How to Cope With a Waffler Employee

During the 2012 presidential election, the term “waffler” was used by both Republicans and Democrats to describe the sometimes vague or unresponsive answers that opposing presidential candidates gave to direct questions. While this behavior is usually expected during an election campaign, it can become a real problem when you have to cope with a waffler in the workplace. There are effective tactics you can use when approaching an employee about the issue.

Staying on Track

    Urge the waffling employee to set realistic time frames and goals for projects. Since she wants to please everyone, she often refuses to commit to taking a project in a certain direction or avoids saying how long it should take to complete. Watch for signs that the waffler is falling behind or getting off track with the project. Wafflers often change their minds about how they want to handle a task, especially when they receive input from other people. Talk to the other employees working on the project and inform them of the plan and direction of the project. They can then help to keep the project on track.

Keep Questioning

    Wait for the response when you ask the waffler a question. It is easy to become impatient with a waffler when she does not want to give you a direct answer. Repeat the question and then stay silent until she provides you with an answer. This keeps her from stalling out on giving you a direct answer. Reword the question if you are not satisfied with the answer. Sometimes providing less information in a question can help you get a better response. As an example, instead of asking if your waffling employees agrees with you on the time frame for the project and the deadline, first ask if she agrees with you on how long the project should take, then after you get a response, ask if she can meet the deadline that has already been set.

Write It Down

    Confirm the contents of any discussion that you had with the waffler in writing. Send her an email or memo that summarizes the information she gave you. Note any deadlines or projects that she committed to and when she stated she would finish. This makes it harder for your employee not to commit to the plan once it is underway.

Encourage Risk Taking

    Encourage the waffler to take a risk. Waffling employees often avoid making decisions because they're afraid they may make a mistake that will garner negative attention from their colleagues. Give the employee the facts and ask her to outline any concerns she has. Provide reassurance that making mistakes is a natural and understandable part of the creative process. Praise her when the project is complete, even if everything did not go according to plan. This helps build the waffler’s self-esteem and can give her the confidence to take more responsibility on the next project.

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