How to Deal With a Demanding Boss in the Workplace
byScott ShpakMay 01, 2014
Surviving the workday is hard enough with getting kids to school, organizing home life and then, well, there's your job. Throw in a boss who adds complexity and stress to the items on your to-do list, and you have a situation able to drain the deepest of your mom superpower reserves. Managing your manager takes patience, perseverance and a little finesse, but you do have alternatives to accepting the status quo.
Every job has its difficult days, and it's up to the boss to motivate staff to produce excellence. That can lead some to cross the line between reasonable demands and just being demanding. Jacquelyn Smith, writing for Forbes in 2010, polled industry insiders as to what defines the edge between reasonable and demanding employers. The most demanding bosses called for unwarranted extra hours, make-work projects, unobtainable or unsustainable standards and micromanagement. They also displayed little empathy for workers tasked with these demands. Still, Smith's research also showed there are times when it's up to the worker to realize the boss is just doing her job and what's she asking for is perfectly reasonable.
Executive coach and author Yael Zofi told Forbes in 2010 that your relationship with your boss is perhaps the most critical company interaction. She suggests treating your boss as a client and approaching him on his turf. Analyzing your boss's style gives a basis for meeting his expectations, particularly when these may not mesh with your work style. Zofi describes a client faced with anxious, micromanaging boss who got her problem under control when she started reaching out to clients on her own and changed the way she made reports to her boss. Zofi wrote that this led to a better relationship between the two. It also led the boss to reduce the excessive demands that interfered with the client's work. This demonstrates the idea of managing up -- changing the way you approach and report your work to address what your boss needs, but is unable to express.
Preparing for Change
Use your experience with your boss and in your job to plan in advance of overly demanding behavior. Psychologist Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., suggests using the patterns of your boss's behavior to prepare responses ahead of time and recommends writing them on index cards and rehearsing your delivery. Riggio suggests statements of feeling that are non-confrontational. Explain that the behavior affects your motivation or sense of value, not the person. Also prepare for likely responses, says Riggio, which could include an emotional response from your boss. This thought exercise helps you answer the question of what type of fallout you're prepared to accept.
When you make the decision to approach your boss about excessive demands, be calm and rational, wrote workplace expert Lynn Taylor in Forbes in 2013. Taylor points out that your boss has time invested in you and suggests that you be aware of your value, rather than grinning and bearing. Riggio advises that you prepare a response to a boss that turns angry, a point that Michelle Marriott, Vice President of Human Resources with a global public relations agency in Atlanta, Ga., supports. "Maintaining professionalism is vital," she says. "Remain calm if workplace conflict gets emotional, and don't be afraid to walk away to let cooler heads prevail."
Photo via Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images