How to Address Missing Parts of a Subordinate’s Work / Deliverable

The responsibility of assessing whether certain requirements are met at work or school brings with it communication challenges.

In a typical professional realm, requirements for deliverables of varying kinds are a staple. You’ll come across the communicative dynamics of setting requirements, ensuring they’re communicated clearly, and checking whether the expected output satisfies those requirements.

The communicative elements surrounding the satisfaction of every requirement are similar notwithstanding the industry you find yourself holding a leadership position in.

The fulfillment of the requirements which riddle professional work are obviously susceptible to human error. You can masterfully gather and communicate requirements in precise fashion while still experiencing a member of your team miss something in the deliverable(s) they present.

At the point of recognizing that certain requirements are unmet in the work that others present, you’ll inevitably need to address those missing elements. The option of simply letting those unmet responsibilities go is seldom an option.

This need to address missing work can give rise to anxieties about how to do it. You may not have a trustworthy template on how to address missing parts in others’ work, especially if you’re a young, inexperienced leader / manager.

This article is intended to provide pointers on effectively addressing missing parts in others’ work outputs.

The two primary goals in your interactions with those who’ve failed to complete a deliverable in full should be:

  1. To quickly get the missing requirements fulfilled / completed with a high degree of quality
  2. Not demotivate or negatively influence the emotions those you interact with in the long term


Muffling Surprise With Positive Assumptions

Surprise is a factor which exacerbates the pain of having our mistakes discovered by someone other than ourselves. The mistakes we know about are the ones we can come up with excuses for. We have time to conjure ways to soften the blow of our mistakes when we know about them before anyone else. That process of perception control can take the form of explaining why the mistake isn’t as damaging as it may seem and that it can be easily fixed in a couple of hours.

You’ll find yourself in a position of surprising the ones who miss key aspects of their assigned work. They’re likely not going to know that they’ve missed a part until you point it out to them.

In knowing that, your job should be to soften the painful surprise as much as you can. Akin to the ones who know about their mistakes attempting to soften them, try to do the same for the person you’re surprising.

An effective way to do that seems to point out a mistake in a fashion which assumes deliberate intention behind the missing pieces.

Assuming deliberate intention to the missed requirements entails making it seem that you perceive the missing pieces to have happened on purpose. In essence, you communicate that you trust your subordinate’s judgment enough to think that they’ve left out pieces of their work purposefully (due to having some sort of insight).

Perhaps they discovered that portion of the assignment to be redundant or unneeded. Making your default response to missing requirements to be an assumption of deliberate intention serves to optimally set the table for a discussion about why those requirements are missing.


Asking Questions With Positive Assumptions Infused

Typically, you’d communicate these positive assumptions about an individual’s missing work in the form of questions. Doing so is a good way to both; point out their mistake of missing a certain section or part of their assigned work, as well as to express that you’re not negatively affected by it. In turn, they’ll realize that yes, you discovered a missing piece, but that you’re not upset by it.

They’d then be likelier to bravely converse about what happened from their respective side of the issue. They wouldn’t feel to be in trouble for missing a part, and you’d be able to negotiate potential solutions for their missing work sooner; without any barriers that their anxieties over the situation erect.

Below are two examples of questions addressing a missing portion of someone’s work with positive assumptions infused into them:

“Did you want to wait to get our input prior to completing the concluding suggestion at the end of your report?” 

“Was it not worth performing the cost analysis for the third case study?” 

A perk that asking questions infused with positive intentions has is the tendency to educate in a non confrontational manner. If the people you’re speaking with authentically forgot about a specified deliverable, they’d be able to piggyback on your question without feeling as if they’d been called out.

They’d be able to say, “I’m sorry, I totally forgot about that,” while feeling limited pressure.


Ensure There Is a Clear Understanding of What Work Is Outstanding, but Don’t Harp On It

While planning the completion of the parts that were not done, it’s in your best interest to be pragmatic and uneventful in your approach. If the individuals around you possess adequate knowledge and experience in the matters at hand, they likely know very well what needs to be completed and how it should be done.

Once you notice an individual realizes themselves to have missed a part of their work, your only two tasks are:

  1. Ensure they know the specifications for the outstanding work in detail
  2. Offer a helping hand (and keep that channel open) if they’re having difficulty overcoming obstacles in fulfilling those requirements

Each case will be different. Some of the people who miss specified parts in their work outputs will genuinely be confused as to what they should do for the missing piece of their work. Others, will instantly recognize themselves to have missed that section of their work and will regretfully tell you that they’ll complete it as soon as possible.

Gauge the level of confusion in the people you’re interacting with by closely watching their initial reactions to the missing portions of their work.

From there, you’ll estimate the time needed to go over the specifications of outstanding work.

Be sure to always communicate that there is support for the individual completing the missing portion of their work if they find difficulty in doing so. Relieve the stigma of asking for help by being nonchalant about your offering of it. Make seeking help seem normal, and offer someone a helping hand the same as you would offer them a piece of your candy bar.

Once you are affirmed by this individual’s ability to complete the missing piece of their work, set a hard deadline, and move on to other subjects.

Don’t harp on the missing piece, and don’t release your emotions about it. Timelines may have to be moved and certain dependencies may have to wait. Understand that your reactions, as a leader in your domain, have a direct effect on the quality of the work being put out by your subordinates.

Allow those who make genuine mistakes to save face. A gentle, calm, course of action in the face of missing specifications seems to be best at ensuring a successful reattempt at that work.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.