I am supposed to send a monthly dashboard to a client by the end of the day. I have not been able to get it done but will send it in the next two days. I have to let the client know that the work will be delayed, but want to do it without getting the client angry if at all possible.

What is a professional way to inform clients about missed deadlines?

  • Welcome to The Workplace Rajan. I'm a bit unclear on what you're trying to ask here. Are you asking us to tell you whether to call or e-mail? Are you asking how to tell your client without getting your client angry? – jmac Jan 9 '14 at 7:13
  • I have got to inform him via email and asking you to get me a way how to do that without getting him angry! – Rajan Kalra Jan 9 '14 at 7:17
  • 2
    thanks for the clarification. I've made an edit to your post to get it better answers, if you think I've missed something, please feel free to improve it. – jmac Jan 9 '14 at 8:05
  • 3
    “Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news immediately.” – user8365 Jan 9 '14 at 16:24
  • 1
    Its already to late to avoid your client getting angry. Its already the deadline, the client should have been aware of a schedule change, when you knew the scheduled changed. – Donald Jan 9 '14 at 17:05

There no perfect answer when you've blown a deadline that was completely your responsibility.

General tips for "this will make the client less angry" would be:

  • The earlier the better - telling a client the day of the missed deadline is far worse than telling the client several days prior.

  • Use the client-preferred or most reliable/most timely communication mechanism - for example, if the client has said he prefers email, use it. But if you have no information, use the communication stream that is most likely to get to the client in a timely way - which may be a phone call or a phone call AND a message that is set the way the report would have been sent if it was available.

  • Be short, sweet and clear - have a new deadline, if there is a serious and unexpected issue that the client could help with - describe it, or outline a way for resolving it (for example - "it's complicated, let's book a meeting").

  • Apologize - take ownership of the things you messed up, don't take ownership of that which you did NOT mess up.

  • If partial work is possible or there are ways to remediate the harmful effects of missing the deadline, provide what help you can and/or ask if that would be useful. Also, be willing to take on the onus of mitigating problems that you have caused by doing extra work.

  • Don't let it happen again - if the deadline is a recurring thing an it's not feasible, fix the deadline, don't promise what you can't deliver. Anger at mistakes is cumulative and past a certain point it is nearly impossible to recover from, so don't let the accumulation happen in the first place.

There's a generally good "underpromise, overdeliver" strategy that helps a great deal. It can't fix every missed deadline but if you are promising your work and deadlines with some degree of caution, you can into a pattern where missing one is rare. The more trust you build up with a customer, the more likely it will be that the rare miss is not anger inducing.

  1. As soon as you know you are not going to make the deadline, you communicate that. Do not wait till the deadline nears; if it's a month early: fine.
  2. You apologize (Properly). Part of the apology can be telling what measures you have taken to prevent this happening again.
  3. You say when you will deliver (you make a new promise). You could add 'Does that work?'

If possible you do it personally, in a conversation (phone call). That gives you more credit than doing it in a written communication.


If he is finding out after the deadline has been missed it is too late to avoid him getting angry. And rightly so, it shows your incomptence if you didn't knw you would miss the deadline ahead of time. The longer you wait the angrier he will be so bite the bullet and call (not email) him immediately.

You should always let clients know of dealys as soon as they are apparent to you, never after a deadline has been missed.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.