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The Pschology of Procrastination in the Workplace

Alma Fuller

If you are a workplace manager, you'll know how hard it can be to manage a worker who tends to procrastinate. In order to supervise them effectively it can be useful to have an idea of the underlying psychology of a procrastinator.

The siren call of desirable distraction

Procrastinators tend to have low levels of self-regulation so they often struggle to avoid the temptation for desirable distraction. In terms of the workplace this can mean workers who find it tempting to switch onto social media rather than working on necessary projects.

How to help: Externalise self regulation by using tools such allowing a 5 minute break every hour, and disabling distracting apps or social media sites. Many web tools exist to lock out certain sites or send screen prompts to take a break.

Desire for perfect information

Some procrastinators, particularly those that work in rapidly changing environments, can struggle with the fact that they may often face changing priorities. As such they become hamstrung and decide not to work on any project until they have a perfect set of information on their priorities. Unfortunately as this only happens as the deadline closes they become known as a procrastinator.

How to help: Encourage the procrastinator to come to you with queries about their priorities. Allow them to keep an external list of priorities and encourage them to keep working on their high priority projects, as these will often be required at some point even if the exact deadline changes.

Perfectionism to a fault

Some procrastinators struggle to complete tasks until they are at a high enough standard. Unfortunately for people with these high standard of perfectionism, this is a self-defeating mechanism as failing to submit a sub perfect piece of work is a less desirable than submitting a perfect piece of work much later.

How to help: Allow your worker to have a quality assurance role, where they use quality rubrics. This can give them an explicit idea of the quality standards to aim for.

Allow them to fail

In some cases procrastinators have not experienced much consequence of their procrastination through the education system or in previous workplaces.

How to help: Give them an honest poor performance assessment to give them the explicit feedback that this behaviour is not acceptable.

If your worker continues to struggle with procrastination it may be appropriate to direct them to some psychological counselling through resources like Associated Psychology Services which can help them deal with any underlying issues, which are affecting their ability to work consistently.


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About Me
Risk management services

Risk management is my field of expertise. People think it's boring but I actually think it's massively interesting. Analysing the risks of different industries takes time and requires you to dig far beneath the surfaces of an organisation's day-to-day activities, into the underlying issues that they work in and advise on. Sometimes the simplest, most immediate businesses, have long term risks that they have never considered. I help people stay in business and stay sustainable. I am constantly working on educating myself to stay relevant as a risk management consultant and keep abreast of changes and developments in the industry.