How to Deal When a Co-Worker Breaks a Promise

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Did you ever work with someone who constantly promised things, but never seems to come through? Broken promises on a personal level is one thing but when co-workers break promises in the office, it can damage your company and your bottom line, as well as impact your own career.

So how do you deal with people who break promises to you on work projects and other career related issues–whether it be promises to make a connection for you or promises to help you on a presentation. In these situations you can’t afford to let these broken promises go unaddressed. But there is a right way to deal with people who break promises.

First, when you are asking for a favor be very specific in what you are expecting from the other person. This way there will be no misunderstanding as to what you expect–and also no excuses of not understanding on their end.

And if someone does let you down, hold your accusations. Listen first to the explanation. They might have had to deal with other projects with higher priority. So let the person explain. “Starting out with speaking about how you feel rather than angrily accusing them of neglecting your project may help them have a less defensive response,” advises career specialist Linda Kuriloff. “Follow this format: ‘I feel…I see…I think…I would like.’ Example: ‘I feel hurt. I see you continuing in your daily activities without making time to help me with the project you said you’d help me with. I think you over-committed yourself and are now avoiding me. I would like us to communicate on this subject.’ If you start with speaking about how you feel rather than beginning with an accusation, you’ll have a better chance resolving the issue.”

Don’t let your feelings of frustration and disappointment fester. Think about your approach before dealing with the person who let you down.  “It’s important to deal with whatever hostile feelings have arisen inside yourself as a result before approaching the promise-breaker. Consider the fact that anyone (even you) can be impulsive and speak before thinking through something we’ve committed to. That can quell the emotions and set you up for a more productive confrontation than when you’re out-of-control angry. Let your coworker know how you feel without accusing them of anything,” says Kuriloff.

Regardless of the excuse, let the person know the consequences of their failure to live up to their promise. Then see what the person’s actions will be after the incident. “After confronting your co-worker with this issue, allow a day or two to assess his/her response while working on an alternate plan that doesn’t involve her. If it becomes obvious that the person has no intention of following through, launch your backup plan. If a person isn’t at the place in their life to be compelled to act on their word because they gave it, chances are that won’t change in this short exchange; however, you will have done your part to help them grow into a person of greater character. Maybe in the future they’ll remember what you pointed out, be grateful for the patience you showed, and change it,” says Kuriloff.

However, when someone does come through on a promises, say “thank you.” Let the person know you appreciate their help and input. Always try to enlighten the negative and praise the positive.