You’re working on a huge project and everything is running smoothly, when suddenly something goes wrong. With a hard deadline looming, it might feel stressful or embarrassing to ask for an extension. And if you worry that asking for more time on a deadline might make your manager think less of you, you’re not alone. According to the Harvard Business Review, deadlines are one of the biggest sources of stress in the workplace, even though often, they don’t have to be. Before you start to spiral, talk with your manager and explain the situation. Plenty of deadlines, of course, can’t (and shouldn’t) be moved, but your manager may be able to get you additional help in order to meet them.
If you’re not sure where to start, don’t sweat. Check out these three easy ways to navigate extension requests and overcome your deadline dread.
Come prepared, and bring a solution
Approach your manager with a plan to fix the situation, Alan Benson, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota recommends to Thrive. “Whenever you’re bringing up a problem to a boss, get in the habit of also bringing a solution,” Benson says. “If you’re missing a deadline, show that you understand why the deadline is in place and how you’ll rectify that situation.” One way to do this, Benson says, is to explain how you’ll help your team catch up from any delays.
Fix the problem for future projects
Explaining why you missed your deadline and acknowledging and recognizing the context in which the delays occurred is critical, Benson says. This shows your manager that you’ve identified the issue, and learned from it. “For example,” Benson says, “if your missed deadline was caused by delays from a third-party supplier, explain how you’ll work on coordinating with the supplier in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Even the most well-oiled teams occasionally fall victim to delays caused by unexpected circumstances. Instead of stressing over things you can’t control, Benson recommends addressing the issue, then looking towards the future. “The thought of confronting your team, your client, or your boss about missed deadlines can be as stressful as trying to catch up,” he explains. “In these situations, it’s helpful and liberating to have a plan: Be candid in your assessment, and come with solutions to mitigate the costs of the delay now and in the future.”
Be clear about whether a deadline is flexible from the start
It’s important to be as specific as possible when you’re dealing with the urgency of an upcoming deadline. According to the Harvard Business Review, employees who feel less secure about their jobs are more likely to avoid asking for an extension when they’re dealing with deadline ambiguity. If you’re unclear about how you’ll manage your workload, it’s best to directly ask your manager about whether or not a task is high-, medium-, or low-priority. If it’s low-priority, then you’ll know that the deadline can more likely be pushed if necessary. That can help you more effectively manage your time, and can alleviate your stress by allowing you to prioritize more time-sensitive tasks.
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