How to deal with an unressponsive coworkerSusan is preparing a report for her boss.  In order to do it, she needs to get some information from Fred, who works in a different department.  She groans inwardly.  This is going to take forever, she thinks to herself.  Fred, the unresponsive coworker, never responds to her emails or her phone messages.  Even when she is actually able to connect with him, he is notoriously slow in delivering.  It’s like he just doesn’t care.  Most of the time, she just gives up and does it herself.

Sadly, scenarios like this play out daily in businesses everywhere.  It’s why internal customer service has become such a hot topic over the last few years.  It’s frustrating when you feel you can’t rely on your coworkers to do their part.  What do you do?

The best approach is to start with the assumption that your coworker actually does care about doing a good job.  Chances are that he (she), like you, is wrestling with a heavy workload and a number of competing priorities.  (It is possible, of course, that he actually doesn’t care, but that assumption serves no purpose other than to make you angry).  Try these four steps:

 1.  Give Your Unresponsive Coworker A Reason To Be Responsive

Make sure that your coworker understands why it is important.  So, for example, instead of just saying, “Can you send me the information on XYZ?”, say something like “We have a huge presentation coming up with an exciting new client, and one of the critical pieces is XYZ.  Could you send me the information on it?”

2.  Empathize

Acknowledging how busy he is, e.g., “I know how crazy busy you are…”  Empathy is a powerful relationship builder.

3.  Help him help you

Reiterate the importance, and ask if there is anything that you can do to help him expedite the process.  E.g., “This is going to make a big difference.  If there’s anything I can do to help get it here in the next day or two, please let me know.”

4.  Express appreciation and acknowledge the effort

Don’t just say “thank you.”  Make it a little more personal with something like, “Thanks in advance Bob, I really appreciate your help on this!”

Using this approach accomplishes two things.  The first is that it will usually result in speeding things up.  The second is that it helps create a respectful bond that will help you work better together in the future.

Good luck!


“The best way to ensure great customer service is to become a great customer”


Shaun Belding is a customer service expert and keynote speaker on customer service, leadership and positive workplaces.  To check his availability for your next event, contact

2 Responses

  1. I absolutely enjoy reading your articles. They seem to touch on so many relevant topics for the daily operations of not only a call centre, but also the general office enviroment. Thank you for extremly helpfut tips.

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