Can You Make Other People Productive?

So much of what we all do each day relies on other peoples’ work ethics. We have ten assignments to do, but five of them are on our “Waiting For” list. Sometimes it’s nice to know that we can’t work on an assignment until the person who has it is done with it, but other times, you’d really appreciate it if your coworker would get a move on!

Can you do anything about it when someone isn’t as productive as you’d like them to be? Can you make someone be more productive? No, you can’t make them more productive. But you can try a few techniques to egg them on.


The first technique is for you to learn patience. Or extra patience, if you feel you have some already—you can never have enough. You won’t be able to get people to do what you want when you aren’t in control of yourself. Practicing patience shows you that your desired outcome (increased output from your coworker) will happen, but it will be alright if it’s not on your exact time schedule. If you can practice patience in front of your coworker, they will be able to understand where you are coming from without immediately growing defensive. Remember, you need someone to do something for you, so creating animosity or even just anxiety between you two will actually decrease the likelihood of you reaching that desired outcome.

Encouragement, Not Discouragement

Next, encourage your coworker. You can compliment them, ease their mind about the time crunch or the requirements, etc. When you use discouraging phrases or looks, you only add to the negative pressure your coworker feels. Encouraging them can help clear their mind of any extraneous information impeding their efforts on the task. It can also make them feel that you are on their side, further encouraging them to finish up.


If your patience is wearing thin and you are out of encouraging words, you may need to provide some motivation. Remind them what might happen if you don’t complete the task on time. You can do this cautiously without discouraging them; this motivation could provide some positive pressure to hurry them up. You can also motivate them by telling them about the satisfaction they will feel once they finish the task.

You may need to offer them a reward if your deadline is looming and they aren’t getting the message. Offer to take them to lunch or buy them a drink if they will complete the task in the next thirty minutes. Tell them they can be King of the Office if that is a sufficient reward (for some that would be a dream come true!). Again, you are trying to get your coworker to do something for you, so any positive reinforcement will do more good than harm.

Remember, you really can’t control another person or make them more productive. But you can keep your cool and try these tactics to try to make a good situation out of a frustrating one. Do you have any other recommendations for encouraging coworkers?

Image by renjith krishnan via

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