How to reply to a request for a deadline extension

Table of Contents

Understand Why They Need an Extension

• The first step is to understand why they are asking for an extension. There may be legitimate reasons like an illness, family emergency, or unexpected setback with the project.

• Ask questions to understand the full context instead of just saying no. Building empathy will lead to a better outcome.

Discuss a Reasonable New Deadline

• Don’t overcommit to an unrealistic deadline that sets them up for failure. Discuss what timeline makes sense given the circumstances.

• See if you can split the project into phases so that critical components can be delivered on time while other parts take longer.

Get Written Confirmation

• After agreeing to a new deadline, get written confirmation via email so there is no confusion later on.

• Write up a brief summary such as “As discussed, the new delivery date for Project X will be July 15th due to the circumstances you shared about unexpected illness. Please reply confirming you agree with this new timeline.”

Highlight Accountability

• While extending grace, also set the expectation that the new deadline is firm and you are counting on them to deliver by the agreed date.

• Politely but firmly state that further delays will not be accepted without proper planning/discussion ahead of time.

Offer to Help Remove Obstacles

• Ask if there is anything you can do to help get the project back on track on their end. Offer assistance or resources if appropriate.

• Make sure the extension is to account for a temporary issue rather than an overly complex or under resourced project.

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