How To Drive Home Your Message To Employees Through Repetition

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Tell me if this situation sounds familiar.

You ask your significant other to pick something up at the store for you, something key to the dinner party you’re throwing later that night. Let’s say it’s the pot roast, because dinner party guests love pot roasts. You ask once and two days later, an hour short of the party, you discover there is no pot roast in the house. Rage fills you.

We’ve all been there, whether in work or at home. Our lives are busy, filled with noise and distracting in the extreme. Someone telling you a single time to complete a task can get lost in the shuffle, even if that task happens to be critical. That can be incredibly frustrating when you come to the deadline and realize the project isn’t done because your employee(s) forgot about it and you forgot to remind them.

The Harvard Business Journal has a clever way to fight that in the workplace, and it’s a method you can take home with you. It’s the simple art of repetition, and it comes highly recommended for managers the world over.

Basically, it requires you to sit down and give the instruction—preferably face-to-face or by phone—and then follow up with an e-mail. Or another phone call. And then follow that up with another one a few days later. Basically, all you’re doing is keeping the project out in front of an employee. Even if you’re just sending an e-mail every couple of days, that’s an effective way to remind someone of what you need done.

You can do this without seeming like you’re harassing your employees. One way to do that is to mix up the channels you’re using, so that someone simply isn’t tuning you out after four phone calls or ten e-mails. The other way is to phrase it in the same polite but firm way every time. Again, repetition is the key here, and the framing is up to you.

While it may take you a few extra minutes to keep the reminder train going, it can pay significant dividends. It also keeps the lines of communication open throughout a project, which is helpful.

How do you communicate with employees and ensure they keep their projects rolling? We’d like to hear from you.

Photo credit to ilco at

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