended for everyone but that’s generally only if there’s been an issue on the procurement side – it’s unlikely ever to be because a bidder has just needed more time.
      So to answer the OP’s questions:
      –In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?

      Essential. The submission deadline is set in stone, if it’s missed, it’s gone. Often I submit through an online portal and once the deadline passes, it shuts down. We’re talking literally seconds here, not hours, days or more.
      Meeting the internal deadlines that are set to help ensure you don’t miss the submission deadline are also pretty inflexible. If I don’t get the information I need by a certain time, I’m not going to have the time to write it up before submission. Likewise, if I don’t get my drafts over to my clients in time for them to read, assess and approve (or request amends).
      Submitting early is also good practice. You never know when your or their system is going have a hiccup. I try to submit the day before. If that’s not possible, then at least 2 hours ahead of the cut off time.

      –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?
      See above. If I miss a submission deadline and it’s no one’s fault but mine? I’m fired, my reputation is hit and it will affect whether or not I can attract new or keep existing clients.

      –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?
      Give them some real life horror stories! A company I worked for lost a contract they’d had for several years, which was worth a significant percentage of their overall revenue, because they missed the submission deadline when the contract came up for re-tendering (it wasn’t me!). They’re no longer in business.

    6. Venus Supreme*

      Nonprofit grantwriter here, too! Deadlines are everything. No one likes a late submission. I’ll admit, time management wasn’t my strongest trait while in college, but I learned — the hard way — at my first internship. That was the first and last time I sprinted through Times Square in torrential rain to get a grant in on time… I was seven minutes late.

      I also work in the theatre industry. There’s no hard deadlines, really, except for tech week and run of performances. & The show will go on whether or not you got your responsibilities done on time. But it’s going to affect how others view you and your work practices if you & your work are consistently late, and that’ll influence whether or not they want to work with you on the next production.

      1. A day late and 40K short*

        Hey, I’m a nonprofit grantwriter for a theatre company. Like everyone else in the institutional fundraising world, I live or die by grant deadlines. I agree that government agencies are the least flexible; private funders sometimes are a bit, but it doesn’t help your case to ask for an extension unless you have a really good reason – you want to seem very reliable when asking someone for money.

        In addition to being on time, you have to be detail oriented. Last spring we lost the chance to even submit a full application for a roughly $40,000 grant because we downloaded the wrong version of the preliminary application form and submitted it. No one noticed it was the wrong form until the deadline passed – it was exactly the same as the correct form, except for 2 words in the title (all the content was the same) and the agency said, sorry, you are disqualified. We applied for a grant at their next deadline, but the agency happens to be the NEA, and we are not sure if they are even going to get to make grants this round. So details have significant consequences.

  18. AndersonDarling*

    If we don’t meet a regulatory deadline, our medical facility could be suspended. That means the doors close, staff goes home, and no medical care is provided. There is no wiggle room, no excuses.

  19. Kimberlee, Esq*

    There’s one facet of this I want to bring into the convo, too, which is the nature of the deadlines themselves. I’m not a person who is motivated by deadlines (though I know lots of people are!) so *fake* deadlines are really frustrating to me. Like, yes, if I owe you copy at 4 so you can make a print deadline at 5, that’s a real deadline. If you want me to have something done by Friday and it doesn’t *really* matter if it’s done on Monday, I will be peeved if you make me work late on Friday to get it in.

    I think this is also a workstyle difference; some people are very into planning out every hour of their day, and very good at predicting how long things will take, and those people are understandably frustrated by people like me, who find that level of planning a waste of time that I could be using to actually do stuff.

    My field (which is admin/ops for a media company) has some very firm deadlines. It also has stuff that I *should* get done as quickly as possible, but if I need to put it off a day, I need to put it off a day, and I prefer to make those decisions on the fly, because my industry is really fast-moving and a lot of those prioritization decisions need to be made on the fly anyway.

    Which is all to say, I think your system is fine, in terms of its levels of flexibility and emphasizing getting extensions over just turning stuff in late, but ultimately, it sorta depends on what your goal is as a professor. Other than your own time to grade (which isn’t nothing, don’t get me wrong), there’s no *reason* that a paper needs to be done by X day. And ultimately, would you rather a student turned in consistently “B” work on time, or consistently “A” work that was usually a day or two late? I think that framework is more useful than trying to peg your lessons to how deadlines work in the real world!

    1. AMG*

      Yes!! If every damn thing you give me is an emergency, then I am going to treat all of them like non-emergencies.

          1. Naruto*

            Yeah! Or, like, if people don’t like the word “emergency,” I just don’t think all deadlines are equally “urgent” or “hard” or whatnot. Shit happens, and I need to be able to use my discretion and best judgment to make the call about how important it is to meet a particular deadline. And if you don’t trust me to do that, then you need to hire someone whose judgment you do trust.

        1. KHB*

          Hear hear. On my office bulletin board I have a printout of all the deadlines for my position for the whole of 2017. They’re precise to the hour, but we know what they are months in advance, so we can plan around them. For example: The first draft of my content for the January 2018 issue is due at 12:00 noon on Monday December 4th. If that deadline feels like an emergency on the evening of December 3rd, it’s only because I didn’t plan.

    2. Dr. Ruthless*

      I occasionally have clients who lie to me about deadlines, which is endlessly frustrating. They’re deadlines with the court, but they’ll get an extension and won’t tell us until the day of (good news! It’s actually due three days from now, not tonight!) If we’d had that information previously, we might have done different/more/whatever analyses that we’d wished we’d had time for, but now we’re just going to sit in the end phase of “we don’t really have time to do new work, so I guess we’ll wordsmith and look for typos for the next three days.”

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        I have lots of people padding their deadlines because they think it will help them get their books out on time, and it definitely leads to things like overtime and cancelling leave that didn’t need to happen, so I don’t approve. On the other hand, I do it myself because I am so often proven right (i.e. I give a deadline a week earlier than it would need to be, and receive the material a week late).

        1. Dr. Ruthless*

          If they say, here’s the deadline with the court, but we want to have a final draft by X days in advance, that’s fine. But just last week, I stayed at the office until 10:00 on Thursday to hit a Friday COB deadline…and then they told me that the deadline was actually Monday.

          1. Confused Again*

            Getting nit-picky but I think that’s more poor communication of scope than a problem with deadlines though. It’s not like the problem is that the deadline isn’t hard or that it’s been excessively padded – it’s more that it’s been moved and nobody bothered to mention.

            Not to say that’s not annoying – I feel your pain on this one as have had it happen to me on more than one occasion, along with people not bothering to mention that the focus of a project has changed for several days after the decision was made, forgetting to mention certain segments of reports are no longer needed etc. Some other people don’t bother to think for long enough that they might, you know, actually want to inform the person doing the actual work. (Not that I’m bitter about this or anything :P)

    3. Dr. Speakeasy*

      Honestly? I lean towards B work on time. It might take slightly longer to grade but I have so many moving pieces in my job/life that when stuff starts coming in whenever for whomever it throws my life off more than that paper took to grade. I used to have a very strict deadline or nothing policy (ah, youth) and then I had a 10% policy and now… I actually have no late policy. Deadlines are deadlines and I take it on a case-by-case basis (which is probably making a Dean somewhere shudder).

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        B work on time seems like the best model for the working world to me, perfection being the enemy of the good and so on.

        1. Julie B.*

          In my field (Architecture and Engineering) submitting B work comes back to bite you in construction. Anything that the design professional did wrong or missed during design then results in Change Orders during construction which adds cost to the project. This makes Owners exceptionally unhappy and the Owner can come back to the A&E and ask them to cover the costs. (For all of the other A&E’s out here, yes, I am simplifying this greatly.)

          So no “B” work EVER.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            I tend to agree. If you can produce B work on time, you can produce A work on time.

          2. Dr. Speakeasy*

            Yeah – “B” & “C” work doesn’t play out well in the real world. But I’m thinking that the student who turns in B work on time should have that GPA instead of constantly getting extensions and having the same GPA as the student who turns in A work on time. (Somewhat – I have all kinds of conflicted feelings regarding grades, learning, and the casual relationship between the two).

            1. AnonEMoose*

              And when you add in the issues of grade inflation, adjunct faculty being highly dependent on student evaluations to be hired back again, things get even more complicated. But that’s another conversation, I think, and I don’t want to drag this off topic.

          3. Chinook*

            And doing B work in design and construction means that the people who then take over the repair and maintenance for next few decades of that thing are going to be cursing your name every time they have to fix a work around or replace an item that doesn’t meet our specs (my department is trying to get our expansion project to listen to this argument because we don’t want any surprises when we have to start inspecting the darn thing in a few years).

    4. Jessesgirl72*

      No reason it has to be turned in by X day, except that the University is very strict about its deadlines for grades being due, and if the entire section waits until the last day of class to turn in a paper, the OP isn’t going to turn the grades in on time.

      The student who turns in the B paper could learn to start the paper earlier, rather than take extra days at the end.

      1. Artemesia*

        One thing that I found is that students who were generally unreliable about this were unreliable in general. It really usually is a matter of character. I also found that such students were wont to claim they turned something in and that I had lost it. I had a system for recording everything the day it came in; some people actually use a time stamp for this. So I knew if things had come in as expected. The unreliable students would try to say they had turned it in later to my box or some other such non regular transmission. I was quite confident that my system was accurate so I never accepted this excuse and always required them to submit again immediately. In the era of computers, no excuses like this.

        Another cut one is the student sending an unreadable file and pretending it is a file corruption or computer problem. Sending a paper is not rocket science and there is no reason for this happening; if they can’t produce the correct product immediately, it is not acceptable.

    5. the gold digger*

      would you rather a student turned in consistently “B” work on time, or consistently “A” work that was usually a day or two late

      There is no reason the student can’t do “A” work on time. I have no sympathy – every gets the same amount of time to do the work. This is all on the student.


      A person who gets really ticked off when people do not do what they say they will do (or have agreed to do by virtue of taking a class and knowing what the requirements are)

      1. aebhel*

        This. If the student is capable of doing ‘A’ work that’s turned in a day late, they’re capable of doing it on time. I’m saying this as a life-long procrastinator: that’s a time-management issue, not an ability issue. An extra day shouldn’t make an entire letter-grade worth of difference, unless the student in question didn’t start the work until three AM the morning it was due (something I have done repeatedly). If they know that they will need more time, due to disability or life circumstances, then they need to work it out IN ADVANCE.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Thirded. If all you can turn in on time is B work, then you’re a B student.

            1. KHB*


              I do not believe there is any such thing as a person who can consistently do A work in 15 days but not in 14 days, say. Rather, it’s usually a case of doing A work in 2 days rather than 1 day, and not starting the assignment until the day before it’s due. But that’s a problem that’s easily solved by starting a day earlier.

              1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                The obvious exception, but one that proves the rule, are those with documented disabilities for whom additional time is an accommodation.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  And accommodations usually have to be requested in advance and communicated to the instructor at/near the beginning of the course, so it’s not something that comes up at the last minute. It’s just something the instructor has to account for with the particular students involved.

                2. Falling Diphthong*

                  Across many aspects of work–there is a huge distinction between working with someone who says “I will need this specific thing to do this task by this deadline” versus someone who doesn’t turn in anything, then says “Yeah, I actually needed an accommodation if I was going to do that.”

      2. Cordelia Naismith*

        Also, what about all the other students in the class who turned the work in on time? Maybe they could have improved their grade with an extra day or two, but they took the deadline seriously. If you accept the late paper without any kind of penalty, you’re both rewarding that student for ignoring your deadline and penalizing all the other students who turned it in on time. Not cool.

        1. Dr. Speakeasy*

          Yep. And if there are any protected class differences between the students who are allowed to turn work in late and the students who weren’t even informed that was an option then you’ve got a problem (a problem that is rare to come to light, but a problem nevertheless).

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Yep – this can become a big problem, and the institution’s legal counsel will probably NOT be happy.

          2. Artemesia*

            All of my major assignments were in the syllabus from day one with directions and rubrics for assessment. Anyone who needed more time was just a bad planner (unless some true disaster occurred)

      3. Kimberlee, Esq*

        I actually disagree on the idea that if a student can do A work late, they can do it on time too. I’m someone where college didn’t really “click” for me until halfway through my senior year… I mean, I found some stuff interesting, but I didn’t find a topic where I really opened my eyes and dug in until senior year. The implications of when that happened still reverberate in my life today. A student might put in a slapdash effort to get a B and get it in on time, but if having the extra day to really ruminate in the topic creates one of those epiphany moments, I’d say that’s just about the best thing college can do for a person.

        Of course, that’s all of limited practical applicability, but i did want to raise it as an objection to something I’m seeing a lot in this thread. In the real world, the goal of doing work is to create a work product of some kind that someone else needs or uses or buys or whatever. In school, the production of the paper isn’t the goal, the goal is to instill _something_ in the student writing it, or elicit _something_ from them. So, to me, if granting an extension or letting a student slide late with a paper increases the odds that those goals are accomplished, then it would be the correct thing to do in that instance, even if it was teaching them “wrong” lessons about deadlines in the real world (not that, as I think we’re establishing, there’s even a “right” lesson about deadlines in the real world!)

        1. Artemesia*

          This is a function of procrastination. The reason it is slapdash is that the person did it last minute. If they had had another week, they would still have done it last minute. If they needed time to ruminate, they could have begun a few days earlier. This is a choice they made. I think some students do this to themselves so they can pretend that their mediocre grades are so, because they didn’t do their best, because rushed. If only they had more time, the material would have been fabulous. I suspect that usually we are getting pretty much their best work when it is that B work that comes in at the last minute.

          1. KHB*

            I think that’s pretty insightful. Thinking about my work situation now, the people who complain the most about how they need more time to ruminate are the ones who produce the poorest work no matter how much time we give them. The ones who are most reliable about producing good work are also the most reliable about getting it done on time.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            My firstborn had down to a science exactly how long she could put off an assignment and still get an A with a late night. Giving her an extra day or week at the outset would have made no difference.

            1. Anxa*

              This is kind of me. Only it’s not really so much as a science as an art?

              It’s so bizarre. I can have weeks of planning. I go through topic after topic after topic, then I change my mind over and over again. I ruminate on the project for weeks. I ‘write’ several mental drafts. It keeps me up at night, it’s what I think about on the bus, etc. I’ll sit down at 1pm the day before. Not much comes out. I sit down at 6pm, still not much project. Then it’s an all-nigher and a literal down the wire rush where fingers are flying and hearts are pumping. There’s just this kind of moment where suddenly I know, in my gut, that this is it. Really what happens is that the amount of work I do fills up the space I have.

              I don’t do this at work and I have gotten better about job applications (they are still last minute submissions but I start them a week or days in advance).

          3. Anxa*

            But it really isn’t always a choice. There are plenty of people who work 10x as a hard for 10x as long trying and working on not procrastinating, but will still procrastinate.

            It’s not a matter of character or effort or values, but it is a skill deficit, and one that matters. One that they know matters a lot.

            I think that the last minute work may be the best work they are able to produce in with those restrictions (and I actually do believe restrictions actually help a lot of people do better work). But there always could have been time to revise or proofread. Or maybe sleep on it.

          4. MassMatt*

            Well put–procrastination is sometimes an excuse for mediocrity. Time management is a skill people should learn, it’s not as though by procrastinating you are gaining more hours in a day or days in a week than anyone else has. You have the same 2 weeks or whatever, you’re just frittering away the 1st 13 days.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              My own attitude is that, if I have a project with a stated deadline, I will do my utmost to turn it in ahead of time, because all sorts of things can crop up if you wait until the last minute. OTOH my manager sat down with me to iron out vacation schedule conflicts the day *after* the completed schedule was due to all TPTB.

              Interestingly, my manager thought that you had to be a Teapot Manager in order to be a Teapot Coordinator, her real objective. (Not true, the Coordinator position payscale is a tad lower). And if she got the Coordinator position, she’d have to enforce on others the deadlines she regularly blows off!

        2. AnonEMoose*

          I’m going to disagree with you a bit, here. Yes, one goal is that the student learn something. But they’re learning more than the actual content of the paper, assignment, or course.

          Many people have posted in this thread that their work habits were heavily influenced by the habits they developed in school. And assignments are, in my opinion, about teaching those things, too – time management, prioritizing work, deciding when to stop researching and start writing, evaluating and choosing sources – all of those things matter.

    6. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I was just looking for a comment like this! I think that people in general are very good at picking up on “arbitrary” deadlines, so if you’re trying to impart a lesson to your students, you run the risk that they’ll feel like the deadlines are arbitrary and not really learn anything other than to resent you. It may help for you to explain at the beginning of your course why you treat deadlines as firmly as you do (i.e. both as a professional lesson but also because you need a certain amount of time to get things graded and returned) and explain the consequences of tardiness (pushing other deadlines back because of work piling up, unfairness to others, etc).

      And it’s also important have a reasonable policy for extensions in the case of personal emergencies, because many (although certainly not all) professions do allow for some human flexibility. One thing that often applies in the workplace but not in the classroom is the idea of redundancy – if one person is unavoidably unavailable and a deadline absolutely must be met, someone else will step in and do the work. I’m not sure how exactly you work that into a life lessons style policy, but I do think it’s an element to keep in mind.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Deadlines aren’t arbitrary. Midterm grades need to be uploaded by X date, and that’s a hard deadline. When I was teaching, department policy was that grades be updated weekly at the minimum.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I did use scare quotes for a reason there. I don’t think it’s unusual for people to get ticked off when they find out a hard deadline actually isn’t as hard as they thought, especially if they put a lot of work into meeting that deadline. I’m saying that if you’re teaching about deadlines, it’s important to communicate which are hard, which are soft, and why even the soft deadlines are important.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            Oh, that’s fair. Didn’t see quite where you were driving there.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              I took more time with my response to you, so it was shorter and more to the point. ;)

          2. Naruto*

            I’ve been trying to figure out how to say this, but you just said it way better than I can!

      2. Artemesia*

        This feels like the special snowflake school of deadline explanations. I make the deadlines to fit the material (obviously big projects are due after the material students need to do them has been taught) and my own internal deadlines as well as the college’s external deadlines. My convenience at having adequate time to provide feedback in time to help students produce better work on their next assignment is not arbitrary; it is functional. Because it inconveniences me and not the student to change the deadline doesn’t make it ‘arbitrary’. The world doesn’t adapt to the egocentric and the immature. No reason the classroom deadlines should.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I think my 12:11 update basically covers this, but I did not at all mean to imply that academic deadlines were arbitrary – that’s why I used scare quotes. I meant that, since the OP is asking about teaching a lesson about deadlines, it would be helpful to explain why even soft deadlines should generally be adhered to. “Because I said so” isn’t a great way to teach anyone.

          1. KHB*

            But in the working world, sometimes “because I said so” is the answer that you need to accept. (I’m reminded of the “Do you understand that I am your boss?” righteous rant from the post about the rogue intern.) If your boss tells you that she needs XYZ from you, then you need to do XYZ – you don’t get to just decide on your own that you’re going to do ABC instead. If you truly don’t understand why she’s asking for XYZ, or if you think that ABC would make more sense, then you can have a conversation about that – but in a lot of environments, constantly demanding explanations and reasons for every. little. thing. is a good way to get yourself marked as a pain in the ass.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I got into this down thread, but an “arbitrary” deadline that is treated as such by a bunch of people can delay a project that could have functioned just fine with just a small percent missing the deadline. In the case of the class, the professor allotted time for grading and that can’t just be conjured out of thin air later on while still meeting other grading/planning/etc deadlines. In publishing or event planning, you can often start on the final product if you have 97% of what you need in place–but not if a whole bunch of people are trying to put themselves in the 3% you’ll do at the very end.

    7. Elemeno P.*

      I give fake deadlines at work, but only to people who have proven to be unreliable. I had an intern who mentally checked out toward the end of his time with us, and assignments started taking a reeeeally long time…until I told him our director needed it by [whatever the normal amount of time would be for the project], and suddenly he was back to his old pace!

      I use the same tactic with executives when I need their input on something. If they respond to my emails in a timely manner, then I give them my actual deadline. If they routinely drag their feet and “will get back to me soon” for several weeks in a row, then an executive higher than them magically needs it by [normal amount of time to review a project] and it’s super urgent! Perhaps not the most honest tactic, but I only pull it out when I have to.

    8. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      “And ultimately, would you rather a student turned in consistently “B” work on time, or consistently “A” work that was usually a day or two late?”

      I want the work on time. If you’re capable of A work, you’re also capable of turning in A work on time too. A students are capable of managing their time and deadlines. If all you can turn in on time is B work, then you’re most likely a B student – but, usually, that’s more like C work and a C student.

    9. Observer*

      Well, the professor’s time IS a valid reason why something needs to be in on time. And, generally, there actually IS a reason why work needs to be done by a certain date, especially at the end of the term.

      Also the idea that consistent “A” work turned in late is better that consistent “B” work turned in on time is not really valid. If nothing else, it shows that the student really is NOT making good decisions, planned or on the fly.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Yeah, I said the same above. We had to update grades weekly, return assignments within 5 days, and turn in midterm and end of semester grades by X date, no extensions. Late work is inevitably a huge pain in the ass to keep track of, and always ends up wasting time,

      2. CM*

        I think that’s an observation that’s true both as a student and as an employee. A deadline may be externally imposed, like for a court filing for application due date, but often deadlines are about enabling people to work together. Team members need to rely on each other to get things done on time so that one person isn’t scrambling due to another person’s lateness. And professors have similar considerations. Professors should be able to plan their schedules so that they have adequate time to read and assess papers and submit grades. If students are handing in assignments whenever they feel like it,the professor can’t effectively do their job, just like your coworker can’t effectively do her job when you wait until 5 PM on a Friday to hand her something that needs her attention.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        The context of most missed deadlines in this thread is not “No one could produce a teapot capable of orbital re-entry in 3 months–it takes at least 5 and that’s if things work perfectly. You need to give teams 6 months, not 3.” It’s more like 8 months was given at the outset, but nothing happened for the first 5 for no particular reason beyond procrastination and now there’s 3 left and oh no we can’t do a good job in that time.

        I think a lot of jobs would think “We need to hire someone who can reliably produce A work on time for important jobs, and fill in with consistent B work on time lower down, and maybe there’s one mad scientist who gets to do A work on his own schedule because when he does turn it in it’s a million dollar idea.” Most people shouldn’t view themselves as incredibly unique thinkers spilling million dollar ideas from their pockets.

        1. KHB*

          We used to give outside contributors a timeline of 3 months to submit their teapot designs to us, and they were almost always late. (We can afford more flexibility with them than with in-house deadlines, but lateness is still suboptimal.) Then we switched to asking for them in 2 months, and many more started coming through on time. Because when you have 2 months to do something that takes 2 months, you get started on it right away. But when you have 3 months to do something that takes 2 months, you put it off for 2 months, then realize that there’s no way you’re going to get it done in time anyway, so you feel terrible about yourself, so you take any excuse you can get to avoid looking at the teapot design you were supposed to be working on, and you end up putting it off for another 3 years.

    10. Confused Again*

      Having been the “B” student in this scenario, policies like this are a slap in the face because you’ve done your best to follow the rules and meet the deadline…only to see your peers be effectively rewarded for failure because they only got a higher grade because they took the extra week.

      I’m not sure if there’s a big real world application to that – I don’t think the people I work with have identical projects signed out to other firms and are scoring us against each other…unless I’ve just uncovered a major conspiracy without knowing it. However, it would teach students time for projects at work is often finite and sometimes you have to cut and run earlier than you might like.

      To give the best ‘real world’ experience, I think OP should explain their deadline, why it is in place and how rigid it is. So, for example, “I’d like this project in within the next fortnight. This is because I need enough time to grade your papers, so you’ll have them to review in advance of the test you’re going to take on this topic in a month. If you need extra time, please let me know in advance – however, I can’t promise you will have the assignment mark back before the test if you don’t meet the original deadline.”

      I think a lot of people would respect deadlines a lot more if they understood why they are in place. Like with Alison, with my work, I often ask for things before I desperately need them because I need to do some work at my end. I used to have a lot of people disrespect that because they knew our office closed at 10pm so they thought it would be fine and dandy to send things across at 9:45pm. Sure, sometimes if everything came in high quality, that was more of an inconvenience than a major problem but, more often than not, it resulted in a very disappointed client being told this could not be done before the office closed.

      So instead I started saying things like, “Ideally, I need it by 6pm. I’ll need to run some processes at my end so, if you want to guarantee this will be done by the time the office closes, this is when I need it by. However, somebody will be in the office until 10pm tonight if you can’t meet this deadline. They’ll try they’re best to sort this out but we do ideally need you to meet that 6pm deadline.”

      But I would also agree that people who dress up their false deadlines as hard ones are immensely annoying and disrespectful. I always think it’s better to speak up if you’re struggling – usually they’ll cop at that point to not really needing it for a few more days – but I do remember one boss who threw a major strop about how something needed to be done by a certain day and pushed my team to do overtime to get it done….only to later discover it was another week before he even bothered to review it!

    11. Murphy*

      if I owe you copy at 4 so you can make a print deadline at 5, that’s a real deadline. If you want me to have something done by Friday and it doesn’t *really* matter if it’s done on Monday, I will be peeved if you make me work late on Friday to get it in.

      Firstly, I agree. But the problem often arises when people don’t think past their own role in a project and basically think it’s a “fake” deadline when it’s not. I ask for materials usually a day or two in advance of a meeting to discuss said materials, and that’s because there’s work I need to complete to prepare for the meeting, but oftentimes people must think “Well if the meeting is Wednesday, surely she doesn’t really need me to have these done on Monday” when in fact I do.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, exactly. People aren’t always as good as they think at knowing how “real” a deadline is. You might think it doesn’t need to be done until Monday, but what you don’t know is that my whole Monday is booked and so in order for me to edit and approve it, I need to receive it by Friday afternoon.

        I think Kimberlee is absolutely right about this part: “I think this is also a workstyle difference; some people are very into planning out every hour of their day, and very good at predicting how long things will take, and those people are understandably frustrated by people like me, who find that level of planning a waste of time that I could be using to actually do stuff.”

        I use that level of planning because my schedule is often crammed AF, and that’s how I manage to churn out as much as I do and not have my stress levels fly through the roof.

        And of course, when we’re talking about deadlines, we’re often talking about something set by someone senior to you, and in that case if that senior person is like me, you basically need to respect what they need in order to make their schedule work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh, I also need to add — it really doesn’t take that long to plan out your schedule like that; it takes me a total of maybe one minute a day to do it? But doing it saves me soooo much time later, because I’m not realizing at the last minute that I don’t have any room for something that needs to happen. I say this because I just realized the implication in that quote is that people who plan like this are investing lots of time in doing it, and at least in my experience, it takes almost no time (and saves a bunch).

          If you have a fairly leisurely workload, it might not make sense to do it. When you have a really high one, it’s hard to get by without doing it.

      2. Whats In A Name*

        So I was going to say the same thing. I often ask for things by close of business Friday if a project/presentation/meeting on a Tuesday or Wednesday is dependent on receiving that information. Quite frankly in that case it’s going to be the first thing I review on Monday morning and I want to be able to review, clarify and ask for changes if necessary. Saying “have this in to me by 7:00 a.m. on a Monday” when I know our offices are closed on the weekends is pointless and, if chance, they do miss a deadline, it’s padded.

      3. KM*

        I agree. I think it’s mostly a communication issue where, if everyone talked through the timeline at the beginning and understood what still needed to happen after they’d finished their work, and how long it takes, and why, they would cooperate more.

        From the other side, though, it’s really frustrating when someone freaks out that they need something ASAP and you drop everything you’re doing to accommodate them, and then they don’t get around to looking at it until three months later. That’s why I’d recommend having a clear, transparent workflow and timeline rather than just trusting whoever comes up to your desk when they tell you that something is urgent.

    12. KHB*

      “some people are very into planning out every hour of their day, and very good at predicting how long things will take, and those people are understandably frustrated by people like me, who find that level of planning a waste of time that I could be using to actually do stuff.”

      But if failing to plan means you’re not getting your work to people by the time they need it from you, then that’s a waste of time too. It’s just that it’s a waste of other people’s time, rather than yours.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        But if failing to plan means you’re not getting your work to people by the time they need it from you, then that’s a waste of time too. It’s just that it’s a waste of other people’s time, rather than yours.

        Quote of the century.

  20. Czhorat*

    I work, broadly, n the A&E field [architecture and engineering] as well as integration of technology.

    For design work, deadlines – even for intermetiate stages of development – are critical because one work done by one discipline affects others. If I’m late giving power and heat load information for audiovisual devices [I’m the AV guy] then the HVAC team either doesn’t have time to do their work or will not take my requirements into account.

    On the “build” side it’s highly variable but there tends to be very little flexibility. Work for educational institutions is often done during summer and winter breaks with a hard deadline at the start of classes, while corporate spaces are often “booked” days after the scheduled completion. Again, deadlines are critical, with the pressure coming from real-world impact rather than cultural issues internal to an organization.

    How important are deadlines internally? I’ve not seen anyone fired for missing one, but we try very hard to not miss them. I HAVE seen things slip a day without repercussions, but most often see people put in extra hours to get it done.

    1. Darkitect*

      I also work in A/E but our internal deadlines are somewhat more flexible, probably because we are multi-discipline. We work from shared drawing files, so all disciplines can see real-time updates to the design. For us, the critical date is the design release date since it impacts award of the construction contract.

  21. Manders*

    I’m in legal marketing. I prefer to get work done on the day I said it would be done myself, but something I’ve had to accept is that the people above me in the office hierarchy usually have projects with *very* strict deadlines, so I have to accept the fact that things that feel urgent to me may be on the back burner for weeks or months when it’s time to get approval from an attorney.

    This doesn’t mean there are no deadlines. It means that I have to be thinking about the hard deadline (this promotional item will run out, this ad copy won’t be in by the day it runs, etc) months in advance so I can make sure there’s enough buffer time for the inevitable waiting period. I used to work for a doctor who wouldn’t turn in his work on time so I’m very good at managing up and choosing an internal deadline well before the project is so late that it’s a crisis.

    The one thing I do get to escalate to the top of the priority list is PR. If you miss your window for a great PR opportunity by even a few hours, you’re screwed.

    I would eventually like to move into a field where everyone’s on the same page about deadlines. Missing them makes me anxious.

  22. Dr. Ruthless*

    I work in litigation consulting (i.e. expert witness work), and when we have a deadline, we have a DEADLINE. If something has to be filed with the court on a given date, it’s a problem if it’s filed late, even if it’s only filed a few minutes late (i.e. just after midnight). (It *might* be a de minimus problem, and the judge could decide to let it slide, but she also might not, so best not to chance it).

    There’s other stuff–interim projects and the like–where we’d like to hit our deadlines, and certainly apologize and give advance notice whenever possible if it looks like that won’t happen, but yeah, deadlines matter, and are very very serious.

  23. esra*

    I’m a graphic designer. If I’m late on crucial deadlines, things don’t go to print and our beautiful tradeshow booth ends up being an empty patch of sad, grey concrete. And then I would probably get fired.

    When coworkers don’t get me their copy (which happens, for varying degrees of reasonable reasons), I end up working late/through weekends/through holidays. And that super sucks.

    Good will matters a lot in my industry, so if you’re always late with files and payment, you aren’t getting any special favours or rush jobs with the printers and vendors you rely on. If you are one of those rare designers who not just meets, but beats deadlines? You actually develop a super solid reputation that you can lean on when projects get crazy.

  24. paul*

    Some deadlines are more flexible than others–but my manager would rightly chew my ass up one side and down the other if I was routinely late, let alone regularly late with them without forewarning. It would eventually get me fired.

    It varies field to field and sometimes assignment to assignment how rigid the deadline itself is, but they *do* matter and there’s a process to requesting an extension. You don’t just ask right as it’s coming due!

    We’ve had to request extensions a couple of times–we lost the person responsible for our accreditation in our field halfway through it last cycle, and then our manager quit like 1-2 weeks later and it took ages to bring the new one up to speed. So I kind of pieced together what to do to request an extension by going through stuff on our network hard drive.

  25. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Deadlines were written in stone in a previous job. I learned this the hard way. I was working in a law office and dropping legal papers off at a bank. It was hot day so I stopped for a drink, sauntered over to the bank just as they were about to close the doors. I assumed that they closed at 5PM, no, it was 430pm closing. Lucky for me, they let me in. I get shivers still thinking of my lawyer calling his clients to tell them that their house closing was going to be delayed by a few days because of me. They had the moving truck waiting at their hotel etc. Could have been so bad.
    Lesson: learn the importance of deadlines now.

  26. Enginerd*

    I finished my masters part time while working full time last spring and going through the program nothing is more infuriating than going to turn in an assignment and hearing the professor say if you were struggling with it you could turn it in late. I have work obligations to meet and still managed to get all my homework done on time, what’s your excuse when all you have is school? There were three of us in the program that were also full time workers and it was a mutual sentiment between us.

    That being said missing work deadlines really depends on the reason. I’m always juggling multiple projects. If one is late because the priority was adjusted that’s no big deal. If it’s late because you’re struggling and didn’t get help or because you procrastinated it can be a firing offense or just a reprimand. The punishment is usually dictated by the financial impact to the company for missing the deadline.

    1. Stop That Goat*

      I commented much the same! Worked full time while going through school and busted my butt to make class deadlines. Was always frustrating to hear a student ask for extensions the day I was turning it in.

      1. esra*

        I was fine with that, if the prof either gave a bonus to people who did hand it in on time, or a slight penalty to those getting an extension. But there should be some small risk/reward.

    2. hermit crab*

      I agree with all of this — both the grad school part and the approach to work deadlines.

    3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      I once had a student whining to me about how she had a part time and a part time work study a was taking a full class load and how unfair it was for me to dock 10% for lateness because HOW can ANYONE expect her to have everything done on time with that kind of schedule? And I’m like, you’re talking to someone who teaches 20 hours a week, does research 50-60 hours a week, takes graduate classes, and has a side job. When I finish grading your papers, I’m going to finish the 25-pager I had to crank out in a week, then finish the journal article I need to send in to Restoration Ecology by the end of the week.

      1. Dr. Speakeasy*

        Right? They have no idea. And generally they don’t need to know but should you (student) get the idea that I’m sitting around just waiting for your paper I will gently disabuse you of that notion.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          There’s a certain type of young person who seems to bumble through life under the assumption that everyone is a supporting actor or an extra, and they’re the hero.

    4. OhNo*

      Same here. I did my graduate degree while working 40+ hours a week (in three separate jobs, as if scheduling wasn’t enough of a pain in the butt with just one).

      I’ll admit there are times when I dropped the ball on my homework, but I made a point never to ask for an extension. If the professor granted one to the whole class, great! I absolutely took advantage. But I never wanted to be the one to ask, because I new there were people in the program who were working more than me and got things in on time, and it always seemed disrespectful of the time and effort they put in to request special treatment when my only excuse was that I didn’t plan properly.

    5. Aphrael*

      I’m in that position right now, and couldn’t agree more. I also hate when I’ve completed something over the weekend (because that’s when I have time), then the professor answers questions from people who didn’t start looking at it until the day it’s due, and completely changes the assignment or makes it easier with his/her answers.

      I once had a professor who had a policy that he wouldn’t answer any questions more than 15 minutes into an exam, because it wasn’t fair to people who had figured out the answers for themselves. I’m probably a grouch, but I miss that policy.

    6. Sunflower*

      Building off your last paragraph- in college, you got a syllabus with all the deadlines for the semester laid out. If these changed, they were always pushed back, never pushed up. At work, at least for me, deadlines are given mostly somewhere in a period of 24-72 hours in advance and are very rarely pushed back, 75% of the time they are pushed up. I didn’t work full time in college so I can’t speak to how work deadlines would affect my school work but I’m hard pressed to find a ton of situations in college where you would have other work coming up that you didn’t know about and could’t have already planned for. If I was a professor, I’d probably make a note at the beginning of the semester ‘Please review your deadlines for other courses now and plan accordingly. If you anticipate any conflicts, please let me know in the next week’

      So if OP is going to give extensions, I would want an explanation of why they needed one. I’d be more lenient to someone who works saying something came up at work, etc. I would give nothing to someone struggling because they have 3 papers due the same day and they knew that 3 months in advance and didn’t plan ahead.

      Saying all this, I don’t expect college students to know this. I think a lot of this, they have to learn from experience. I did lots last minute in college but I never asked for an extension. 100% of the time I would have ‘needed’ one was because of procrastination or I decided to go out the night before instead of work on a paper. So instead I pulled the all nighter or turned in something less than and dealt with the consequences- which is exactly how the real world deals with things!

    7. The OG Anonsie*

      I have work obligations to meet and still managed to get all my homework done on time, what’s your excuse when all you have is school?

      You know, you don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives, and plenty of folks are not going to volunteer deeply personal things to you just to soften up whatever Feelings you have about how hard they’re having to push to keep up with you. My dad was given a prognosis of 3 years when I was a freshman in college, shit was difficult sometimes even though I was only working/in class about 40 hours a week.

  27. Chickaletta*

    I’m a freelancer.

    –In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?
    Very. If I don’t keep my word, my clients won’t come back. I need repeat the repeat business to stay in business. Also, in my contracts with clients, there is a clause that I deliver by X date, not doing so would be a breach of contract. The bottom line is that they’re relying on me to deliver by the agreed upon date. As a freelancer, there’s potential for legal and financial consequences if I don’t.

    –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?
    By the hour is usually flexible, but missing deadlines by a day could start to impact my client. Longer than that is not acceptable, or I would at the very least have to have a very good reason why and communicate that clearly with my client and give them options.

    –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?
    Imagine your students were a vendor you hired: you’re running a business and you’re relying on them to deliver their work by an agreed upon date in order to keep your business running. How would you feel if your vendor keep turning in work late? Would you hire them again? Recommend them? Give them a good rating on Yelp? Probably not. There’s your answer.

  28. Aphrodite*

    I work in a community (two-year) college that has both a robust credit as well as a non-credit (adult ed) program. I work in non-credit, and my job primarily involves scheduling classes for our four terms a year. I work closely with the scheduling office and the non-credit HR specialist and occasionally payroll as well as the director and dean.

    Deadlines here are rigid, and if you don’t make one you will impact a lot of people. You pretty much had better be dead or in the hospital if you need a reason to miss one because everyone else’s deadline with whom I work depends upon my work (and vice versa). People can and do help out but anyone who came into a position here with whom I interact would be expected to have the same respect not just for their deadlines but for others as well.

    I have to ride herd on the teachers who sometimes will not respond to my emails. Not long ago, the dean at my suggestion let the adjunct teachers know that not responding would mean they wouldn’t teach the next term because we simply could not wait for them. (Plus, I am not a nagger and will not do it. They want the work and the pay? They respond on time because I, as a former writer and editor who never–and I mean never!–missed a deadline, have no respect for those who will not do what it takes to make my job and my colleagues’ jobs easier in a difficult academic world.

    I always make a point to make others’ jobs easier if I can. I can’t say all my colleagues do the same but most are pretty good. Thankfully, I do not work with students but I can tell you I hate some of the teachers at times.

  29. Isben Takes Tea*

    Book Publishing: Almost all of our deadlines are flexible to a point, but complex schedules with moving parts are involved, and it’s important to keep those dates accurate. It follows Alison’s pattern of speaking up if you’re going to miss a deadline as soon as you know there’s a problem, and we can usually accommodate. The problems, frustrations, and setbacks occur when I check in a day after something’s due and THEN you tell me you won’t have it for another week.

    I fully endorse your system, OP, of accommodating delays if known ahead of time but not after.

    1. Lore*

      Yes! I do not understand why advance notice seems like a foreign concept to so many people. The best thing that has happened recently in this vein was an editor telling us an author had decided to add new content to a book the day before its warehouse date. Like, did you not think we were actually going to print the 200,000+ copies of it ahead of time?

      1. OhNo*

        I think a lot of people get stuck in the mindset of “better to ask forgiveness than permission”. I’ve certainly known people who don’t give any advance notice that they might miss a deadline, because what if the boss says that missing it is unacceptable? If they never ask, then they can claim ignorance and say, “Oh, I didn’t know that deadline was firm! You can’t fire me, because you never told me it wasn’t flexible!”

        As I’m sure you can tell, it irks me to work with people like that.

        1. Annie Moose*

          For me, I used to be like, “but they’ll think less of me if they know I wasn’t able to hit this deadline!”

          [But… when you miss the deadline… they’ll know anyway.]

          Yeah, well, it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure that out.

      2. Cambridge Comma*

        I had something similar recently where someone decided to change the content of their CD-ROM the day after they had handed back the approved master copy. The satisfaction of telling him that we pressed all the thousands of copies overnight was immense (and saved us from having to redo everything).

    2. Textbook Editor*

      I’ve had quite a few people that miss deadlines tell me they were afraid I was going to be mad. I have to explain to them that I’m far more likely to be angry if they don’t turn things in when I expect them, instead of when they give me advance notice of a problem.

    3. PhillyPretzel*

      This is pretty close to what my attitude has been when I’ve taught college courses. As long as a student gives me advance notice, acknowledges that they’re asking for a favor that may not be granted, and then absolutely meets the new deadline, I don’t have a problem granting a 24-48 hour extension without penalty as long as I still have time to file my grades without inconvenience. To me, looking at your schedule ahead of time, assessing priorities, and inquiring (politely!) about whether a deadline might be negotiable IS exhibiting maturity and good time management, so I’m inclined to work with someone who does this.

  30. Paloma Pigeon*

    Grantwriting: All deadlines. ‘All proposals must be received before May 15 at 5:00 pm’. There is VERY little wiggle room. News: All deadlines – the paper needs to go to print. Fundraising Appeals? If the letter drops on the 10th, it has to go the mail house on the 1st, which means the final edit has to be done on the 31st, etc., etc. Show business? Deadlines – costumes must be sewn, lines learned, lights hung be curtain on opening night. All key crew must be hired and everyone needs to be on set at 5 am on first day of shooting, etc.

    I can only imagine court cases and other business that runs around the law are deadline driven – and of course marketing and political campaigning is – sometimes hours matter. One thing that I have noticed is that sometimes the more deadline driven things are, the more wiggle room there is on perfection – time is the most pressing value over quality. Sometimes that is not the case, and it depends on your manager and company culture, so definitely check in. I once got feedback that they’d rather get things later and more polished – it was okay to push things, which was completely alien to me since I had always worked under a hard deadline culture before that.

  31. ZSD*

    It depends if deadlines are internal or external.
    In my old job, helping students get fellowships, well, application deadlines were absolute deadlines. If a student’s application was submitted one minute after the granting agency (be that the federal government or a private organization) deadline, that application would not be considered. Consequently, we set internal deadlines that were well in advance of the agency deadlines. Our policy was that if students met our internal deadlines, our office would guarantee on-time submission, but if they missed the deadlines, we couldn’t guarantee it.

    Now that I’m in non-profit advocacy, it sort of depends on what the impetus for the activity is. If we’re reacting to a major announcement from the federal government, then we really need to get our statement out by the same day, or the next morning at the absolute latest. So missing a deadline in that case basically means we’ve missed the boat, and now it will look like our organization just isn’t working on that issue anymore. Conversely, the deadline for something that’s more internally driven will be more flexible. Later today, I’m hoping to work on updating a piece that I was supposed to update for flu season 2016…

    1. ZSD*

      And what should you, as a professor, do to prepare your students? I would say that you should try to mimic the real world in deciding when to allow extensions. In the working world, we can summarize effects like this: if there are true consequences to not meeting the deadline, then the deadline is important. Otherwise, it’s flexible. For example, not getting your fellowship application reviewed is a consequence, so that’s a real deadline. In someone’s example above, having to delay a client’s move-in date for their new house is a real consequence, so that deadline is firm.
      So when students ask you for extensions, I’d think about what the consequences of the extension are. Will giving them this extension hurt the other students? Cause them to also be late on future assignments? If so, the deadline should be firm. If the only argument against extending the deadline is just that you have an aversion to extending deadlines, though, maybe you can be more flexible.

      1. Aphrodite*

        I’d also argue that granting extensions is inherently disrespectful to students who do make the deadlines. Everyone has difficulties in her or his life; it’s part of life. Sometimes those difficulties are created by ourselves, sometimes by others, sometimes by life itself. Those of us in deadline-oriented jobs deal with them not just for ourselves but for those affected by them. (Who’s to say my personal crisis is worse than another’s?)

        I met every deadline in college. Yes, occasionally I had to stay up late, very late, to meet them but I did. Usually, though, I thought ahead and tried to get things done before the deadline and get the project, paper or proposal in at least two days ahead. (It was an early habit that served me well as a journalist, writer and editor later on, and works well now as the noncredit class scheduler who has to be 100 percent accurate as well as on time.)

        I encourage you, OP, to treat extensions as rare exemptions because in addition to students getting used to real world life, and that’s valuable, it will also serve to show respect to your students who, like me, work to make all deadlines. Knowing others slid by because they had some (non genuine emergency) excuse appalled and angered me at the time even though I wouldn’t have wanted the extended pressure. But I didn’t like the disrespect it showed me.

        (This deadline habit serves me particularly well at this time of year as my taxes get done in mid-February and I no longer think about them while others the time from then to mid-April complaining. But that amuses me.)

      2. College Career Counselor*

        As others up-thread have mentioned, there’s also the consequence to the professor–having to keep track of more incoming documents from students past the deadline, grading LONGER, which is beyond annoying and into delaying other projects (class prep, research activities, reporting to the registrar, etc.). But I do take your point about deadline extension aversion being the sole reason for lack of flexibility.

      3. OptimistTeacher*

        I teach college, and I offer half credit for late assignments (unless an extension is arranged in advance). One of the reasons I accept late work is because I want the students to do the assignment and (hopefully) learn the material. I think professors who refuse to accept late work short-change their students to some degree. Yes, it’s a huge hassle to keep track of who has done what, and how many points should be deducted, but if it means students will learn more, then I think it’s worth doing, while of course still emphasizing the importance of meeting deadlines. Ultimately half credit is still an F, but they get the feedback on their work, and it’s better than getting a zero in terms of their final grade for the class. I offer extra credit assignments as well, for the same reason.

  32. Merci Dee*

    I work in accounting, and I frequently submit sales/use tax filings on the state level, and payroll taxes on a federal level. Deadlines mean a lot in both of these situations. A. Lot. If we’re missing deadlines for filing any taxes, but especially payroll taxes, then we’re looking at substantial fines and penalties because of the dollar amounts we’re working with. And we’re also potentially setting ourselves up for federal audits if we keep submitting payroll taxes late. My boss and I move heaven and earth to get out payroll filing information a couple of days early, so that we can go ahead and set up our payments to come out on the appropriate day. If we don’t have the information we need, we hunt people down for it — a much rarer occurrence than it used to be, thankfully.

    During the first week of the month, we also submit reports to our foreign HQ. HQ is located in a country with very stringent reporting standards, and they have subsidiaries all over the world. Our reports must be completed and submitted to HQ within the first 3 to 4 days of the month so that our data can be compiled and reported with other global data. HQ is =not= pleased when our reports come in late. It is quite common for some of our management-level staff to work until midnight or later to finish our closing process, especially when we’re dealing with year-end closing.

    Deadlines matter very much in the work that we do, and we have real and material consequences for not meeting them.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Sympathy, Merci Dee. I’m not looking forward to squeezing all of the Q1 payroll tax rush into what’s left after April 18th.

  33. MAB*

    I work in Food Quality and Food Safety in large manufacturing facilities. Deadlines are either extremely flexible to a point or non-negotiable. If its a test out on the floor that is taking a longer period of time than expected I am generally pretty flexible. However when it comes to audits, federal or state inspections, customer complaints or emergencies in the facility I have no flexibility. All of those can potentially hit the bottom line or even shut us down and put us in the media. You have zero flexibility in those situations.

  34. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    So, I’m a former academic, now environmental consultant for a military branch.

    –In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?

    It really varies, but in general, deadlines are important. In my particular situation, what I produce is never final and is often subject to being “staffed,” or routed through a chain of command for review and approval before it is signed off on or otherwise approved by a decision-maker. Obviously this is a time-consuming process, and subject to so many irritating delays that I like to make sure I’m not to blame for any of them.

    In objective and real terms, is it really a big deal to email it to the first person in the review/approval chain first thing tomorrow morning, rather than COB today? Not always. They might not see it until tomorrow morning. But my, and my firm’s, services are retained on the basis that we are a reliable, dependable source of flexible labor and subject matter expertise, and part of obtaining (and retaining!) that reputation is that we do what we say we’re going to do. Meeting deadlines, come hell or high water, is part of that. Failing to do so would communicate a lack of seriousness and dependability that a thousand other consultancies could provide, and could lead to our losing task orders and contracts. The same thing is true of individuals and their jobs. In general, it’s harmful to be perceived as the sort of person who doesn’t take their obligations seriously.

    –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?

    Inconvenience and wasted time and money, generally. It is genuinely shocking how much of my time – which is billed out to my clients at an impressively high hourly rate, most of which I don’t see – is wasted waiting around for people to return emails, complete reviews, or communicate approval.

    –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?

    I’d say that you should keep doing what you’re doing, whether your colleagues think it’s rigid or not. As someone who used to teach first-year university students the same as yours, I think it’s important that they learn sooner than later that the world does not revolve around them, and that their delays result in real inconvenience for others. Even for lab reports and papers, I wasted a lot of time following up with students, walking across campus to my teaching office to pick up a late assignment left in my inbox, and generally playing footsie with them as they flapped around in an emergency of their own making.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      In general, I always found that my students viewed their coursework and university life in personal, not professional terms – like it was a personal relationship where if they turned stuff in late, it wasn’t a big deal, like giving somebody’s book back on Tuesday rather than Sunday or something.

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Also, it does bear mention: some deadlines are rooted in legal, regulatory, or policy guidelines that can totally derail a project.

    3. hermit crab*

      It is genuinely shocking how much of my time – which is billed out to my clients at an impressively high hourly rate, most of which I don’t see – is wasted waiting around for people to return emails, complete reviews, or communicate approval.

      At least you can bill the time you spend waiting for things to happen! If I could do that, I’d have the highest utilization in all the land. :)

      But I absolutely agree about the consequences for missed deadlines being “inconvenience and wasted time and money, generally.” That’s definitely the same for us.

  35. Erin*

    I am a proposal writer, and missing a deadline by an hour could mean the loss of literally millions of dollars. Being late is very serious. However, I agree that a rare miss, preceded by a heads-up, isn’t terrible.

    1. Person Today*

      Same. I’m a proposal writer as well, and missing our deadlines means that we are non-responsive and our bids will not be considered. On the corporate side there can be more flexibility, but that I think often depends on the relationship with the advisor. I’m certain we have been looked at less favorably when we are late. On the government side, if you are late, you are late. There is nothing to be done. I had a coworker recently who was nearly late submitting a bid (and kept saying that it wouldn’t be done) and he caused a lot of problems for a lot of people. It was submitted on time in the end but, he was still given a verbal warning. Essentially, our motto is that we are not late. Our entire jobs revolve around these deadlines. We can ask for extensions, given certain circumstances, but we do not rely on them.

    2. Another bureaucrat*

      I posted up in the thread about being 40 minutes late on a revision — I am convinced the only reason it was OK with the funder was that we have a multi-year history of being on time with all deadlines with quality work. Without that reputation, and a heads up, it would not have been good.

  36. Quinalla*

    I’m in the MEP design industry (we work with architects to design the mechanical, plumbing & electrical systems in new buildings and renovations) and deadlines are VERY important. Sure, there are times where ahead of time I’ll work out with a client that I cannot meet the deadline anymore due to change they made, a key team member being sick for multiple days, etc. and while it may be frustrating for everyone, it is acceptable. Missing a deadline with no advance warning is unacceptable. Doing it a few times can get you fired. And doing it once will easily lose you a client forever or at least make them much more likely to go with someone else on future work.

    I know there seems to be a push to make college more friendly and accommodating for students and I think there is some argument to be had with 1st semester freshmen, but college should be preparing people for the “real world” and I agree that learning that lesson about deadlines in college is a much lower stakes time to learn than at their first job. I think your approach LW is spot on in that you are open to giving extensions if they are asked for with some reasonable notice, but firm about not accepting late assignments (without a really good explanation, I assume you make exceptions for truly extraordinary circumstances as most would). Also, if you aren’t already, I’l make it clear at the beginning of your course what your policy is about granting extensions (how much in advance do they need to ask for one?) and accepting work (if you aren’t in the hospital or something similar, it won’t be accepted) and explain why you are doing it. Not everyone will listen, but a lot will and hopefully take it to heart if not right away, later on.

    1. Quinalla*

      And are deadlines are almost always down to the hour as there are others waiting to do things with my work when I am done (uploading, plotting, sending it out, etc.)

    2. Darkitect*

      Are you in a MEP-only firm? I’m in a multi-discipline and have found that internal deadlines can be a little more flexible because our files are shared.

  37. Translator*

    As a translator, my deadline is when the client wants to receive the translation. Sometimes they’re negotiable upfront (e.g. the client named a deadline because I asked them what the deadline is, but it doesn’t actually make a difference to them if they get it a day later), but sometimes there’s no flexibility at all.

    As Alison mentioned above, sometimes the client has to do editing or layout or has a deadline for sending the text to a publisher or posting it online, or a specific meeting or event in which the text is going to be used. Added to that, sometimes the client has been more flexible about their internal deadlines in the parts of the process that are upstream of my work, but the publication/posting/event date is still firm, so I’m the one who gets squeezed.

    So in summary, asking upfront if a requested deadline is firm or flexible is acceptable. Saying upfront “I’m sorry, I can’t possibly complete this work for that deadline. The best I can do is [new deadline]” and letting the client to choose whether to take that or find another translator is acceptable. But once you’ve committed to doing a translation for a certain deadline, not meeting it is egregiously unprofessional, and makes you useless to many clients.

    1. Translator*

      I just wanted to add to this: in my line of work, the most annoying thing a person can do about deadlines is not inform the relevant people if you’re going to miss the deadline. In a team environment, work can often be shuffled around if you let your team lead know as soon as a deadline becomes a problem. But some people don’t say anything until the deadline goes whooshing by, which causes problems and makes us look bad in front of the client – and often causes your colleagues to have to scramble and make up the work ASAP once the client calls and complains that they haven’t received their translation.

      If they wish to dos, professors could reflect this in coursework by giving extensions to students who ask in advance, but not students who ask after the fact.

  38. MuseumChick*

    Personally, I like your approach to deadlines for your students OP!

    –In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?

    This really depends on the project in my field. Planning a new exhibit? VERY important to keep deadline! Digging through 10 boxes of stuff someone mailed (without you asking) to donate to the museum? Much more flexible.

    To build on Alison’s point about keeping your word, integrity is HUGE in my industry. You are often left alone with artifacts that could be very valuable so, you have to have very strong ethics and makes sure to guard your reputation well. I seen “keeping you word” as part of integrity.

    –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?

    By a day can be a disaster. I go back to the example of planning an exhibit.

    –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?

    I would keep doing what you are doing. Give extension if they are asked for in a reasonable amount of time. But hold firm to deadline. Explain to your students that in the work force the consequences for missing a deadline can be a lot worse than just getting a bad grade. So it’s best they learn this now.

  39. DVZ*

    My work involves liaising between the ‘public’, who give me deadlines, and then liaising with our partners to meet those deadlines.

    Unfortunately, in my field, deadlines really don’t matter all that much when it comes to our external work. There is always a ‘final final’ deadline but you might be able to push something back 3 or 4 times before you find out what that is.

    However, it is pretty frustrating/difficult because everyone comes to accept that deadlines aren’t real, so you’re in a constant cycle of falling behind, chasing people, requesting extensions, etc., because the partners you are asking work from know fine well that they can push the deadline. And then they get upset when one day it is the REAL REAL deadline and everyone’s scrambling. The hardest part is managing junior people because they come to accept this culture, and it’s hard to make them see that adhering to a deadline is actually important for various reasons.

    It’s also annoying because if we get 2 weeks to complete something, multiple extensions can actually add another month by the time we’re done, and you can feel like you have so many things sitting on your plate/cluttering your mind for a long time, when they really could have been done and dusted earlier.

    We actually have one project with an annual ‘deadline’ of December, and we still have people completing the work (and it will get accepted) in April of the following year. It makes it completely pointless to try and implement any sort of schedule because no one cares – they know they can submit the work to us whenever. But for my team, the people doing the project management, we simply can’t afford to be spending half the year on this, so we continue to pointlessly tell people deadlines and hope someone listens. Sigh.

    1. Lusca*

      Hi DVZ, I really identify with what you said, even though I’m probably coming from a different industry (book publishing). In production, the importance of deadlines varies a lot according to financial value of the project and how much other people have delayed you. My boss assigns each book a tentative schedule, with the month (and sometimes day) that the book prints being most important and the other dates usually being more flexible. This wiggle room helps us make up for lost time in some cases, but it also encourages people to miss the deadlines I give them – authors don’t always care when their books are late, believe it or not. If my book misses it’s pub month, it’s counted against my on-time rate in my yearly evaluation. BUT if one of the many other people in the chain of book creation, either inside or outside of my company, delayed me significantly enough that I couldn’t make up the lost time, it still hurts our company but I’m not individually penalized for it (we have a database where we store relevant notes about problem projects).

  40. Jady*

    I work in quality assurance (QA) for software. I’ve worked in a few different fields within. Software touches every field now.

    –In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?
    While we don’t have specific deadlines generally, we have target dates. As QA, if we can’t meet a deadline, that usually means that there are other problems, and we probably shouldn’t go live at that point.

    –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?
    The main consequence is the company loses money, which is of course a big deal. Sometimes, that means working long hours.

    If a specific person was identified to be causing delays regularly, they’d probably be fired.

    –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?
    I had a teacher in high school who deducted X points every day it was late, and I’d say go with that idea. The X may vary depending on the critical-ness of the assignment (homework vs project).

    I think it allows flexibility while also having consequences.

  41. edj3*

    I work in learning & development (we write training). Deadlines are extremely important because if we miss one, we incur extra costs in printing–the budget busting kind of extra costs.

  42. MegaMoose, Esq*

    Deadlines in the legal world are a weird animal. Court imposed or statutory deadlines are GOSPEL. Missing those deadlines can ruin your case and, very quickly, your career. That said, almost all the attorneys I know tend to push things to the very last minute. A lot of things can be done electronically now, so it’s a little less panic inducing, but pretty much everyone I know has a story about jumping in a car 30 minutes before your filing deadline and desperately hoping you don’t hit traffic on the 25 minute drive to the courthouse. There’s all sorts of strategy involved, of course, but I also think there’s just some weird lawyer allergy to being anything other than exactly on time.

    In terms of extensions, there’s a professional courtesy that says that if your opponent asks for an extension for a personal reason (delayed flight, illness, family emergency) you generally agree to it. This might vary by how cut-throat your particular niche is, but the general trend in my region at least is that stuff happens to everyone and if you get a reputation for being a harda–, no one will say yes the next time you have a death in the family. Of course, delays that look like strategy can get fought over tooth and nail.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      From the other side of things, I spent two years working at our state court of appeals. We had one 100% hard deadline – all decisions are statutorily required to be released no more than 90 days after the case was “heard” (when the judges met and made their initial decision, immediately following oral arguments, if any). This could be extended by the chief judge if necessary, but has only been done once, in the case of the unexpected death of a judge. All other deadlines were more mushy and depended on making sure everyone had enough time to get their piece done before that final deadline, but how much wiggle room depended on your place in the hierarchy. If a judge waits until the last minute and everyone else has to stay late to get final edits done, then so be it. A clerk might get a little wiggle room, but certainly not much. Staff deadlines didn’t have much give at all. But there was also redundancy to the point of almost being overstaffed, so if anyone was struggling with a deadline, someone else was there to pick up the slack.

      1. bridget*

        Interesting – when I clerked for a state court of appeals without such a statute (but a general understanding that after a certain point, it was Bad to not have issued an opinion). A judge on that court was about to retire and basically took a “what are you going to do, fire me?” position, issuing opinions literally more than a year after the oral argument.

        As a practicing lawyer, the power of deadlines vary from the Gospel ones (court deadlines, some of which the court has no discretion to extend even if you ask – in some jurisdictions, the deadline to file a notice of appeal is set in stone and literally no one can give you an extension), to internal very mushy ones (senior associate or junior partner saying “try to turn around summaries of interview notes within 48 hours, unless other things come up”). I think part of my job is having the judgement to know which are which. Even with the mushy ones, though, I’m expected to be transparent and communicate with the people who might be waiting on me, even if it’s just an FYI that high priority work means that I’ll catch up on summaries over the weekend, or whatever.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          Oh wow, that kind of thing would definitely not fly here. Part of the statute requires the appellate court judges to affirm *monthly* that they are on top of their deadlines. There was a scandal a few years ago when it came out that the judges on one of the executive branch courts, subject to an identical statute, had been fudging deadlines – the chief judge was functionally removed from the bench and signaled that he shouldn’t bother applying for a law license in our state (he was licensed in a neighboring state).

    2. ace*

      I’ll add that the “mushy” deadlines in legal practice (related to discovery, responding to opposing counsel, etc.) are a lot mushier when you’re senior/in charge of the case; but should be treated as gospel if you’re junior. If someone junior to me blows off a deadline without advance notice, it’s a BIG DEAL — usually because he/she has limited understanding of the back-end work that may be necessary. E.g., if the deadline is Monday for junior, it’s so I can look at the document on Tuesday/flip it back for revisions Wednesday/get revised version back and do a final review on Thursday, then send to the client by Friday morning (when I’d promised it to client) … If Tuesday comes around and I haven’t received it — and may not even realize that the person hasn’t sent it to me until late in the day because I’m expecting them to keep their word — then it becomes a BFD.

      On the other hand, the relationship partner/big deal capital partner may have the luxury of routinely blowing off internal and external deadlines in some cases. If you’re a junior attorney reading this, DO NOT blow off deadlines.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        Absolutely. Waiting for the senior partner seems to be one of the greatest sources of stress for many of my friends in private practice. My experience thus far has been in the public sector where I haven’t experienced that dynamic quite as much.

  43. another teacher*

    I am in the education field (middle and high school) and find that deadlines definitely matter for my job. If you have a class of students coming in, you better have a lesson prepared. But beyond that – I strongly agree with you from a teaching perspective. I think college especially is the time to learn that there are consequences to your actions, and that consequence is a lower letter grade. I think it is super appropriate for their grades to be lowered for not meeting expectations, whether it be deadlines, or some other parameters of the project. Students are there to learn, not just the material, but how to be in the world. My middle school students get the most leniency because they are just learning this stuff; as they turn into high school students I get much stricter with my deadlines. I expect college to be even stricter. Our job is to teach them the content, sure, but it is also to prepare them for the rest of their lives – and in the grand scheme of things school is a pretty safe place to learn these hard lessons. NATURAL CONSEQUENCES.

    1. Lala*

      Yes. Better they learn now when the stakes are low (bad grade) than when the stakes are high (lost job).

      It’s something that drove me crazy about parents who would complain about their child’s grades and beg for extra credit on their behalf(helicopter parents are in some ways worse than disengaged parents). Sorry your kid isn’t making straight A’s this semester, sorry they might have to retake a class that they blew off, but this is better than your child learning this lesson as a grown-up when they’ve got to pay rent/etc. Even if the parent plans to help their adult child, at some point, the parent won’t be around any more.

    2. New Bee*

      I definitely agree. I do instructional coaching for K-12 and am really on top of teachers, particularly the ones who’ve just come from more lenient college environments. I work mainly in underresourced schools that serve students of color, and it’s truly an equity issue when teachers fail to meet deadlines, because their students need to make the most of every minute and deserve rigorous, planned lessons.

  44. Catalyst*

    I work in accounting and, as mentioned above, the importance of meeting deadlines can vary. When it comes to submitting taxes to the government, that is non-negotiable. If it is sales entries, that can be negotiable by a day or so depending on when someone has notice and what it affects (for example, if my taxes are due the day after sales are supposed to be entered, I can’t be lenient.
    I think that Alison is bang on in saying that it also has an impact on how your manager sees you in the long run. I have a relatively new employee who is missing all of his deadlines, to me that says he can’t manage his time and there is an issue. This, of course, impacts my overall view of his reliability. Ultimately, I believe that teaching people in school that deadlines are deadlines and need to be met (of course baring dire illness, a death in the family, etc) is really important. I only every got one extension in university – for the death of my grandmother during exam week – and I am thankful that my professors taught me the importance of having things in on time.

  45. HisGirlFriday*

    When I worked in news, deadlines were hard-and-fast. If we didn’t have a script loaded into the prompter when the 5 p.m. newscast started that was A Very Big Problem.

    In my private sector job now, it depends:

    * Internal deadlines with my boss are flexible as long as I explain why it might need to be moved.
    * Deadlines for applying for grants are set in stone; you miss the deadline, you don’t get considered.

    I think that impressing upon your students the finality of deadlines does them — and everyone else they’ll work with in the future — a great service. They should learn early that actions have consequences and that being late has the consequence of a lower grade or no grade at all.

  46. Communications/Journalism/Publishing field*

    –In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?
    Critical. Missed deadlines can cost quite a bit of money, and certainly opportunity.
    –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?
    Alison is right — it depends.
    If we miss a deadline on a magazine going to press, an hour can cost about tens of thousands of dollars and our press time. Of course, if we talk with the printer a few days ahead to give us more options with printing, we may be able to work something out. The best thing in this profession is to communicate issues as they arise — if a source isn’t getting back to you or research isn’t adding up, let your editor/your boss know and come with suggestions (a new story or angle). Time allows for flexibility.
    –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?
    Help them to understand when a deadline is negotiable and when it isn’t. If a student misses a deadline without communicating in advance, knock the grade down. If the student lets you know the solution and has a good plan to get you the assignment by an agreeable date/time, no problem. Like the real world, the classroom should be case dependent. Thanks for thinking about this with your students (from a future employer).

    1. Mythea*

      I do communications and publications and for me – if my employees start regularly failing to meet deadlines they would risk being fired. I would give them two-three warnings and then done. I can’t afford for my materials to be late, can’t risk providing late information to the media, and am not going to pay overtime or work late because you didn’t tell me you were running into issues.

      My big deal is making sure people communicate in advance. If someone were to tell me the day something was due that they needed more time I would not be willing to do it. If they tell me a week or two away, I will happily work with them.

  47. Jules the First*

    I’m a proposal manager and almost everything I do is deadline driven (with deadlines mostly set by external clients). Missing deadlines is a Very Big Deal, even if you only miss them by seconds.

    Junior staff can usually get away with missing one deadline fairly early in their career if they own up to it sharpish and apologise profusely, but I have fired people for missing a deadline even though it was the first time. I had one junior a couple of years ago who missed a deadline and lied to try and cover it up; I fired her and she’s had to change careers to get a new job (though arguably she was not well suited to this job in the first place).

    So yes, in my job deadlines matter and missing them by seconds is as bad as missing them by days – overshoot by a few minutes and you might as well not have bothered at all.

  48. Lore*

    Deadlines are the bane of my existence in publishing, as the different players in the process have entirely different understandings of how important they are. If you’re an author with a delivery date specified in your contract, there are pretty much no consequences for blowing it. If you’re at the production end, where I am, deadlines are pretty sacrosanct…up until an author blows one, of course, and then we all adjust all of our schedules and work miracles to make up for it. But we also all know how to parse the difference between a due date that’s set on a standard set of expectations and can be adjusted with a conversation to accommodate the needs of a specific project, and a drop-dead-stop-the-presses-we-will-not-have-a-book-if-this-is-missed deadline. If you are inclined to miss the latter for anything short of death, this is not the right job for you.

  49. Xay*

    I work in public health and deadlines are extremely important for several reasons. First, I often have to meet federal, state or private funder deadlines to ensure continued funding for my work as well as dispersing funds to partner organizations. Missing a grant submission deadline by an hour or a day could mean that we don’t get funding. Also, my role is often to provide recommendations and technical assistance to other organizations and timeliness is key. Without timely feedback, our findings may no longer be relevant or useful.

    Finally, the majority is my work is within a team structure. Although things happen and everyone has competing priorities, missed deadlines can have a rippling effect that slow down the entire group. I always build “in case we get screwed” time into my timelines, but there is always a point that if we are too far behind schedule, it jeopardizes the project or at least will cause a lot of stress and extra work for the team.

    If you want to prepare your students for this aspect of the work world, I think that you should offer a variety of types of assignment deadlines. In the work world, you may have one big deadline, but you have to figure out how you are going to get the work done. For students, it may be helpful to start the semester with assignments that have mini deadlines or that build up to one large project/paper at the end. The idea is to get used to getting work done in advance and balancing your responsibilities.

  50. animaniactoo*

    In my industry, deadlines matter. How *much* they matter varies.

    Missing some deadlines means a rush and pressure to get the project back on track. Missing others means financial penalties. And missing still others means complete financial loss.

    Because our factories are on the other side of the world, missing a deadline by an hour can mean the loss of an entire working day at a factory. Missing by a day can mean missing a weekly shipping deadline, which means that one hour can translate into an entire week. Missing by a week can lead to cancellation of an order (complete financial loss).

    Then we’re in scramble mode. Putting in more time and money to find somewhere else to unload those goods because they’re already produced.

    On the other hand, sometimes, missing by an hour means missing by a day, which ends up really only resulting in a couple of hours, and life is fine.

    Around this, we schedule by working backwards into two final deadlines: the Preferred deadline, and the Drop-Dead deadline. Sometimes we blow both, but it’s usually out of our control if that happens and because we’ve broken down our schedule into series of deadlines, there’s a point at which we’re asking for extensions, etc. in advance, and will generally be able to cancel an order before too much investment has happened.

    I would not be especially more lenient with your first year students, because the best way to learn the lesson is to get the consequences for it. If you don’t do it as soon as they hit your class, you’ll have a protracted drawn-out season of trying to get it across to them and then coming down hard in the second year.

    What I WOULD do is talk about why the deadlines exist – what they make possible to happen. More time on your side to evaluate the paper fairly? Or be able to have a life? Be able to grade it and give it back in time for them to be able to take your corrections into account before working on the next paper? Be clear that it is due to these reasons that a) You will grant extensions if asked for in advance, but b) there are a limit to the number of extensions that can be asked for, and c) you will not make allowances for people who don’t have the courtesy to respect your schedule and your time.

    If that makes you a hardass? Own that and don’t apologize for it. They will come up against plenty of hardass bosses and other people outside of their school lives. This is the best time for them to get experience with that and learn to adapt themselves to it.

  51. Snarkus Aurelius*

    OP> You’re wise to teach your students to adhere to deadlines, and you should keep doing it. I’ve had far too many interns think deadlines were flexible. If a deadline was flexible, I’d say as much. And I can’t tell you how many people, bosses included, I’ve had to lie to about deadlines being earlier than they are so I could get their contributions in on time.

    It’s not just about the deadline; context matters too. If there’s a project deadline, I may need time to review stuff before then. Far too many people don’t listen to my given deadline and adhere to the project deadline, which is so disrespectful and rude to me. My participation doesn’t matter?


    Coworker A frequently obsesses over minor details to the point she is unreliable and can’t get things done on time. I never get one draft from her; I get five because she keeps changing and changing. I was working with a reporter who was on deadline, and I made the mistake of telling her the reporter’s deadline.

    Me: Deadline is 4:30 today.
    Coworker A: Great! I should have to you by 4:30.
    Me: No I need time to review it for errors. Can you get by 2:30?
    Coworker A: I’ll try.

    We didn’t make it into the story because she turned her stuff into me at 4:35, and I didn’t respond until 5. Even then, I was still getting drafts from her the following day, but that’s another issue.

    Whenever I need to rely on Coworker A for anything, I add two business days to whatever the actual deadline is. And I -hate- doing this because we’re all supposed to be adults.

    1. Anon Charity Bod*

      If that had been me when I was a reporter, it wouldn’t just have cost you that story. It would have sent you to the bottom of my list of people to call on, or kicked you off it altogether. I had a PR pull a case study on my deadline day as she “didn’t know” (yeah right) that her colleague had promised it exclusively to a national paper. When I wrote for nationals I never gave her coverage if I didn’t have to, and I never had to.

  52. B*

    I have worked in a wide-variety of fields – profit and non-profit – and deadlines matter a great deal. If internal people do not meet my deadlines I am going to have clients very upset. It can range from trying to smooth it over with words to losing money by giving a discount to completely losing that client. It also effects my reputation since I am the one they see.

    If it is internal to internal and I have to stay late because someone couldn’t get their act together, obviously not if forces beyond their control happen, it will effect how I think of them and the work they do.

    You are doing your students a great service by extending them the first time. There is absolutely no need to extend them a second time as the working world does have consequences. Best way to explain it is a doctors office – you choose the first appointment of the day so as to not have a delay and then cannot get in because the doctor/nurses show up late because they felt like. Your student would be very upset by this, same thing for them with work.

  53. Gandalf the Nude*

    I’m in Human Resources, and I’ve found that deadlines are critically important. Part of this is because so much of what I do is tied to contracts (with insurers and other benefit providers) and the law (wages, taxes, EEO and other reporting), and those deadlines are actually hard and fast, and the company can get in trouble or run into serious roadblocks if we (I) don’t keep up. Particularly with payroll, if I miss my submission deadline, that can mean everyone gets paid late, and that has consequences for both employee morale and if someone brings in the labor board.

    The other part of this relates directly back to what Alison said about trust and reliability. You want to be able to trust your employees will do things when they say they will, but employees also need to be able to trust their managers and the company to do the same. We’ve seen plenty of letters from employees hamstrung by managers who don’t do what they say they’re going to do. That can be an enormous issue at the micro and macro levels. So if we tell employees we’ll have the new benefits summary out by end of October and then don’t get it to them until we start open enrollment in December, they’ll be rightly skeptical of any other promises we make them, which makes employee relations a lot harder.

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      It’s easy to develop that habit in college when you’re the only one affected by the consequences. If you skip out on an assignment or miss a deadline, the only person you’re hurting is yourself (with rare exceptions). But when you’re working, those consequences typically affect other people, so you look selfish when you decide to miss the deadline anyway. It’s better, I think, to treat all deadlines the same regardless of who will be affected if you miss them.

      That said, I wonder how often in the work world late work is out and out rejected. Most of the really serious instances I can think of would result in a mad scramble and sub par results and lost potentially lost business rather than saying “Welp, because we didn’t get it done by today we’re not doing it at all. Don’t even bother.” For example, with my payroll deadline, we wouldn’t just get to not pay everyone if I didn’t get it done in time for the scheduled pay day. We would scramble and get everyone paid as quickly as possible. So, while not accepting late work might be effective in getting them to stop turning things in late in your class, it doesn’t translate perfectly to a work context.

  54. Meghan A Magee*

    I am an Application Solution Architect. We have deadlines tied with client contracts. If we miss, the contract spells out the penalty which is usually financial. The most extreme one that I have been on was for every day we were delayed, we paid the client 1 million US dollars.

    1. OhNo*

      Good lord! Talk about incentive to meet your deadlines.

      In general, do financial penalties like that keep things moving along pretty smoothly? Or is there always a mad dash at the end to try and get everything in on time?

      1. aelle*

        I’m in a different field (manufacturing engineering in aerospace) but late penalties are normal here too. They are definitely an incentive for very strong management. When we bid for a project we include enough buffer to avoid ever being late (either padding the timeline or throwing more bodies at the project) and keep a close eye on each milestone. Also, we have regular milestones reviews with the client and if legitimate reasons for a short delay appear, we can occasionally negotiate our way out of (some of the) late penalties.

  55. offonaLARK*

    I am an administrative assistant in a medical asset management field, and any proposals that we complete are requested by hospitals/health systems and have very specific deadlines. Any bid turned into the hospital late is discarded and not considered, so lateness has the potential consequence of losing business. That could be thousands or millions of dollars in loss depending on the bid.

    The problems with lateness at our particular location do not stem from the support team; instead, proposals often run close to the wire because of the micromanaging company president, who makes hundreds of nitpicky changes and changes back and rechanges even after printing has begun. And this, of course, causes problems for us admins, who have to order printed tabs and print the proposals onto good paper and bind the documents and get everything prepared and professional before the FedEx deadline passes to ship out. This means that we often start early, stay late, work extra from home in the evenings and weekends, and skip breaks.

    I would urge you to teach your students about missed deadline affecting not just themselves, but everyone waiting on their work. Both those above AND below them. There is little we can do as admins to make our president finish his portion on time, all we can do is react and work our asses off. A late paper in college may only effect you, but in the work world it may also hurt the people needing that paper to complete their own portion.

    Can’t wait to read the other advice!

  56. Anonymous Educator*

    Two things on this:

    1. It’s important to teach students the importance of deadlines in general, but as an older mentor in their lives, you should also be imparting to them that school world != work world. One particular way the two are different is in the importance of deadlines. Generally speaking, if you turn in a late assignment at school, the person most hurt by this is you—you get a bad grade. That’s it. Nobody else really gets hurt by it. Maybe your professor or teacher is sad about you not performing to your optimum, but that’s it. In the work world, if you miss a deadline, that can affect many or all of your co-workers, your customers, even your company’s profits.

    2. Not accepting late work at all is a bit rigid. There can be ways to work around this while still having some measure of accountability. For example, you can mark assignments down part of a grade for every day they’re late. So if an assignment was due on Tuesday and would otherwise receive an A-, by Thursday it would receive a B instead. Also, if your students are invested in getting their work done, you can institute a demerit system. I did that once to great success. I basically gave the students 5 free late days for papers each semester. That meant they could have one paper be 5 days late, have 5 papers each be a day late, or have two papers each be 2 and 3 days late respectively, etc. It also meant I never had to listen to student excuses about late work. I didn’t care whether your printer died, your mother got into a car accident, or you were just lazy—it didn’t matter what the reason was. You get 5 days to use as you see fit. If you squander them on laziness, you don’t get to use them when you have a “legitimate” reason to be late.

    1. Tessera Member 042 (formerly GTA)*

      As a English graduate student teaching writing-intensive courses, I use a variation of your demerit system: each student gets a grace day to have a 24 hour extension on a final draft with no questions asked. However, I do ask that they declare their intention to use the grace day before the initial deadline has passed, much the way that you would give a heads up to your boss about not being able to meet a deadline.

      As for my own deadlines, well, I’m behind on my dissertation and only hurting myself in that I now have to ensure I’ll have some kind of financial support when my TA funding runs out. But I’m also working as a RA on an NSF-funded educational alternate reality game (linked to my name!), and we have some deadlines that are non-negotiable (like our IRB submission and reports back to the NSF) and others that I can extend (writing lesson plans for teachers to use with the replayable version, and surprisingly publication deadlines, like our book chapter). I’ve been fortunate to have good mentors to guide me on understanding which deadlines can and cannot be extended, so my advice to my students would be to 1) observe and imitate what they’re seeing in their work environment, 2) find a mentor to coach them, and 3) ask their supervisor if they are ever unclear.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I was teaching at a secondary school level, so I heard a lot of excuses for late work. That’s why I did the demerit system the way I did. At least when I was at university, most of my classmates didn’t even give excuses when asking for extensions—they’d just go to professors and ask for extensions anyway… and get them.

        Glad you found a system that works for you and your students.

    2. Chinook*

      “Generally speaking, if you turn in a late assignment at school, the person most hurt by this is you—you get a bad grade. That’s it. Nobody else really gets hurt by ”

      As a former English teacher who enforced deadlines, I disagree that only the student is hurt. I still had to mark late assignments and this adds to my work load. I would plan my assignments so that I wouldn’t be stuck marking 100 essays the weekend before grades are due (a mistake you make once) and even out my marking load over the year. A couple of students (because it is never just one) handing in a late assignment (or multiple late assignments, which would often happen) messes up my work load and may mean I am marking essays over spring break instead of actually taking a break or focusing on lesson planning.

      I also pointed out to students that it was to their advantage to hand in their work with the group – I usually spent less time on each paper because I knew what I was looking for and got into a rhythm when there were 40 of them. But, when you were only the only version of that assignment, I typically marked harder because I had to remember what I was looking for, how everything was weighted and may be feeling less generous about overlooking spelling and grammar issues.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I’ll amend my earlier statement:

        Maybe your professor or teacher is sad about you not performing to your optimum, but that’s it.

        should read

        Maybe your professor or teacher is sad about you not performing to your optimum and she will also be annoyed at having to grade you separate from the rest of the pile, but that’s it.

        The main point stands, which is that the entirety of the class and the school do not depend on the kid meeting this deadline. In a business, the business’ very existence or profitability may hinge on a made or missed deadline. The stakes are much higher.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        Also no need to say As a former English teacher who enforced deadlines. I am also a former English teacher who enforced deadlines.

  57. LBK*

    Generally speaking, I’d say you should complete work early whenever possible and plan to meet every deadline for work you can’t complete early; that’s how you build the reputation and buy the leeway that makes people more forgiving in the instances where you can’t make a deadline.

    It also allows you to set your own deadlines to an extent, because as Alison alludes to, people believe you when you say you’ll deliver something. If I’m swamped and someone sends me a non-urgent request, I’ve built up enough cred that I can say “My week is packed but I’ll have it to you next Monday afternoon at the latest. Does that work?” because when I say it, they know I mean it.

  58. shep*

    I am fortunate in that I don’t have *many* hard deadlines in my work, but I wear so many hats and have so many projects going at once, that if I’m not on top of it all, things can fall by the wayside very easily. Much to my embarrassment, I discovered this happened about a year or two ago. It was just a few assignments, but I certainly don’t want to make any more mistakes like that. Deadlines are crucial, hard or not.

    (I also went to a huge university where late work was pretty much rotely unaccepted and professors didn’t know you well enough to give you the benefit of the doubt, so I was conditioned early on that deadlines are never flexible. But in high school, you can bet I used my excellent grades and reputation as a hard-working student to get a few extensions.)

  59. Amber Rose*

    Safety person and certified auditor at a manufacturer. If at any point I miss an audit deadline (there are three to keep in mind, more or less), I gotta do the whole friggin’ thing again, and all my work becomes invalid. This could pose trouble for companies who rely on their certificates to get work, since it can take up to a month to get one issued after an audit is submitted. On a more day-to-day basis, I do a lot of training. If I’m late with that, I’m interrupting people who are working on projects that keep our company afloat and delaying those. Delays happen for them because that’s life, but usually that means massive discounts for the affected customer, which hurts our pretty narrow bottom line. Not fireable offenses, but there is an impact on reputation and reviews/raises.

    Previously I worked at a government land titles office sorting out liens and the like. Deadlines were set in stone. Supervisors sometimes had to stay late into the night to process important documents because the law says they MUST be done the same day they’re received. Missing one by even an hour past that mark would have had widespread implications and most certainly would’ve resulted in a firing. Maybe lawsuits.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Reading these replies from people, I think an interesting teaching device would be to have one assignment where the grade is dependent on everyone’s deadline. One person misses it, everyone loses marks. That’s the closest analogy I can think of to the real world impact missing deadlines has. You may not get fired, but you’ve seriously inconvenienced many people.

      1. OhNo*

        I’ve seen group projects set up like that. (I work in a library attached to a university.) Each person has to do a piece of a project and pass it on to have the next part done, but the only official deadline is at the end and it affects the grade for the whole group.

        It would be good practice, but I can also picture it leading to the most spectacular meltdowns if it’s the first time college students have had to do something like that.

      2. HisGirlFriday*

        This is actually a really good idea.

        In my job, I missed the deadline to apply for a grant to offer a specific course in the Art of Teapottery Painting. In order to offer this course, you need a grant, and a National Teapotters’ Association-certified instructor, and a special course license. I do not handle teapot education, my colleague does, so I applied for the grant, got a reply that they needed specific documents, sent her (and CC’ed my boss) an e-mail saying, ‘The National Teapotters’ Association needs our teapot course license number and the name of the certified instructor who will be teaching the course by [DATE] so our grant can be considered. Please submit to Fergus at [EMAIL] no later than [DATE].

        She did not do it. We lost out on the grant, and the people to whom we had been marketing this special teapot painting designation all had to be called up and told, “Sorry, the class is off.”

        My boss made my co-worker make the calls, since it was her screw-up, but that doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t do a part of my job (using X number of grants per year) through no fault of my own.

      3. shep*

        Group projects and grades predicated on the work of others were the bane of my highly neurotic, perfectionist student career. I always felt alienated and punished by these assignments, in large part because they were so clearly meant to “teach” the importance of timeliness. In lesser part, I ALWAYS ended up doing all the heavy lifting in the project, because few people cared that much about their grade.

        I’ve been out of undergrad for almost a decade and even the thought of these kinds of assignments still raise my hackles. Group work at WORK is utterly different. In my group work in my career, my teams have functioned really well, and I don’t mind being a moving piece in the larger project plan.

        Group work in undergrad? Nope. Nope nope nope.

        1. shep*

          (I realize, of course, that group work in school is unavoidable; I’d just tread carefully with projects like these. Students rarely end up executing them with the kind of cohesion and equal contribution professors intend.)

        2. Amber Rose*

          The few times we did something similar in class, it wasn’t for grades. It was solely a teaching tool, with some other reward, and usually some sort of penalty. All in good fun, of course. If we did get grades, they were usually based on something else. Class discussion or something. We had lots of graded class discussions.

          I just think it would be interesting to do something longer term. Like that one teacher who more or less turned his class into a fascist regime to teach them about nazis, only without all the unfortunate implications and trauma.

      4. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Amber….no personal offense intended, but this is an awful, unworkable approach. The effect of such policies is either that one student carries the rest of the group, which reinforces freeloading, or collective punishment. Students don’t have enough standing to enforce accountability amongst each other, and can’t involve a manager to ensure that unproductive group members are brought into line. I agree that social pressure can be a motivator, but it’s not a good one here.

        1. Amber Rose*

          As a teaching tool though, it would have to be done for something other than grades, or for a very tiny percent of grade points.

          I took a few classes in which this approach (slightly different) worked fairly well, and it’s something I use to embarrass my coworkers into behaving themselves.

      5. Xay*

        I had a professor use a variation of this approach – basically we all got the same based grade that factored in meeting deadlines, but we also could give feedback on the other team members and that feedback was added to the base grade to determine individual final grades.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Lots of ways that can fail. Even a group of 4-5 can get cliquey.

  60. Nervous Accountant*

    Tax accountant. There are hard deadlines and soft deadlines. Hard deadlines are obviously–tax due dates etc. Sometimes there are things that just cannot get done but in that case we document tf out of every interaction with the client to cover our selves later on.

    Soft deadlines would be more like…internal deadlines? Or, like, doing research or providing an answer to a client. In the latter, our deadline is 24 hours even if it’s just ot say no update or there’s a delay. But aside from the tax/payroll deadlines there’s no hard deadlines.

  61. Antinious*

    I work in Govt Contracting and deadlines are so so important. There’s not late submission to the Government so it’s not only important we submit things to the Government early if possible but also that all the people involved hit all their deadlines on the way to the finished product. Anyone who misses deadlines may not get fired or reprimanded (though that is also 100% possible if it’s often) but you will not be appreciated by everyone else involved. And if your involved but part of a different company or consultant and you miss mutiple deadlines? Say good bye to your comanly getting future work with the company your helping.

    1. Antinious*

      Whoops on my phone so typo there. I meant company not comanly. And also worth noting I’m in the BD side of Govt Contracting these days not Ops or on a contract so ymmv.

  62. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

    I worked in newspaper advertising for many years. It was all about deadlines! If we missed a deadline – space reservation, copy, other materials – the ad wouldn’t run in the paper. That had real costs and consequences for both the newspaper and the advertiser.

  63. hayling*

    I worked with a woman who had terrible time management skills and no ability to say “no,” and it really affected her professional reputation. People liked her personally and she was great at her job when she actually got her work done, but people stopped wanting to work with her because she couldn’t be trusted to actually complete a project. A lot of the deadlines were “soft” (i.e. not product shipping or printing deadlines as mentioned above), but they were important projects.

  64. Allison*

    This is really interesting to me because I’m currently in grad school and I think I’m learning really bad habits around deadlines. There are no consequences to me missing most of my deadlines (presentations and conferences submissions are the only thing with strict deadlines) and even if I meet my deadlines my collaborators often take 2-3x longer than they said to get back to me, which delays my work and makes me disinclined to get back to them in a timely manner. The problem is that I severely underestimate how much time my experiments will take and how many things might go wrong, and because I see no consequences from this I’m not getting better at it. Does anyone have any advice on how to do better on realistic planning and then actually following through?

    1. Amber Rose*

      I’d start with your communication skills. Anticipating things that can go wrong or timelines is a skill that comes from experience usually. What you need to learn to start with is “hey [professor/group mate/whoever], this thing came up, I think I need this many more days to deal with it, here’s my plan for how to do it.”

      If you get into the habit of talking to professors/tutors and the like about this kind of stuff, you get to benefit from their experience, because then they can tell you if you’re being realistic or what you might have overlooked.

    2. LadyKelvin*

      This comic is a bit tongue-in-cheek but it is exactly how I managed to finish my PhD. My advisor travels about 6 months of the year abroad and he is notorious for missing deadlines and not doing things. He still hasn’t read my dissertation (its been over 6 months since I defended). But, he knew that I would make sure that I met my deadlines and so didn’t worry about me. And I made sure he met the deadlines too by figuring out how to manage him. He doesn’t read emails? Ok. I call him whenever I need to talk to him. I give him a very specific list of what I need him to do and then I ask him, when I can I start bugging you about this if you haven’t done it yet. He’ll often say, I will do this this week. So I might give him until the middle of the following week and then every day or two ask if he’s done it yet. Bothersome? Sure. Effective? Definitely. You really have to take responsibility for your own stuff and hold your collaborators responsible for them too. Just because you are a grad student doesn’t mean that you cant say, Hey, why haven’t you done this yet?

      Here’s the comic:

  65. The Wall of Creativity*

    One difference between student work and the real world wrt deadlines…

    As a student, if you finish the work a couple of days early and hand it in, that’s two days for you to chill out. At work, if you hand something in two days early, the response is “that’s great, now here’s two more extra days’ work for you to do and incorporate into the paper.” So whatever you do, there’s going to be a last minute panic. No incentive there to stay ahead of the waves.

    1. OhNo*

      I dunno, I think that’s field-dependent, too. If I finish my work two days early, I might not get two days off, but I do get two days to work on fun stuff that I otherwise don’t have time for. (Last time I finished early, I got to spend a whole day coloring signs for a display. It was a great way to end the week!)

    2. Xay*

      I don’t know – If I finish a project two days ahead of schedule, that is two days that I can breathe and free up time to work on other tasks or depending on the task, I can chill out for a while. If we wrap up our grant proposals two days early, that is definitely celebrated.

      1. Anon Charity Bod*

        Sorry, I’m not the OP. I commented elsewhere and forgot to change my name back! Thought I’d caught this before it saved, but no. Whoops.

        Also, I actually care about my work and don’t just want to do the bare minimum to get by. Having more time to do stuff as I met a deadline early is a very good thing!

  66. TallTeapot*

    I’m on the admin.managerial end of academia (student-facing work) and let me say that for students, you do them no favors allowing them to turn items in late. There are some things that they will find *as students* that if they miss the deadline (here, the late drop deadline, the graduation application deadline, etc) they are up a creek–no extensions allowed. As for my work, certain internal projects, deadlines are very flexible. On student-facing work, I have hard deadlines. we say “decisions will be out on such and such date”, decisions have to be out then. If I don’t budget my time well, I don’t get an extension–I have a horde of angry students and parents.
    It’s interesting–students are all over other people respecting deadlines when it impacts them, but are much more laissez-faire when it’s a deadline they need to meet.

  67. the gold digger*

    I work for a manufacturing company. The company (the CEO who authorized this is no longer employed here) tried to move all production offshore and closed the US plant before the offshore plant was fully running. We have missed many delivery deadlines because of this. (They re-opened the US plant and pretty much begged those workers to come back until the new plant is running smoothly.)

    This failure to meet deadlines has cost my company hundreds of thousands of dollars – probably more – in late delivery fines and, of course, has had a horrible impact on our customers, who had planned to be operating our equipment by the agreed-upon date. It has had an impact on our brand and reputation that will take a long, long time to repair.

    Short answer: Do what you say you will do.

  68. OhNo*

    I’m a librarian in an academic library, and deadlines are very important for me. An hour or two might not matter, but when we start talking days it can be a huge problem. In general, my deadlines fall into two categories: deadlines that I’ve promised to a student/faculty member for research help, and self-imposed deadlines for getting my instruction set-up complete.

    The external deadlines for students/faculty are important mostly for my reputation and the reputation of the library. I want people to trust that when I (or another librarian) say “we’ll get it for you by X date”, that they believe me. If they don’t believe me, then I’ve got to field tons of follow-up or “just checking in” questions because they want to make sure I haven’t forgotten about it. Plus, I have to consider that they are depending on whatever information I’m providing to complete something by a deadline of their own. Trust me, you only need to have a professor out for blood because they missed a publishing deadline once before you learn to stick to your word.

    The self-imposed deadlines are obviously more flexible, but there is still a hard deadline at the end that I have to meet (since everything HAS to be ready by the first day of the semester). The mini-deadlines before that have some wiggle room, but everything must be done in a particular sequence and most of the process requires the previous step to be complete before I can move to the next one. That means delaying one step by a day pushes the whole process back – which can lead to me working down to the wire on the final, firm deadline if I’m not careful.

    FWIW, having worked with a lot of professors and their students on research assignments, you could try giving your students soft deadlines along the way, if you’re interested in giving them practice. Things like, “reference list complete by X”, or “for feedback and the chance to revise, submit by Y” with a final deadline for the whole thing some time after that can do wonders for students. I know it helped me a lot; it’s one of the reasons I’m good at the self-imposed deadlines I mentioned above now that I’m working.

  69. NW Mossy*

    I’m in the retirement plan industry, and deadlines definitely matter here, but the consequences vary a lot depending upon the specific tasks you do. A trade that’s submitted after market close won’t happen that day, even if it’s only seconds too late. A filing that’s due to a regulator has to be submitted by their deadline date and they’ll issue fines if it’s late. We make guarantees in our service agreements with customers that certain types of activities will happen within a certain window of time or we owe them money. There’s also reputational risk if we don’t deliver when we say we will, and if our reputation suffers, it’s really hard for us to win and keep business.

    Where it gets hazy is when the deadlines are driven by strategic planning. We tend to have 10-15 major initiatives running at any one time, and it’s very common for an initiative to be a prerequisite for a planned project in the future. If timelines slip on those, it has a cascading effect on every other project waiting for the expected result of that first initiative. They’re self-imposed deadlines so people tend to take them less seriously, which is why our PMs hammer the consequences constantly.

  70. PB*

    I’m an academic librarian. For the most part, deadlines can be pretty soft. I can do my day to day work at my own pace. But when I have deadlines, they’re firm. Scholarship is part of my job. If I miss a paper deadline, then I’m not getting my paper published. If I don’t have a presentation done before a conference, there is no extension. I’d just be out, which would look really bad for my professionally.

    Last year, I led a major project to develop a new workflow, because a vendor was ceasing a service. We had a very firm cut-off date. The vendor would not negotiate, and the process was important, so I had to make sure it was ready to go by day 1.

    Other times, I might have faculty or other librarians ask me to expedite something so they can use it for a class or exhibition. My job is flexible enough that, if what they’re asking is truly impossible, I can push back. If I do promise them something, however, and fail to follow through, it makes them look bad, and certainly lowers their opinion of me.

    Even in a field with fairly soft deadlines, they’re still important. If I don’t meet them, I look bad, and make my colleagues look bad. It might not escalate to losing my job over (it’s very hard to get fired in this field), but it would certainly impact performance reviews, raises, future assignments, and eventual reference checks. In some cases, it would mean dropping the ball on major, important workflows.

  71. SM*

    I’m an architect. Our deadlines are constantly shifting because of the nature of our work. Often, projects are in our office for over a year and a half doing the design/permitting, and then another year or two during construction (during which we answer questions and do site visits).

    During the design phase deadlines regurly slip by weeks or even months, because we had to move staff on to other projects, or things outside our control (like the city officials) require changes we didn’t expect or are taking longer to review than expected. So getting work in by a specific hour or day isn’t so important, but what is important is keeping the higher ups and clients informed of schedule changes in advance of the delay.

    During construction the deadlines are usually a specific day. If you don’t answer the contractor by the requested date then he can’t do that part of the work on time and it costs the client more money. Even if you don’t have the answer, you need to start the conversation with them about what the holdup is and possible solutions.

    So for my field I feel that deadlines matter more for the reasons Alison mentioned… People being able to trust that you’ll do what you say, and if you can’t that you’ll inform them reasonably early on.

  72. Journalist*

    Since some of your English students might go into writing fields, I thought it would be helpful to have a journalist’s perspective: Deadlines must be met! I’ve worked as a staff writer and as a freelance writer. As a staff writer, failing to meet deadlines by an hour or two undermines your editors’ trust in you which could have long-term implications for your career at the publication. Failing to meet it by a day or two? Often that means your work will simply be killed, especially if it’s time sensitive. It’s usually best to turn work in as early as possible, to minimize the chances of another publication scooping you (which is embarrassing and frustrating) as well as to compensate for a slower editing process (you can’t control how long editors take, but you can control how long you take).

    As a freelancer, failing to meet deadlines means you lose clients and income.

  73. Anon Anon*

    Where I work a lot of this depends on what the deadline is for. I have multiple deadlines I must meet. Some of those deadlines, if I were to miss, would be fireable on the first offense (depending on the rest of my performance). Most are not. However, I also think where I work it’s a sign of disrespect to ignore a deadline and not provide a heads up to the person impacted in advance. And in my organization it does tremendous damage to an employees reputation.

    For example, I have a co-worker who is fine at his job, but sees deadlines as flexible, so frequently doesn’t turn in reports to their boss etc., by the deadline. And I know for a fact that is one of the reasons they have not been promoted, and despite being told this, this co-worker thinks it’s a ridiculous thing that is impacting their career. Without realizing that meeting deadlines is highly valued by their boss.

  74. John du Bois*

    I work in special education and home health care. In the former field, missing deadlines like IEP due dates is legally actionable by federal law, and in the latter, missing deadlines for submitting reports results in not getting paid (and for certain reports, like reports of abuse/neglect, missing deadlines can result in jail time). So… deadlines are very big deals, and you need an *exceptional* excuse for missing even one, if that’s even okay.

    As for the OP’s situation, I would lean toward “lenient with explanation”. You don’t want to be a tyrant, and you want to communicate that most of the time, lateness with a good reason can be worked with, but also you want to explain the impact on others of the lateness and be very resistant to repeated offense. It’s a “teachable moment”, if you will.

  75. ArtK*

    I’m in software engineering and Alison’s advice is spot-on. Deadlines matter. My company has made promises to customers based on my commitments to management. If I don’t meet my commitments, we could lose some serious money. The customer has made planes based on my company’s promises and *they* may be losing business due to our being late. For business reasons, the company may make promises that are unrealistic, but engineering somehow has to meet them. That one is a fact of life, although it makes *my* life miserable at times and I fight against it as much as possible.

    That said, estimating software work is an art form, not a science. The “unknown unknowns” can get you. As a manager, I want to know if things are behind as soon as *you* know that they are. I do the same thing in my work; if I’ve run into delays, I’ll bring that up in status early. The absolute *last* thing that anyone wants to hear is: “You know that project that I said was right on track and is due today? Well, it looks like I need another 3 weeks.” That kind of stunt *will* affect your chances of promotion and if pulled more than once, you chances of continued employment.

    TL;DR: Meeting deadlines is an important lesson.

  76. Compliance Lady*

    Compliance here, and I handle some tax situations.

    By an hour? Penalties and fines on the company. By longer? The loss of the ability to do business in certain areas, law suits, jail time maybe? Not for me, personally, I’m too low on the totem poll (I think), but I have a feeling if it’s my fault that an upper management person went to jail or was severely fined because I missed a deadline, I can’t imagine my company being too forgiving of that.

  77. New hiring manager*

    Yesss. For me, because I manage mostly entry-level employees, I try to build in some buffer time between the deadline I give employees and the final, hard deadline. So, in that sense, there wouldn’t be huge repercussions for being a little late. However, like Allison said, it would cause me to no longer trust those employees if they were continually behind deadlines and not keeping me updated.

    So, in my field of corporate wellness, deadlines matter, if only for your professional reputation and my willingness to keep you on as an employee.

  78. Bookkeeper, Payroll, etc.*

    I’m a part-time bookkeeper for roughly 15 clients, all small businesses. I also handle payroll for some, and sales tax payments for a couple. I’m employed by a tiny company that also provides tax services. Planning is very easy because the deadlines are monthly/quarterly/yearly.

    Payroll simply must be done. If I’m going to be out of the office, I tell my boss ahead of time so nothing slips through the cracks.

    Sales tax prepayments and quarterly returns must be done on time as well. If they’re late, my clients pay a fine. I pay the prepayments or file the returns as soon as I’m able.

    Bookkeeping is far more flexible. Around half of my clients look at the reports I give them every month. I take care of them first. I try to finish everything by the end of the month so I don’t get behind, but there’s no problem if some get pushed off. Often when I’m late it’s because I’m waiting for something from the client or took time off.

    Right now I’m behind on bookkeeping because
    A) quarterly payroll tax returns
    B) tax season means doing more admin tasks for my boss
    C) tax season means that several new clients need 12 months of bookkeeping (get it together, y’all!)

  79. bb_nyc*

    I manage a live theater. For my entire career, the show has always been built and rehearsed and ready to go by the clearly defined deadline of the first audience. Putting on a Broadway size show can involve hundreds of people and dozens of subcontractors and it all comes together. I remember the first time I saw a GANTT chart and thinking it might be useful. But after tracking things that way for a while I realize it’s most useful for making changes when one piece of your complex puzzle changes, and that’s not something we deal with with a lot of frequency (though it does happen).

    I have worked often with construction contractors and architects who have a very loose relationship to deadlines, compared to us.

  80. Sabrina the Teenage Witch*

    I work in higher education administration and the University would crumble if we didn’t meet our deadlines. We sometimes allow students leeway if they are a day or so late, but we need concrete deadlines to complete our work as it impacts the rest of the community.

  81. Poster Child*

    You could try an experiment (if it’s okay to experiment on your students). Tell one class that they can turn in all their assignments any time as long as they are all in by the end of the semester (so you have enough time to grade them and get the grades turned in for your own deadline). They should be warned that if everyone turns in all their papers at the end of the semester their grades might suffer since you have less time to spend reading and grading, and there should be some incentive to turn in early. Give another class more firm deadlines throughout the semester. Then measure how many in each class are turned in on time and the average quality of the work. Afterwards you can report out to the students the results – find out what they liked/disliked but also share with them the average quality of work under both systems. Get some scientific learnings out of an English class and use that to decide what to do going forward. For example, if you get better quality of work when students have more time (although I suspect they won’t be good enough at managing their time for that) maybe it’s worth the time crunch you’re in at the end of the semester. If you find the quality of work to be the same, you can tell students you implement deadlines because the work is generally not better when someone has more time.

    1. Dr. Speakeasy*

      You can try different things in the classroom (experiment). You should not make students grades suffer if they all turn stuff in at the end of the semester when you allowed them to do so.

      Also you don’t need this experiment – students will turn stuff in just before it is due. Always. Your last sentence already holds true.

  82. TheWorstElephant*

    I don’t work at a trade school, and I don’t view my primary job as “preparing students for the work world.” My job is to try to teach them my subject, and in that context, it’s better if they do the homework, even if it’s a little late, so I’m usually happy to give extensions. Occasionally someone will try to jerk me around (requesting extensions for ten assignments they skipped after they’ve just taken the final exam?), but I’ve never found that to be a huge problem.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Except you are training them for a job, whether you acknowledge it or not. The vast majority of undergraduates are obtaining credentials to make themselves professionally relevant, not pursuing the subject as scholars, and most never complete postgraduate work.

    2. Observer*

      Your job is to teach your students a subject. But that learning is useless if it’s totally detached from the rest of the world and their lives.

      Also, what is the point of the homework? If it’s to bolster learning or to let you know if they have any holes in their knowledge, then late submissions clearly reduce the effectiveness. On the other hand, if the assignments are just because, why bother at all?

      1. TheWorstElephant*

        The point of homework is to drill in the material; can’t learn calculus by watching an instructor do it, and I don’t think that letting them turn it in a day late because they have a test in another subject particularly reduces its effectiveness.

        (In particular: the subjects I teach are so cumulative that students *need* to master the early homework, or they literally cannot learn the later material. I would be very dubious of a policy that incentivized students not bothering to do that because they missed a deadline, and now can’t get credit.)

        1. TheWorstElephant*

          (edit: Of course, another effect of that, is that they can’t be allowed to fall too far behind. It’s a balancing act, but I’ve never found putting off a deadline for a day or two to be harmful.)

  83. moss*

    In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?

    I work for a CRO, deadlines are HUGELY important. You’re part of a team. Your teammates are counting on you. You have to adhere to sponsor (pharmaceutical companies) guidelines, as well as your own company’s best practices, as well as FDA regulations and international Good Clinical Practice standards.

    –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?
    An hour might be okay. A day will be a big, big deal, and it would assume you’ve been working 12+ hour days in the weeks leading up to it. By longer than that, all bets are off, this could range from a “why did this happen” meeting with people several levels up from you to job termination. Missing a deadline might mean the sponsor pulls its business (millions of dollars) so your company is counting on you.

    –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?
    As an English professor? I’m not sure. Generally speaking… I’m actually surprised people think you’re being too harsh. When I was in school, a late essay would mean a letter grade off per day or something like that. I’m surprised this is nbd now.

  84. SpeedyShoes*

    I work (and have for many years) in nonprofit development and deadlines matter IMMENSELY — especially with public sector funding. Government agencies cannot show preference, so extensions do not exist. If you’re submitting an application and you’re 30 seconds late, there is no second chance, no matter how much the agency loves your work — you’re out and you just potentially cost your organization a lot of money. Private funding is a little more lenient, but you still don’t want to mess around.

    Side note: I’m the child of two professors and became obsessive about deadlines as a result. I was always shocked (shocked, I tell you!) when my friends in college turned in work late without at least requesting an extension.

  85. A Person*

    When I worked at a language school teaching Academic English, I used to give students two weeks after the end of the course to submit any work they wanted checked and I was willing to extend that by another two weeks, if they asked before the original deadline passed. I also emphasized this as a point for their studies, most universities are willing to give extensions if you ask in good time and have a good reason but if you miss the deadline, well too bad.

    I think only one student missed the deadline and I ended up doing a comparatively limited amount of feedback for customer service reasons but I was careful to state that if the student tried that at Uni, the essay likely wouldn’t get scored at all.

    We also used to do application support with a turn around time of one week on documents and that one often sucked because management never scheduled enough time, so often we would be scrabbling to catch up. New Years was often bad because we’d have to comply with last minute, time sensitive requests before we shut down for the break then have a deluge when we got back. An hour wasn’t necessarily an issue but we’d get rush jobs from time to time where someone would leave writing their documents to the last minute, so a day could really matter and the consequence would be their application wouldn’t be ready in time. In my time there, we always got by even if it was by the skin of our teeth.

    For what it’s worth, I think you’ve got the right idea and as long as you lay your policies out clearly at the start of term the students should follow it (also, if you haven’t already, you might want to consider what you would do in when a student experiences an event where rearranging a deadline is the last thing on their mind).

  86. Amanda*

    I’m an editor at an educational publishing company. We’re currently working on a blended professional development product (so print and online). We have various deadlines with varying levels of flexibility. For instance:
    -We have some drop-dead dates such as needing to have our book files ready to go to the printer by X hour on X day. People have worked late nights in order to meet that hard deadline. As I recall there’ve been a few instances where we just could not get it done and missed the deadline by about 2 days–which is not catastrophic but can cause the books to be delayed to our customers. That is not ideal. And in cases where we’ve contracted with school districts to provide materials by a certain time, missing dates can put is in breach of our contract. So those final dates matter, quite a lot.
    -As part of the online portion, we include instructional video. So our scripts MUST be finalized by the time we have that video shoot. Again, people have stayed late to get those ready if need be.
    -Other milestone dates (e.g., due dates for first pages edits; copyediting of scripts) leading up to drop-dead dates have more flexibility. Generally, it isn’t terrible if something slips by a day or two, but we always have to have an awareness of the repercussions further down the line. Losing time in one place means that it either eats up all our buffer, or if we have no buffer left, then we have to make up time elsewhere.

    And yes, the main thing is to communicate early with our boss if something is slipping, so she can either pitch in herself or help us prioritize other deadlines so that immediate fires at least get put out. What is NOT OK is waiting till the last minute and saying “Oops, sorry, I missed the deadline” without any warning.

  87. MoinMoin*

    I work in an accounting department and process a lot of payroll and tax reports for our clients. Deadlines are important- the external ones in particular because missing a deadline can mean a large population of the client’s employees not getting paid and it can have tax implications, but in the internal ones I’m finding are just as important for my own sanity and save me a lot of work (didn’t complete that audit in time? Oh, look who slipped through the cracks and wasn’t properly taxed because I didn’t research that anomaly yet and now it’s past the fiscal cutoff and they need to be issued a W2C).
    And if you think obviously an accountant should expect to work with deadlines, I should say that my BS was in Sociology with a minor in Biology and I’ve worked in a series of operations and analyst roles that have morphed more into the reporting side of things, so assuming not all of your students end up being authors, editors, or English professors (I know there are other jobs out there for English students, but you get my meaning), it’s not crazy to think they may end up in similar positions to mine.
    I was exactly the type of student you were, OP, and now I’m exactly the same type of adult that still struggles with time management and it kills me. I agree that students are there to learn, so some leniency is probably good in that goal. But I think the way you’re doing it is much more of a service to students than the professors that let me turn in a semester’s worth of work a week after the semester ended and hours before grades were due (yes, he accepted my work, yes, I only showed up to class 3 times outside of test days and he didn’t even recognize me, yes he gave me a B in that class, no, it didn’t help me realize that I should change my approach to my education).
    If you want to be a little more lenient, I think a good approach would be that you’ll accept late work but they need to approach you for extensions prior to the deadline. Work with them, but make them have the conversation with you and show there are consequences to not following through. My boss does this now when it makes sense with the project and it really helps me with my avoidance issues (which lead to a lot of procrastination for me), it makes me follow up on stuff and I keep a better idea of what I have going on, and having to articulate the reasons why I need more time usually makes me realize I don’t actually need that extension, I should just do it. And sometimes there are other people involved, so yeah it’s fine to push back a meeting a couple times to complete something, but waiting until the meeting or the day of is a jerk move.
    Sorry this was so long. As a final parting, I highly recommend the procrastination series at the Wait But Why blog (I’m sure I’m not the only one, because it’s great).

  88. seejay*

    In my field, it can depend, but here’s how my deadline works for the most part. I’m a software engineer, I develop the front end UI of touch screens for shopping kiosks. There’s a lot of moving parts and there are several teams that are involved when we have an upgrade. A development cycle might look something like this:

    Pre-work: Account manager puts together request from client for changes to stock, UI features, promotions. Works with my team for design elements, works with inventory team to get new stock moving, works with hardware team to ensure stock can fit in the machine and re-size slots for where stock will go.

    Week 1: designers work on any design elements needed for the UI. (other teams are also doing their part, but I’m not privy to that because I’m on engineering)
    Week 2: designers hand over any design pieces to me, I spend a week working on the front end putting the pieces in, retooling anything, adding in new code or programming that needs doing. Sometimes this is easy and takes me a day or two, sometimes it’ll take me a week because I’m implementing a new feature. (other teams are doing stuff as well)
    Week 3: Review by Account manager and client, QA by internal team.
    Week 4: Push live to field.

    There’s some overlap, it usually doesn’t take 4 weeks, review and QA should only be three days, deploy is a day, but we’ll have a hard set day when inventory services are going out to the machines to change the stock out and we *cannot slip* on the delivery days prior. We might have some wiggle room where we can shave off a QA day or two because it took longer for something else, but when you have 200 machines that are getting inventory upgrades on a specific day all around the country, you cannot reschedule that. It’s easier to adjust your schedule internally or take your work home and pull an all-nighter than it is to tell your account manager “hey, go tell inventory services they need to push out their stocking days because I didn’t finish and can’t deliver”.

    It doesn’t mean we always make 100% of our delivery days. Things happen, sometimes we have to change things because of the client. I was supposed to have my current dev done end of this week and it’s not because I’ve been farting around since the client decided that they were going to be late delivering the stuff I need to move forward and now because of them, we have to move the entire development slot out three weeks (hooray). But if I told my manager tomorrow that half of the UI wasn’t done by EoD tomorrow and everything had been delivered to me (earlier this week that is), she’d have my head on a platter.

    1. seejay*

      Also to the OP, you are doing your students a *huge* favour. Please keep doing this. I’m also currently a part time grad student and I literally cannot wrap my head around students and people I work with who I have to chase down because they don’t make their delivery dates on time. My coworker wants to remind them, and I’m constantly telling her “they’re not highschool students, these people went to college/university, they should have learned about deadlines then. My profs don’t send me reminders, they gave us due dates and it was up to us to remember them and if we missed them, we suffered consequences, that’s how you learn to be an adult.” I don’t know if some of the people I work with had profs/teachers that chased after them and gave them leeway on due dates or what, but I know I didn’t have much from mine (sure, there were always some concessions to be made, I was able to take a makeup exam when I had a death in my family and missed a mid-term at the last minute). But yes, deadlines are something students should learn so they don’t make their coworkers suffer. I don’t go to work feel like I’m chasing after highschool kids and reminding people they need to send me something by X date. If I can manage 10 things at once, they can too.

  89. Engineer*

    As an engineer that works directly with customers, our deadlines are pretty important. Our customers often have to line up support personnel on their end based on when we get them our stuff. If we’re late, that could mean the support personnel have to be rescheduled and the next availability may not be for months without rearranging a lot of other priorities. Not to mention the harder to quantify opinion of our services. If we’re regularly late without much notice, that looks bad in the customer’s eyes and makes them rethink doing further business with us. So we could end up losing customers and therefore losing money.

  90. OxfordComma*

    I’m an academic librarian at a large public university. While nearly all profs I’ve worked with will accept late papers in case of real emergencies (e.g. a death in the family, serious illness, etc.), pretty much all the others start taking off letter grades with each passing day. I do not think you’re being too strict.

  91. AliceW*

    I work in finance and we have hard and soft deadlines. Many projects miss their deadlines due to shifting priorities, but personally, I promote employees who do whatever it takes to the make the deadline because it keeps me on track to make mine.

  92. S-Mart*

    Field: Engineering (Automotive and Aviation – at the same time)

    There’s no one answer to how critical are deadlines. Some are, some aren’t. But blowing by one without informing my boss ahead of time is universally bad, not matter how critical that particular deadline is. Partly because I don’t always have the information to know a deadline is critical, partly because as Alison mentions, my boss needs to be able to trust I’ll do what I say I will.

    Generally speaking, missing one deadline means having to compress at least one other part of the project, because the end-date of the program can only slip in increments of one full year. There’s only one event/year we will release a new product at (and we have to schedule our day/time at that event months ahead), so missing the final project deadline by a day is effectively the same as missing by a year. There’s some padding in the schedule to handle unforeseen complications, but for the most part any time added to one place has to come from another.

    There are almost no to-the-hour deadlines. I haven’t had one in at least four years. When we do have them, they’re pretty much ironclad requirements, because they’d be in the manner of needing XYZ data or part to present to or have inspected by external parties whose next availability window can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months out if we miss or are unprepared for the scheduled meeting.

  93. LSP*

    I have worked in fields for the most part where meeting deadlines is everything, such as journalism. In my current position as a government contractor, if we don’t meet deadlines, our clients are not happy. If we can’t get the work done within the contract end date, we have failed to meet our obligation, and have probably left a significant amount of money on the table.

    My area of expertise is workforce development, so I can also speak to this as someone who has for years been hearing from employers about the overall lack of professionalism they see from applicants and employees at ALL levels (this is not a “kids these days” thing). You are doing your students a big favor by creating boundaries. I am on your side about being strict about deadlines except in the cases where a student has enough forethought to let you know they may be late handing in work due to outside forces.

  94. Lemon Zinger*

    Another higher ed employee chiming in here. I work in administration and do outreach to high school seniors (prospective students). Many students are already allowed to turn in late work in high school (which I disagree with). Higher education would not function if deadlines weren’t kept. There are very serious deadlines students must meet to be admitted, get financial aid, register for classes, etc.

    I urge the OP to stick hard and fast to his/her deadlines. Students should not be babied in college. They need to learn that the world operates on deadlines and turning in late work is unacceptable.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      I know a guy in high school who blew off the deadline to let his top-choice school know that he was actually enrolling, and he was genuinely flabbergasted that [date] at [time] meant something.

  95. engineermommy*

    I’m a civil engineer, with a broad range of experience. In my career, missing deadlines can have legal or multi-million dollar repercussions. When I worked for a local government, some of our processes were established by state and/or local law. If you missed a deadline, then the law said x couldn’t occur. When residents expect for x to occur on a certain date, then people get extremely angry and the government in general looks bad.

    Civil engineering, architecture, and construction companies bidding on government projects are required to submit bids in a certain format to a certain place by a certain time and day. Bids submitted 1 minute late are not accepted, which could cost your firm a multi-million dollar contract.

    I had a construction professor in college who required that certain assignments be turned in at the exact time class was to begin. If you walked in after that minute, your assignment wasn’t accepted. This was his way of teaching us the importance of meeting deadlines in the working world. Until someone is experienced enough to understand the differences between hard deadlines and soft deadlines, all deadline should be treated as hard deadlines. Letting students graduate from college without this knowledge is doing them a huge disservice.

    1. WomanEngineer*

      I’m in the AE (engineering) industry as well and depending on the client deadlines can be critical. Unfortunately in my specific niche we seem to have a lot of clients who do not have rigid deadline expectations, i.e. the team can ask for and receive an extension. My current problem is twofold. internal deadlines are not met, sometimes by senior staff who don’t return reviews in a timely fashion which I believe sets he as example. I have moved up to manage projects and some of my younger staff seem to have a terrible time meeting deadlines. I try to help them with ‘this should take 4 hours’ so I’m teaching them, but I often get things late or incomplete by the deadline. I really don’t get it as I’ve been in a bind before and if I have to work late/get up crazy early I make it happen. I don’t directly supervise the younger staff so I just have to pass along feedback.

      Ultimately the deadlines are critical. If you can meet the deadlines you are usually going to come in on budget and have a satisfied client. I see no benefit to the students for you to change your current methods

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Seconding what you’ve said, as an engineering project manager at a company that designs industrial plants. There is probably a real-life example in every company of someone missing the bid deadline. Our estimates take about $1M to prepare for large projects, so not only did you lose out on the work, you wasted $1M.

      I do take some issue with professors like the one you described, though. As you said, real work has “soft” and “hard” deadlines. Students need to learn responsibility, but it has to be tempered with the consideration that students are adults. Some of them have adult problems, and I think some consideration should be given for situations where a student with no other performance issues misses a deadline. In the workplace, there are other ways to deal with it. I can get more resources, I can rearrange schedule activities (sometimes). That’s not an option with school work.

      1. engineermommy*

        He may have granted extensions in some limited cases, I just wasn’t aware of them. I did watch him refuse to take submittals from people who walked in late to the class, though.

    3. JenniB*

      I’m in civil engineering too and have the same experience. There are internal deadlines that might be soft, but deadlines to the government are usually hard with large consequences for missing them. And I’ve done a fair amount of design-build work where I’m working directly for a large contractor – the whole time is money idea is really true in construction – missing deadlines can mean big losses for the contractor.

  96. Anon Anon2*

    OP, I frequently teach foundation courses for high school students who are seeking college-level credit. Since they are new to the world of college course-taking and often have high school teachers who give them reminder-after-reminder and extension after extension, I know they are going to suck at deadlines. So I try to re-train them. I pepper assignments throughout the course (research question mini paper, lit review mini paper, analysis mini paper) to show them that they can find more success by working on a paper slowly. I also tend to have the course deadline for a final paper be a week or two before the end of the course so that my students have a week of wiggle room within the semester if they run into minor writing trouble/get stumped. Finally, I explicitly discuss the outcome with them as a group:”See how good that felt to work on the paper slowly throughout the semester? Isn’t the quality of your work higher than when you write everything in 2-3 days at the end?”

    I find, hilariously, that these techniques work even better when teaching graduate-level courses.

  97. Loopy*

    Deadlines are very important where I work (as a tech writer). I was told if I expect not to be able to meet a deadline I need to give as much notice as possible. Even with notice, it’s generally frowned upon but without notice? Just submitting it late? I think that would be outright unacceptable. Period.

    You would need a very good (read: emergency) reason to miss a deadline without any notice/warning.

    I personally would be very judgemental of such an action. And I know my higher ups care just as much.

  98. Beancounter Eric*

    One of my favorite comments on deadlines comes from a favorite author:”I love deadlines. I love the wooshing noise they make as they go by”.

    Corporate Accounting – As a former boss once said to me, there are deadines, and THERE ARE DEADLINES.

    Some things, they slip a bit, no problem. Others, and you may wish to update your resume. Public company accounting with SEC, outside auditors, etc….deadlines were much more important. Private company – good communication with the owner was important – we would discuss the schedule and adjust as needed. Still, certain things – regulatory filings, commission reporting, payroll(!!!), billing(previous company clients established hard deadlines for billing – miss them and you simply did not get paid)….definite hard deadlines. Month-end financial report – you may be able to get away with slipping it a little. Not something to make a habit of, though – the company owner would get cranky.

  99. Bonky*

    I run the communications arm of a tech company. We work with engineers and others to produce publications, blog posts, learning resources and so on; we work with the press; we have a publishing arm. Hard deadlines are vitally important to our work. I filter hard at hiring for people who can work to deadline, understand punctuality and structure, and take these responsibilities seriously. (If you’re a Myers-Briggs fan, I’m looking for very strongly expressed Js.)

    If I hire you and you miss deadlines, or if you’re a serial procrastinator, you won’t last long in our organisation.

    1. Bonky*

      Oh – and to address the other parts of OP’s question – we do not have hourly deadlines. There will be a date I expect work to be done by, and the work has to be submitted by that date, but not to a set minute. Deadlines are set where they are not just to make sure that a finished piece of work is ready, but also to build in enough time for edit, or for filming, or for design etc., and to make sure that colleagues in those parts of the team have enough time for their work and to hit their own deadlines if you are on the critical path.

      I have friends in a similar position to mine other organisations who will pad the deadline date (especially for freelancers they haven’t worked with before) to make up for the sort of person who can’t/won’t hit deadline, but over the years I’ve found that this can just create more trouble than it’s worth; people work out what’s going on, and start to let things slip. It’s far better to get the right person in the first place; freelancers who can’t hit a deadline are no use to me at all.

      As for how to prepare and motivate your students: I’d show them this comment section!

  100. I tend to Disagree*

    All I can say is that in production (which I manage) you have SLAs (service level agreements), which include a deadline for completion. If we fail to meet any SLA the consequences are very real, think charges or possible severance of partnership. It’s just not possible to violate them without everyone above you knowing. I mean, they’re seeing the P&L’s so they will notice the dip. Then the yelling starts.

    Much kinder to get the message across now while the consequences are less severe. But I would also explain why you’re being as strict as you are, both to the students and your coworker. I think it’s especially important to talk with the coworker in this case because he’s obviously talking to your students about this. Otherwise, how does he know? Do you brag about not giving extensions? Unlikely. He’s probably hearing complaints and sympathizing with your students. This potentially undermines your efforts when he says you’re in wrong.

    1. Anon Charity Bod*

      I’d never heard of SLAs in my previous career (journalism). I’ve moved fields and we have them at the charity where I work. For example, people emailing to ask for legal or advocacy assistance get an auto reply telling them when they’ll hear from us.

      If we miss that, people can really suffer. Some take to social media to complain. Even if we didn’t miss it and it’s because it went to spam, it’s still negative PR.

      1. I tend to Disagree*

        Absolutely, it’s bad PR. It not only makes it look like you don’t care about the client but also that you don’t care about upholding a legal contract. Pretty bad.

  101. Alex*

    I work in publishing, and the importance of deadlines is a huge range. There are some times when a deadline is really just a way of not losing track of something, and can easily be changed. There are other times when missing a deadline can have real financial implications.

    The trick is knowing which ones are which, how to prioritize, and to communicate both the importance of the deadline and any subsequent changes as soon as possible. I often instruct people “The deadline is X, but can be flexible,” or “We are up against a tight deadline here–please prioritize this over Y.” Not meeting deadlines on its own isn’t a terrible thing, but not meeting them because you were procrastinating, or because you didn’t properly prioritize, is a big deal.

    As for students though–being a student is one of the most predictable times in life. You typically get a syllabus at the beginning of a semester. There isn’t usually any, “OMG! I forgot to assign you this paper! Please have it ready by tomorrow!” Students missing deadlines is almost always a lack of planning. Of course, students have personal emergencies as well, but, similar to the work world, those emergencies should be communicated as soon as possible, rather than showing up empty handed on the day it is due. I think it is a good idea to be fairly rigid in granting extensions, and only in circumstances where students have communicated their conflict as soon as possible and in a professional way, as you would be expected to in the workplace.

  102. Discordia Angel Jones*

    I’m a lawyer. So probably my answers will be obvious!

    –In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?

    Critical. Even if there is no Court involved, the deadlines have been set for a reason and often have consequences for our firm or for our client.

    –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?

    Missing a deadline by an hour isn’t so bad if there are no Courts involved, but if the Court is involved, there’s no difference between an hour’s delay and never submitting the thing, sometimes.

    Of course, usually one can negotiate an extension between the parties and the Court, but that has to be done in advance.

    –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?

    Honestly, I think repeatedly letting students off from deadlines is not preparing them at all. Once, yeah, maybe, stuff happens.

    I’m curious – I just completed a Masters Degree, and if we submitted assignments late we got our marks capped if it was between 1 day and 2 weeks late, and 0% if it was later. There is also a “mitigating circumstances” form which you can fill in if there’s a genuinely pressing reason why you won’t meet the deadline (e.g. death of a relative, medical stuff, etc) which means usually your assignment won’t be capped and you’ll get an extension of deadline. OP (or other educators!), does any of this exist where you teach?

  103. Anonymous Educator*

    I’m currently doing a mish mosh tech job that could include all sorts of stuff, including A/V support, general tech troubleshooting, system administration, database management, and programming.

    –In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?

    Honestly, my boss doesn’t care. Most of my big projects are not time-sensitive. It’s more important to my manager that I do big projects well than that I do them quickly.

    –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?

    Well, if it’s not a big project, the consequences are huge. I support teachers, staff, and students. So if it’s not a big project but just general support, things don’t happen… teaching and learning are seriously hampered. If someone calls and says “My computer isn’t working,” I can’t say “Sure. I’ll get to that next week.”

    –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?

    See my earlier reply.

  104. Robin B*

    I work in mortgage operations, and deadlines are firm with definite monetary consequences for missing them. Interest rates and fees for loans will typically increase if an expiration date isn’t met. If real estate sales contracts are not satisfied on time, there are often expensive results. Anyone in the mortgage/banking business will tell your students deadlines are serious business.

  105. Trout 'Waver*

    To preface this, I work in a STEM field.

    All our projects are highly collaborative and require many pieces (tech, marketing, sales, production) to come together. If you miss a deadline, it affects everyone else and delays the final product. Also, if you routinely miss deadlines, the people around you will begin to miss deadlines as well. If Wakeen’s contributions are always late, the people working with Wakeen are going to deprioritize those projects too. The progress of the project is dependent on the last person to complete their share, not the first. Also, some deadlines are squishy and negotiable and some are hard and fast.

    The real conflict comes in when there is a hard and fast deadline far out there, and multiple hand-offs are required. If the R&D guy misses the deadline, sales has less time to do their part, and operations has even less time at the end of the process. And that can lead to serious conflict when the marketing manager has one week to their part instead of the initially agreed upon 4 weeks, due to the R&D guy missing their initial deadline.

    That’s the difference between college and the real world, imho. In college, projects are by definition individual because everyone gets an individual course grade. Missing a deadline doesn’t really impact others in college.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Unless it’s a group assignment, of course. And it still impacts the instructor, who inevitably has to track who turned what in when and how late it was and trek back across campus to pick up the paper that got stuffed in their inbox etc etc etc.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Even group assignments don’t capture that. People still get individual course grades and the projects are contained to one team and not passed between teams.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      Sorry, to answer your questions specifically:

      –In your field, how important is it to meet specific deadlines when working on a report or other big project?

      Missing deadlines mean others have to work harder. You can recover from a missed deadline, but you’re going to have to burn political capital.

      –What are the consequences of not meeting a deadline by an hour? By a day? By longer than that?

      No consequence for an hour. A day isn’t that big of a deal for most things as long as you communicate ahead of time. More than that and you will be demoted or fired if it happens consistently.

      –What should I, as a professor, be doing to prepare my students for this element of the work world?

      No clue. Some people get it intuitively and some never get it. I wish I could figure out how to teach it also.

  106. Economist*

    I’m an economist who does research and analysis. Readers are commenting on the importance of being on time, and not late (which is indeed very important!), but also it’s not good to turn in things early. I had one supervisor who impressed upon us that we hand things in on time–never late and never early. Once you start turning in things before the deadline (or agreed upon time), then the powers that be will set deadlines sooner and sooner until they are unrealistic. I learned to complete the project early, set it aside, and then reviewed and edited it before handing it in on time. This made the project on time plus it had the benefit of a fresh look.

    1. VroomVroom*

      Yes, I do this with our major deadlines for our 2x huge meeting. I’ve only ever finished the presentation early once, but when I did I sat on it for a few days (no one knew but me, and the ‘days’ were over the weekend, which I’d planned to work on it all weekend but if I didn’t have to I wasn’t going to have them know and give me less time in the future) and submitted to my boss to review on our agreed upon date before the deadline, and then we submitted to headquarters on the deadline date. This ONLY happened because a few of my field personnel I rely on to get the data to assemble the presentation from gave me THEIRS early.

  107. LizB*

    I work in the nonprofit world, and my program’s funding (and therefore my job and all my team members’ jobs) depends on meeting deadlines. If we don’t meet the service provision deadlines that are built into our contract, not only will our clients miss out on needed support, but our grant will not be renewed next time it’s up. So yeah, deadlines are very important. And since plenty of English majors end up in the nonprofit world, I’d say you’re doing exactly the right thing for your students who will someday work in this field.

    1. LizB*

      Oh, and to answer your second question, my particular program’s most important deadlines are measured in business days, not hours (e.g. after we get a teapot support referral we have 10 business days to connect with the client and evaluate their needs), so that’s the metric that matters.

  108. 30ish*

    I’m an academic. It really depends on what the deadline is for. For example, with a grant proposal, you sometimes can’t even submit it a minute late. On the other hand, if you’re contributing a chapter to a book, you can probably hand it in a few weeks late. It’s because no one wants to offend their colleagues by rejecting their contributions if they’re handed in too late (also, as an editor you depend on those contributions so you have few means of of enforcing the deadlines). Also, a lot of academics seem to assume that everyone’s always behind with their work. It doesn’t have to be this way, but academia does not always teach good time management habits.
    I am very strict with deadlines for students, and I am 100% convinced that that’s what’s best for them. Lots of professors fall victim to the thought that they are respecting their students’ autonomy by extending deadlines. This is untrue in my opinion. You are helping students by teaching them the right work habits and you actually foster their autonomy by forcing them to take stuff seriously and face the consequences if they don’t. Moreover, many more students will finish an assignment if it has a deadline. Around 90% of the students in my classes finish the assignments, for some of my colleagues it’s like 50% because they will still accept an essay two years later (which is then never written at all).

  109. Lucy Honeychurch*

    OK, related: how to do I get my boss to give me deadlines? I’m only a couple years out of school, and I never missed a deadline when I was in school, because it was a firm date: have this done by Tuesday or you get 30% off, ok, I’ll have it done by Tuesday!

    But now that I’m working, my boss is like, “hey do this thing,” and I’ll ask when he needs it by, and he’ll just tell me to do it when I have the chance/to let me know when I finish it, and it makes it really hard to prioritize! Probably because I am the last stop for most things so nothing really depends on my work. And then he’ll ask “why isn’t this done yet?” and I’ll be like, “because I didn’t know it needed to be done by now?”

    Anyway this is my rant to say that I WISH deadlines mattered more in the work world, and in my experience they were more important in college. (I don’t know how strict my professors were about deadlines, because I didn’t miss them.)

    1. A. Non*

      Maybe when he assigns you a thing, ask him if you should prioritize it over X, Y, or Z? So instead of him going “do this thing” and you going, it’ll be more like:

      Boss: “Do this thing.”
      You: “Okay, do you want me to prioritize this over [last assigned task] and [regularly reoccuring task]?”

      So more conversation than ‘assignment’, I guess, is what I’m saying?

        1. A. Non*

          It’s kind of like how Alison says interviews should be a conversation, not just a supplicant-style meeting, I guess? Obviously as workers we have to come at it from a position of ‘I know less than a manager’, but it’s that trap of the all-seeing manager. I just found out that my amazing manager has NO IDEA of what I do on the day to day! I was shocked, surprised, and then mortified, because I needed to be checking in with her far more often than I was, and it was on me to do so. I was used to a sick system where the manager was constantly micromanaging and knew every step I was taking!

      1. VroomVroom*

        Yes, I’ve been working for a while now and this is something that I learned. Most people don’t like to give you a hard deadline. My boss will say ‘can you do x?’ and I’ll say yes, by Tuesday with my current workload. Is that ok?’ and he’ll be like ‘yea’ or ‘no, can you move anything around and get it to me sooner?’

        Only exception if something is really urgent, usually he runs into my office or calls/texts me and says CAN YOU GET THIS DONE FOR ME ASAP DROP EVERYTHING AND DO IT. Which, in that case, yes I drop everything and do it. Usually things like that are something I can get done quickly (think, less than an hour, at max, half a day’s work) so I just pull it ahead of my other priorities.

    2. Manders*

      I struggle with this too. What worked best for me is creating my own priority list in Excel or Trello, then periodically showing that list to my boss or even reading it out to him in a meeting. If he actually meant to prioritize something differently, he can tell me then.

      I also wish people were clearer about deadlines. My job is often hurry up and wait–I get the thing I need to do late and have to rush through it, then I wait for weeks for the part I don’t have control over, then it lands on my desk again and disrupts something else. I get intellectually why it happens, but emotionally, it’s frustrating.

    3. bridget*

      I often propose my own (but am careful not to over-promise when not necessary). So if someone says “get to this when convenient,” and I say “okay, will it work to get to this by Friday?” sometimes that prompts the person to realize that he or she was not clear, and what they really meant was get to it whenever it is convenient *today.* They just meant I didn’t have to drop everything right this second. On the other hand, sometimes people say “oh no, really I just meant anytime before the end of the quarter,” and that’s also useful information. Plenty of times they just go ahead and say sure, Friday sounds good.

  110. CaliCali*

    I’ve seen some other proposal managers comment, so I’ll build and say deadlines are critical. My #1 job is to meet the deadline — ideally, you want your proposal to be on time and accurate (and most of the time it is), but it’s FAR better to get in a subpar proposal on time than an excellent proposal a minute too late — which is seriously the circumstances under which one can, and will, be rejected. I was also a journalism student, which meant that the importance of deadlines was part of my scholastic career as well (we had a daily paper, so every day involved deadlines — and we had to take our files to a printer who literally picked them up at a street stop).

    I think one point that’s very different from school vs. work is how, with work, usually there are dependencies. My job is to create the schedule for proposals, and with proposals being a team effort, one person’s work is dependent on the other’s getting completed. If I give you a deadline to have something done 20 days before the due date, it’s not for funsies and so I can sit back and drink mai tais, it’s so the person who needs your inputs has them in time to meet THEIR deadline, which all goes to meeting the final deadline. Now I build flexibility into the schedule because I know things happen, but I also need active communication to ensure that with those things happening, I can still meet the end goal. But really, when you shrug off the importance of deadlines, you’re not just procrastinating, you’re hampering your coworkers and endangering the reputation (and potential revenue) of the company.

  111. A. Non*

    I work with highschool age kids with volunteering, and I just had to muck around with our policies a bit, but the result is that it looks like this now:

    1) They have to sign up for and attend a training session. Just turning in paperwork doesn’t work, they have to physically be there for the training.
    2a) Once they complete the training, they’re invited to a calendar where they sign up for their volunteering dates.
    2b) If they don’t show up for dates they’ve chosen three times in a row without somehow letting me know (and all of my emails have multiple ways to contact me) even if it’s just ‘sorry can’t make it, something came up’, they get removed from the invite list and have to go back to step 1.
    3) I do letters of recommendation, letters of volunteering, references, forms, etc– I require five business days to do them. It’s not that they take that long, but stuff comes up, I might get sick, snow days, whatever. You never know. I’ve denied giving these out when the turnaround was ‘I need this today by 5PM’, but I’ve also done it for people when the reasoning was ‘I need this tomorrow and I completely forgot because of [personal/parental medical issue].’

    I try to be clear with them about why I’m asking them to do this in such a way, and I let anyone who uses me as a reference know that I’m going to be honest. I take notes when people volunteer– if you’re late without giving me a reason, it’s on your entry in my volunteer book! But if you’re really good, you take initiative and you’re a pleasure to have as a volunteer, I note that down, too, and I’ll tell anyone who asks just that. I was something of a procrastinator once upon a time myself, and I think it helps when I tell them so — I usually preface the ‘five business day’ thing with ‘I know you all have a lot of stuff going on in your life, and it’s easy to forget deadlines, but…’ and I find that a lot of them can relate.

  112. Duck Duck Møøse*

    I think the real importance is sticking to *your* deadlines, since they are the only ones you (usually) have any control or influence over.

    I work IT at the federal level, and bureaucracy is real. Every step can add a level of coordination, concurrence, stakeholder wrangling, and outright nonsense which can (and will) blow a project’s timeline out of the water. Do you want to be The Problem? If your part is hung up because of outside influences, then you need to bring it to the manager’s attention ASAP. Otherwise, build in a little wiggle room into your timeline in the first place, then stick to your deadline as best you can. It is OK to revise it if needed, and you will get better at time/effort estimates with experience.

    I would always turn my schoolwork in on time (or early) so it was more of an adjustment to being out in the real world and finding out that timelines DO slip, and it’s more the rule than the exception. That probably depends on the workplace culture.

  113. Anon Erin*

    I’m a writer/editor for a marketing company, and was an English and communications double major in college. Deadlines oddly don’t matter that much for me.

    It took awhile for me to realize this and get used to it. We use a program called Asana to track our tasks, which all have a set date to be completed by. We writers complete them, tag them for review, then they’re edited and approved for publishing.

    I realized over time that when I made sure to put the task up for review by the date on the task I hadn’t spent enough time on it. I realized that my company – without coming out and saying it to me – would prefer me to spend more time on articles to make sure they’re correct and need as little editing as possible. Sometimes my editors even say right in the task something like, “This isn’t really due on this date, just getting it on your radar.”

    Of course, sometimes things are a higher priority than others – as when we’re writing for a client, or writing about an event, we need to make sure the piece is published prior to the event actual happening.

    Personal opinion on your situation – I’d go easier on the freshmen, but stick to your guns for the rest.

  114. Academic Librarian*

    It’s internal vs. external here. Internal deadlines are extremely flexible, and you have to blow a lot of these before there are consequences. Internal-ish deadlines (like something imposed by university administration) can be flexible if you ask, but you burn a lot of political capital if it’s more than a rare occasion. External deadlines, like for grants or public-facing programs, really don’t have flexibility unless it’s some kind of emergency situation, and missing them would have visible consequences.

    1. Academic Librarian*

      Oh…I also wanted to add that the universities I’ve attended as a student had drastically different approaches to deadlines, which makes me think that it’s highly specific to a university’s culture. I went to an elite private university for one of my grad degrees, and NO ONE turned papers in on time. It was assumed that you would take as much time as you needed to turn in an A paper. I knew other students who had been procrastinating for over a year on seminar papers. I turned my papers in on time, and to be honest, I don’t think it did me any favors.

      I then went to library school, a much less rigorous program in general, except the deadlines were pretty strict. In undergrad it was mainly up to the professor’s discretion.

  115. js*

    In my line of work (event marketing) deadlines can slide or be flexible sometimes but are other times 100% rigid. Sometimes this depends on the assignment, sometimes it depends on the person doing the assigning. Knowing which is which is part of experience in the field and use of good communications with you co-workers/clients/supervisors. For the most part though, deadlines should be set with the expectation of hitting them. LW, I do not think you are too rigid at all. I think the deadlines should absolutely be enforced for people who make no attempt to communicate. There are no excuses for college students, not even first year ones. I was expected to turn things in on time in high school. If they haven’t learned it already, they need to start immediately. It is not the type of thing you can learn by easing people into it. I think that the professors who allow the excuses and lateness are doing the students a great disservice.

    1. js*

      I will also add, If my boss (or her bosses) say they need something by a certain time specifically- like “I need this by 2PM.” or “I need this by COB” or “Final report needs to be emailed to me before 9AM” – that is almost ALWAYS a hard deadline and being an hour late will matter because, as Alison noted, they probably need to do something with my work, like maybe they got called in to meet with the CEO or something has to be emailed or reviewed by a certain time. I sometimes also give people timed deadlines, because that’s how fast we’re moving. If something comes up, I might need copy by noon, a test of the email by 2 and the list by 3 so that we can send it by 4.

  116. kittymommy*

    In government and like many others, it depends. Some are set deadlines (due to a vote needed, established dates by the state, our deadlines we’re bound to by law) others are more flexible. A lot had to do with where in the process is the matter.

    I am astonished that people could turn in papers late. I could never do that in college or grad school.

  117. Critter*

    I work in administration for a school district, and most deadlines are pretty rigid, but here’s the difference between grades and work. When it’s grades, it’s just you. Your grade. If you’re willing to accept the consequences of something being late, it affects you more than it affects a group. When it’s work, you’re often working with departments and your work affects other people’s work much more. My deadlines are important because they become other people’s deadlines.

    I also think that other professor should leave you be. You’re both allowed to run your courses they way you like, right?

  118. Gene*

    I work in environmental regulation and deadlines are very important. Our program here only has two situations where a fine is mandatory, one is a situation called Significant Non Compliance, is specifically defined in Federal law and seldom comes into play.

    The other is late reports. The usual deadline is midnight, last day of the month; either email or postmark. One minute after that and the company gets a Notice of Violation and a fine. The fine is increased every day. If you have a late report, and have another late report within the next year, the fine for that one is doubled. And if it becomes a habit, I can increase the fine up to $10,000/day. Don’t pay the fine and I can, with the wave of a pen, shut down your business.

    Same thing with our reports to the State and USEPA, one minute past deadline and we get fined.

    All that said, I’m am a terrible procrastinator. It’s something I’m working on. Right now, I should be doing some data entry instead of writing this. :-)

    1. Poop Engineer*

      I’m in the same field, but on the state level. (I wish I could say that SNC never comes into play for us, but I digress.) I will say that we work with permittees to an extent when it comes to certain deadlines; it depends on their history with us. On the other hand, some deadlines are absolutely set in stone (and even for those that aren’t, we have the power to levy some seriously stiff penalties, as you mentioned), so it’s best to assume that every deadline is very important.

      Internally, it’s pretty important to get a certain number of permits written and inspections done by the end of each fiscal year, or we get in trouble with EPA (who provides a significant chunk of our funding). We also have to score grant applications and review and approve engineering plans and reports in a timely manner so that project timelines don’t get too delayed. There are also a lot of hard deadlines when it comes to the public (responding to public comments, FOIL requests, and the like). We can give ourselves extensions on certain things, but it doesn’t make us look great, so we try to avoid that when possible.

      It’s definitely a deadline-heavy field, as I imagine most highly regulated fields are.

  119. Once a Procrastinator*

    I work in the medical field but I do write articles, chapters, etc. that have to be submitted by a deadline. Most of the publications are pretty flexible about giving extra time if I give them plenty of warning that I’m running behind but I almost always submit on time (not intended as a brag…please read on).

    I am a conscientious person but my inner procrastinator also has a very strong voice. I am very happy that my professors were strict with deadlines so that I was forced to get my act together.

    For my two cents, I’d say be strict upfront about your expectations but still allow late-submissions…with penalties attached (say 20% for an extra day or two). It’s easy to argue that students should just manage their time better but here’s the other side of the coin: I’m a perfectionist and tended to leave a lot of the writing until the last minute because I wanted to research every corner of the library/web. Forcing myself to actually put pen to page was tough because it never felt like the research was quite done (it never does). There was one time that I had to accept a late penalty because I misunderstood one of the requirements. Had my professor given me a zero, I probably wouldn’t be in my profession right now (which I think is a pretty big price to pay for one late essay).

  120. IT support in academe*

    I work in an IT support area. There are very few hard and fast deadlines. A lot of the work is “do it when it comes in.” Much of the rest is “as soon as you can get to it” but it doesn’t have a deadline.

    When there are deadlines, they are usually along the lines of “X needs to be working for Person by Friday so they can complete Y task by THEIR deadline”. Or else it’s “support for Z software ends on this date, so be sure to renew/change to something new by then.”

    Internal projects – in our shop – nearly always have “target dates” that are flexible.

    I find this actually makes work prioritization difficult. I have to do a lot of deciding what to work on without a lot of external guidance in the way of deadlines.

  121. phil*

    I used to be in a business where deadlines really matter-live TV. They really, really, really matter. If the package-that’s what a prerecorded story is called-isn’t ready there is hell to pay. Forget being fired, there’s a good chance you won’t work in the business ever again.
    And if you yourself are late you absolutely won’t work again. News like that travels fast.

  122. Cookie*

    It really depends. I’m in my second position in the public sector and both have been in offices that are under-funded and with employees who have higher workloads than they can reasonably handle. Everyone knows you won’t make all your deadlines, and that’s ok. It’s a matter of triage and completely the deadlines for projects of large consequence first and if the smaller projects slip past the deadline, everyone understands and it’s not a big deal so long as the reason you went beyond goal is due to working on something that had a bigger impact.

  123. saby*

    I’m a librarian at a large research university. I see other academic librarians have commented upthread about deadlines in their roles, but I wanted to add a note about the students. We’re talking a lot about students being allowed to turn things in late with few consequences as a bad habit to get into in the work world, which is true. But this time of year, when it’s finals time (here in Canada anyway) we keep boxes of kleenex at the reference desk because there’s always, always a student having some kind of breakdown about missing a due date or their computer crashing when they hadn’t backed up their paper, or, or, or… You see people who have clearly pulled all-nighters trying to calculate whether if they hand in the paper on time as-is they’ll get a better grade than if they hand in a better product, a day late, and get the automatic 10% grade deduction for tardiness. Or if it would take longer to forge a death certificate for their grandmother than it would to finish the paper (seriously).

    So, here’s what I have to say:
    1) communicate your policy very clearly — what happens if they hand in the paper late, how far in advance they have to contact you about an extension, maybe examples of some reasons someone might ask for an extension
    2) as well as mentioning it in class, include it on the course syllabus and course website if you have one (makes it easy for people like me to help out a sobbing student who has six papers due in four days!)
    3) if possible, explain to the students why you’re choosing to do this. Students are more likely to respect policies if they understand what the purpose is.
    4) model desired behaviour by meeting your own deadlines!!! Tenured profs tend to be the WORST at deadlines which is very frustrating if you’re a student who is always expected to meet your own. If you say you’ll have graded their papers and returned them by a specific date, do it, or let them know in advance if you can’t.

    I had one class as an undergrad where the prof allowed us to set our own deadlines, we just had to let her know in the first few weeks of class when we would be handing in each of our assignments and she approved. That was very helpful for me because I put those deadlines on weeks where I didn’t have other papers due and thus avoided the six-papers-in-four-days phenomenon that semester. I don’t know if that sort of thing would work for you — it was a women’s studies course and the prof believed that the semestering system was a byproduct of the capitalist patriarchy!

  124. JayeRaye*

    I work for a bank. Depending on what comes across my desk on any given day, penalties for missing deadlines can include the following:Corrective action, termination, fines (for both the individual and the company), and jail time.
    Deadlines are important. Thanks for sticking to them.

  125. Bess*

    When I was teaching intro classes at a university, I penalized late work in what I hope was a fair way, and after a certain date didn’t allow it at all. Nearly everyone was able to keep up with this.

    The few students who had regular issues didn’t really make good use of any extensions I did grant. I definitely believe in grace policies when it makes sense for the student, because it’s ultimately about their learning, but more often than not it didn’t help much–they’d turn in rushed or even half-finished work. The one student I granted an incomplete never finished the coursework at all and had a fit when their “I” turned to an “F”.

    I did have one or two excellent students fall behind once or twice, and they made good use of extensions. But this was really rare. In general I sympathize with students who get overwhelmed with coursework, but I didn’t feel I was teaching them good life skills by allowing constant late work, and in intro classes, that’s pretty crucial for them to start ingesting.

  126. HungryBeforeLunch*

    When I was working for an engineering firm, a late submission could result in fines or other financial penalties from the client (often government).

    And, if first year university or college students are starting off thinking deadlines don’t matter when at an institution where they are paying to attend, there’s a problem. My kid in highs school stresses a lot about deadl