Direct Report Doesn’t Want to Do Their Job? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I just read your article entitled 7 Tips for Letting Go as a Manager on Blanchard LeaderChat.

 I have a very simple question, but it’s one I have been struggling with: How do you delegate to someone who doesn’t want to do their job—and doesn’t really care if it gets done?

 We have no accountability in our office. One associate knows this and uses it to her advantage. She literally will not do anything she doesn’t want to do, no matter how many times I ask about a project.

 Our CEO does not like confrontation unless it’s about him confronting a manager, like me, about a project.


Can’t Delegate


Dear Can’t Delegate,

I am so glad that you are reading LeaderChat! That blog was actually written by my colleague, coaching solutions partner Terry Watkins, so I asked her to weigh in on this response.

Terry says:

“It’s important to understand what is causing the associate to be disengaged. Your approach is going to be different based on your professional connection to the associate. Are you her manager, or are you a peer? As her manager, you may be more direct and firm, and you may incorporate an accountability measure. As a peer, you would try to be more persuasive and collaborative.

Delegation begins with planning. Follow these steps in order:

  1. Identify the right person for the task.
  2. Communicate the purpose and details of the task.
  3. Establish a reasonable timeline with agreed-upon milestones and checkpoints.
  4. Schedule times for monitoring progress to give feedback and accountability.

If you believe this associate is the right person for the project, this should set you up for success. If she is not meeting checkpoint deadlines, you and she need to have a heart-to-heart conversation. Be crystal clear on the need for and expectations of the project and why she is the best person to complete it. Ask her for her thoughts on the project, using open-ended questions or statements such as: What is getting in your way? Is there something you need that you aren’t getting? or Help me understand what is going on with you.

You want to get to the heart of the matter with the associate so that you really understand the motivation for her behavior. Don’t rush the conversation—recognize that it may take some time for her to open up. Create a safe environment by showing empathy, asking open-ended questions, and practicing active listening to show you care. Identify ways you can support her in completing the project, including regular one-on-one meetings that will allow you to monitor progress. If the associate continues to resist, a formal conversation about a performance improvement plan or transitioning to another role may be necessary.”

This is Madeleine again. Terry’s advice is sound—and it describes management, not confrontation.

How on earth does anything ever get done if there is no accountability? How does your CEO hold you accountable? Can you use his methods?

Do your best to actually manage the situation and see what happens. If the associate still refuses to do the job with all of the support and direction you are offering, she needs to go. Or if you get no support for hiring employees who actually want to work, maybe you need to go.

Good luck to you!

Love, Madeleine (and Terry!)

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard Headshot 10-21-17

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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