3 ways to work with someone who won’t respond to your messages

You might be wondering how to keep the ball rolling so you don’t fall behind. Here are three steps that can get the job done.

You know when you’re working on a huge assignment with a coworker, and while they mean well, they fail to respond to your emails, Slack messages, or calls on time? You might be wondering how to keep the ball rolling so you don’t fall behind — and going through these “emotional stages of waiting for someone to respond to your email,” as humorously detailed by Levo.

Here are three ways to keep things moving.

Leave the ball in their court — but just temporarily

Give them a window of time before moving on.

Ashley Cobert, a PR professional, writes in The Muse that you should “give assignments deadlines.”

“To prevent your email or voicemail from being put in the pile of ‘whenever I get to it,’ ask specific questions or give action items, and provide a timeline for when you’d prefer a response,” she writes. “With certain projects and clients, I’ve found success with stating, ‘Please provide feedback by Friday. At that time, I will be updating and sending this document to the rest of the team for review.’ It’s a nice way to imply, ‘If you don’t get to it in time, you’ve lost your say in the matter.'”

Do half of the work for them

Alison Green, author of the Ask a Manager blog, writes on Quick Base that you should “make it easy for the person to give you a quick answer.”

“Some people put off responding to requests because it looks time-consuming and they figure they’ll do it later (and then often just never come back to it). You can sometimes head this off by making it really easy for them to give you a quick response,” she writes. “For example, try to ask yes/no questions, so the person can respond quickly. (One thing that will help with that is giving a quick proposal and ‘does that sounds okay to you?’ rather than an open-ended ‘what should we do about X?’) And keep emails short so the person doesn’t have to wade through dense paragraphs.”

Talk to them in person

You could always approach them about it.

Etiquette expert Peggy Post, author and a director of The Emily Post Institute, writes in Good Housekeeping about what to do when a colleague repeatedly doesn’t respond to your emails asking for information, which holds up assignments and is making you think it’s hurting your reputation.

She lists three options — taking the situation to her boss, confronting her, or escalating it to her boss/working around her, or creating a personal “electronic reminder system” letting you know “when your email requests haven’t been answered.”

Post writes that the second option is the right choice.

“It’s time to pay a visit to the woman — in person (not by email). Calmly explain your need for the information and the importance of the time frame. But keep an open mind and remain friendly. There may be many reasons why she isn’t responding: She could be overworked or she may not see your request as a priority assignment. Once you’ve amicably worked out the best way to get the information — she may tell you to ask someone more appropriate — the right person should accommodate you. If not, go up the ladder to her supervisor,” she writes.

Jane Burnett|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.