How to Gracefully Miss a Deadline

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I am extremely lucky. I have one of the coolest bosses ever. She’s easy to get along with, helpful, open to listening…did I mention easy to get along with? She’s great, which I thoroughly appreciate because I’ve had a boss who’s not easy to get along with, and it can turn a halfway decent job into eight or so hours of hell every day. Miss a deadline with such a boss at your head, and those eight hours of hell may follow you on the train all the way home.


But there are ways to deal that don’t involve updating your resume or concocting a long, drawn-out plot to get fired so you can collect unemployment. Trust me. This is not the way to go. The people at the unemployment office are usually even more wretched than the worst boss, and stingy too! You’d think it was their money they were doling out instead of your own. But that’s a tirade for another day.


Deadlines are deadlines for a reason. They’re important and missing one without giving due notice can set of a chain reaction of badness. This can be mitigated with a little pre-meltdown planning, though. This is especially true when your deadlines are linked, as so many are, to a production cycle where your piece is connected to several other pieces that make up a whole product. I’m not guaranteeing that these little tips will work for every boss. They worked for me though, and should bring you some relief. If not, you can always continue to perfect your Jedi mind trick ability.



  1. When you know you’re going to miss an upcoming deadline, let someone know immediately, preferably not on the day the project is due. Give the powers that be time to make what adjustments they can and inform whoever needs to be informed so no one is surprised or left to wonder.
  2. Explain up front why you’re missing your deadline, and censor out excuses. Offer only the facts, which might include unforeseen delays. Whatever the case may be, anticipate questions such as “Why aren’t you finished?”, “When will you be finished?” and “Is this going to happen again?” Provide the answers intelligently, along with a firm date and time when they can expect the completed work in hand.
  3. Apologize. Saying your sorry may not help get anything done, but a genuine and sincere apology can sometimes go a long way to sooth ruffled feathers.
  4. Let your boss know that you’re working hard. The best time to do this is before, not after, you’ve missed a deadline, but in the event of that missed deadline, find a way to show and/or tell your supervisor that you are working and committed to delivering your best.
  5. If you’re going to miss a deadline, miss a small one, not the one that’s going to screw up a huge project that affects the entire department or can cause a huge, money-sucking delay. Pick, choose and prioritize. If you follow tip number one, you may get yourself a little help in the form of a co-worker who can ease your workload while you work on the more sensitive items to be completed.
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