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Procedures: 3 reasons your team don’t follow them

(And what to do about it)

As a business owner or manager, you understand it’s your responsibility to give your team all the tools they need to be effective in their role.

Procedures to follow are one of the most critical, so they know how to do their job effectively.

Having procedures in place is one step – ensuring your team members follow them is the next.

So what do you do if you have provided procedures for your team, but a team member isn’t using them? You’ve asked many times, but they are still not following instructions?

Procedures: 3 reasons your team don’t follow them - procedures

It’s important to focus on what you can control as their leader and manager, which is your communication about your expectations.

Let’s assume there are three reasons people don’t do what’s asked:

  1. They don’t know how to do it
  2. They don’t know why it’s important
  3. They just don’t want to!

It’s easy to think that your team member just doesn’t want to, but first let’s focus on what we can control, which is communicating how and why to use the procedure and do the task as directed.

Procedures: 3 reasons your team don’t follow them - procedures

1 Ensure they know how to do what’s been asked in the procedures

Getting clarity on their understanding includes ensuring they know:

• The exact result expected
• The steps to complete the task
• Any particular method required
• By when it needs to be done

If your procedure doesn’t cover all these points, update it before going over it with them again.

Double-check the procedure is accurate by watching them follow it, and if there is anything unclear, further update the procedure as you go.

2 Let them know why all aspects of the procedures are important

Research like that detailed in Robert Cialdini’s Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion shows that people are more likely to comply with a request when they know why it’s important.

You could tell your team member why each of the steps are needed; why the deadline or timeframe is important; and why specific methods and results are required. If you have any stories about what’s gone wrong when steps haven’t been followed, this is a good time to share them!

Now pause and ask them a few questions to make sure you’re on the same page:

“Do you think the procedure is accurate, or does it need more detail?”
“Are you confident you can use this procedure to complete the tasks next time?”
“Just so I know I explained correctly, can you tell me why it must be done by the deadline?”
“I know there are many ways to do this, but can you tell me why we need to do it this way?”

Their answers will confirm they understand what you think they do!


If next time your team member doesn’t follow the procedure accurately, you could feel confident that you’ve done your part to help them do their role effectively.

Only then you could question whether they just don’t want to do the task or use the procedure.

Your communication could then be something like:

“We discussed the procedure in detail, we agreed it was accurate, and I observed you following it. You seemed confident in your ability to use it, and you told me why all the steps are important. Can you tell me why you haven’t followed the procedure this time?”

Depending on their answer, more training may be required.

You may consider if other team members are using the procedure effectively (indicating that the challenge is with this person’s understanding) or if this is occurring for more than one person (indicating the procedure may need another review).

But if it’s clear that they truly don’t want to follow procedures, a disciplinary discussion may be appropriate.

Yellow Coaching runs Leadership and Management Training for organisations and businesses throughout Australia, to help leaders achieve peak performance.