How to Fix a Lack of Responsiveness for Internal Events

Q. My colleagues are driving me crazy. I am the event planner, among other things at my company, and I have had it with rude people. We do a number of events for customers and just as many internal events such as company meetings, community events and Holiday parties. Customer events are fine – it is the internal events that make me miserable. Everyone wants to have a good time, to have all the arrangements made for them, transportation taken care of and plenty of food and drink available. Why is it that they don’t get that I need them to RSVP? I have joked, sent snippy follow up emails, asked my manager for help and it still takes me way too many calls and emails to get my job done well. What is left to do?

A. If ever there was an important person to respond to, the person making arrangements for transportation to food and beverage would be the one! You are feeling the effect of email overload, which doesn’t excuse anyone’s behavior, but may help in taking a deep breath and figuring out how to solve this problem.

Many people looking for information, or confirmation from colleagues, complain about a lack of responsiveness; a lack of urgency. There are a number of ways to make it easier for people to respond to emails.

Subject Line: Action required by (and add the deadline). Most people skim email. They don’t read the details and may assume they know what the email is about, and never get to the point about asking them to respond.
RSVP: Rather than asking people to RSVP, send a meeting maker to invitees. People can accept, decline or think about it in one easy key stroke – and you can get a participant count more easily. All of the information is in the invitation, so no one has to ask you for reminders, directions, times or other details they should already be responsible to have.
Your organization may need to discuss what the standards are for responding to internal colleagues. You will need support from your manager to make sure your colleagues know what the expectation is for a timely response to your requests.
You and your manager need to discuss whether tough love has a place in the organization. How many times do you need to send out the same email or reminder? How many days late can a response be? What is a reasonable number of hours or days to keep someone waiting before you respond? At some point, if people don’t confirm they need a ride by a certain date, they don’t get a ride. That doesn’t mean your event isn’t still a success, it means next time they’ll respond in a timely fashion, or get resourceful enough to get to the event on their own.
You have done your part. You behaved professionally. You reminded people, you joked to encourage their actions, you looked to management for support. Now it is time to make it easy for people to respond, and remind a few vocal colleagues that time is up, so get their buddies to reply, or miss the fun.
Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners

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