It’s official. Nagging is the secret to getting things done at work

Almost every day you need to get things done through other people, both in the workplace and outside of it.

This could include your colleagues, subordinates, business partners, vendors, nanny, housekeeper, children, spouse, friends, dry cleaner, real estate agent, broker and the list goes on.

It would be great if people just did what they were supposed to, so that you wouldn’t need to worry about all the things that need to get done. But that doesn’t happen to often.

What does happen, is that you need to keep communicating with all these people to get things done. This includes follow-ups, persuasion, motivation, threats, etc. Sometimes you probably feel like a nag and wonder if you are just wasting time and being a pain in the a**.

Well guess what? That might be one thing less for you to worry about.

According to research at HBS and Northwestern University (Tsedal B. Neeley, Paul M. Leonardi and Elizabeth M. Gerber), managers who are deliberately redundant as communicators move their work  forward more quickly and smoothly than those who are not. “We started to notice very quickly that some managers were sending the same message three or four times using different media,” Neeley says, citing an example of a manager speaking to an employee face-to-face, then sending her an e-mail and later a text message about the same thing.

Using this approach of communicating with people multiple times, to do the same thing, using different forms of communication, is especially useful when you do not have direct power/authority over the person (such as a supervisor/subordinate relationship). That is useful to know, given the flatter and more project based workplace of today.

“In our study the managers without power were much more strategic, much more thoughtful about greasing the wheel” to get buy-in and to reinforce the urgency of the previous communication, Neeley says. “Managers without authority enroll others to make sense of an issue together and go for a solution.”

This research is interesting and it certainly applicable to non-work situations as well. However, from a practical point of view, I think there are a few things to think about before bombarding your subordinates and spouse with SMSs :)

– You would need to vary the frequency of messages depending on the situation and person

– It would be a good idea to vary the content of messages as well. Sending the same message again and again (e.g. “What’s the status on XYZ”) will probably feel like nagging, even if you use different media. Some messages could contain a simple follow-up, others an important update or perhaps an encouraging word. Each one could help move things along and have the same end purpose/goal.

What do you think about these findings? Do you have any more tips and practical lessons/experiences to share? Are there any pitfalls to this approach to getting things done?

Written by: Amit Puri - Managing Consultant, Sandbox Advisors

Amit is an experienced career, business and HR professional. Previously, he has worked with organisations such as Bain & Company, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. Amit has advanced degrees/qualifications in Career Counselling, Organisational Psychology & HR, Occupational Psychometrics, Career/Life Coaching & Business.

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