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How to do a follow up without being a pest at work

Career Tips

Early on in my career I was often caught between wanting to close a project that needed other people’s input and pushing them to give it the attention it needed.

In a lot of cases, especially when dealing with colleagues who were senior in rank to me, following up was often a nerve-wracking exercise as I had the tendency to think their time was more important than mine, and therefore, constantly seeing reminders in their inbox would not be perceived positively.

I have heard many women expressing how difficult it can be to strike a balance between nagging for information, input, feedback while at the same time keeping it professional as this also happens when we are in a new work environment.


In many cases, to the recipient of your e-mail, asking for something is just one more item on their list of things to do that they have no control over, regardless of how important or imperative it is to you.

It is important, right off the bat when making the first request to explain your timelines and why you would like to receive a response within the period of time you have requested. If you have a deadline, be upfront about it. If the deadline is a bit of a while away, ensure that you also state that you will check in closer to the due date in case you have not received a response.

Read the recipient

It is important to evaluate the person you are dealing with. Do they not have a problem being bombarded every time you see them with reminders?

Or do they get miffed when you meet them over the water cooler and mention it? Or even better, do they start off by apologising when they see you about knowing that they still owe you some information? This will give you clues on the way in which you should follow up without putting off the other person.

Try different methods

Don’t always follow up on e-mail. Ensure you also do this via phone or in person where possible. Face-to-face communication tends to be more flexible and less formal and can get you a clearer idea on when to expect a response or on how overwhelmed the other party is.

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