Does Your Boss Make Unreasonable Demands?

Published Thursday, February 10, 2011 5:53 PM

Virtually anyone who has ever collected a paycheck has struggled at one time or another with demands that seem unreasonable. There's the boss who habitually calls you in at 5:30pm for tasks knowing your must-depart-at-6pm-to-relieve-the-babysitter-deadline. Or a higher up who thinks nothing of calling and emailing requests 24/7.

It's unlikely that many people are asked to field calls from scorned wives while their bosses dally with subordinates as in this U.S. Today article. But plenty of employees have had their back-up-against-the-wall moments of feeling pushed to the limit.

Tired of trying to tackle the excessive, the extreme, and the awkward? The comprehensive article Coping with Unreasonable Demands lays out (in a flowchart!) great advice for addressing demands that seem unreasonable.

In a nut shell, the article describes working through the following steps when faced with a demand that seems unreasonable:

  • Check your information and assumptions: Do you clearly understand the scope of the demand? At first blush, a request may seem onerous but if you ask questions, you may learn the scope is smaller than you imagined or you have a longer deadline. You know what they say about jumping to conclusions didn't you? Make sure you have all your facts straight.
  • Consider the other person's perspective: If you're working at maximum capacity and are asked to add a project, this can seem unreasonable. But consider that your boss might not know what's on your plate. Sometimes being asked to work long hours can seem unreasonable but perhaps your new job has a different work culture than your old. Is everyone on the team burning the midnight oil? Perhaps late hours are reasonable in your new role.
  • Explain your perceptions assertively: When a demand is truly unreasonable, speak up and clearly and neutrally explain your viewpoint. Suggest solutions that may be amenable to both parties; you may find a receptive audience.
  • Agree or disagree, and managing the consequences: Not all unreasonable demands need to be met but you need to be aware of the consequences of not going along with a demand. Sometimes the consequence is so negative that it outweighs the unpleasantness of meeting the demand. And other times you will find that the consequence is not serious enough to warrant compliance. So professionally let your boss know why you won't be able to help at this time and be sure to let them know that you if your circumstance, or the request changes, that you'll be all ears.

How do you manage unreasonable demands from a boss? What is the most unreasonable demand you've encountered at work? Share your thoughts here and at the Pendaflex Facebook page.


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Beyond FoldersTM is written by a team of Pendaflex associates passionate about time management, communications, productivity and workplace organization.  Believing in  "continuous improvement" on both a personal and professional level, they share their unique perspectives on subjects of common interest to our readers.

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