Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Dealing With Unreasonable Bosses

Some bosses have unreasonable demands. Such as giving you last-minute deadlines, forcing you to stay after hours, handing you tasks outside of your agreed responsibilities, or changing the instructions halfway through a project.

Since you don’t want to jeopardise your position, you do as you’re told. And if you’re lucky, that’s the end of it.

But that’s not always what happens. 

Since you didn’t speak up, your boss may not even realise that he crossed a line. It was just another assignment. Difficult perhaps, but otherwise normal.

Did you happen to do a good job? Then you can bet on it that he’ll come running to you the next time he’s in a pinch.

Now you’re his go-to guy or gal. Flattering, but also detrimental to your wellbeing. Soon you’ll be up to your eyeballs in deadlines.

So how do you communicate that you have boundaries without rocking the boat?

First of all, take a step back and review the assignment. Is it truly unreasonable or just challenging? 

To get the respect you deserve, your boss mustn’t be able to poke holes in your case. It has to be watertight. So be sure to check your job description and ask your co-workers about their workload for comparison.

Next, ask your boss why you were picked to do this assignment. It’s possible it’s a test to see if you’re ready for more responsibilities. Paid, hopefully.

Plus, by taking on your boss’ point of view, you’re being understanding. Now he’s more likely to be receptive to your wishes.

Is the assignment clearly unreasonable and not tied to some form of promotion?

Set your boundaries.

“My workload is already pretty big and I don’t think I’ll be able to do an adequate job with the time I’ve been given.”

Now come up with a proposal.

“But I think I could do it if the time frame was moved up a little. And if that’s not possible, I can  [alternative plan that lightens the burden of your boss].” 

If your boss isn’t an unreasonable person, the unreasonable demand will probably get tweaked into something manageable or outsourced.

Always try and meet unreasonable demands with reasonable feedback.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach