All jobs are demanding at times, and it’s often the boss’s responsibility to get her staff to rise to the occasion–but some bosses go too far by putting excessive pressure on their employees.
Don’t take it personally. A demanding boss is focused on delivering results to his or her boss, not on the negative fallout you may feel that your work is never enough, Taylor says.
“Study how other team members react and you’ll likely see that your boss is consistently an over-achiever or expects others to be.”
Simic agrees. “Realize that an overly demanding boss may have their own overly demanding boss looming over them. Don’t take things personally.”
Consider why your boss is being so demanding. Is it just a personality issue, or is there pressure from even higher up to meet certain objectives? “This can make a difference in how you approach the situation,” Friedman says.
Kahn concurs. He says it’s important to “read the room.” If your boss is also working to meet a goal or juggling multiple deadlines, make sure you’re being sensitive to that in your interactions. “Provide high-level updates on what they need to know and avoid chitchat unless they initiate.”
Don’t be a punching bag. “Don’t keep taking lumps with a smile on your face, be a martyr, or take responsibility for things that are out of your control,” Taylor says. “Your boss has invested time in you, so you have leverage in letting him know the ramifications of his work style. You have the needed skills set, are relied upon and know the company culture. If you’re performing well, it’s expensive and time-consuming to replace you. Keep that in mind when you are ready to approach your boss.”
Gently confront the boss. “Approach your boss with a calm, professional, rational style,” Taylor says. “Don’t get caught up in the hysteria and try to keep a sense of humor to simmer any existing tension.” A little levity can go a long way in disarming a tense, demanding boss. And a lot of your success also depends on the delivery and timing of your discussion.
Listen and repeat. Make sure you are always listening carefully, as ideas and directions may come quickly, Kahn suggests. “If you’re unsure about anything, ask clarifying questions. At the end of your meetings, repeat back the deliverables that you are responsible for to make sure you are on the same page.” And you never know: When the boss hears you rattle off your responsibilities, he might realize how unreasonable his expectations really are.
Set mutual expectations and priorities. “When your boss gives you an assignment, review where it sits on the priority list; give an estimate of how long it will take and what, if anything, you need to complete it,” Taylor says. Offer a reality check on how a new assignment affects your other ones and the potential for other missed deadlines. “Come to an agreement before you run off and find yourself in a hodgepodge of unreasonable tasks.”
Be a problem-solver, not a problem-maker. If you’re going to miss deadlines, raise your hand early on. Come prepared to present your boss with potential solutions to show that you have the same sense of urgency as they do about projects, Kahn says. “If you encounter obstacles to completing a project, also bring these to your boss with potential solutions. They may not be the right solution, but this type of boss will appreciate your effort to help solve.”
Friedman says if there’s a corporate-level goal your boss is trying to attain, it may make more sense to try to figure out alternate ways of reaching that target. “She may even know that what the company is asking for is unreasonable, and may appreciate the extra help in brainstorming ways to boost productivity. If you have some ideas on ways to improve workflow or encourage the team to ramp up performance, approach your boss with sympathy, and offer your suggestions in a spirit of cooperation. The goal is probably less about getting credit for your ideas than getting a better working environment out of it.”
Use positive reinforcement. Praise your boss when you see the behavior you strive for, like planning ahead together, and ensuring that your goals and deadlines are reasonable and aligned, Taylor suggests. “Say something like, ‘I appreciated that you understood that we’d have to push back the XYZ project by a couple of days to tackle this new initiative.’”
Celebrate successes. Be sure to flag your successes for your boss, Kahn says. “Since they are so focused on reaching goals, they may inadvertently miss some of your achievements. They will appreciate you flagging these since, at the end of the day, your success is also their success.”
Taylor says you can do this by creating regular status reports. “Your manager will better understand your behind-the-scenes work if you detail it out in regular e-mails,” she says. “This will show your boss how productive you are and what it takes. Don’t overdue and risk looking like you’re in over your head. You don’t want your report to run for five pages every other day, or you’ll appear confrontational and passive aggressive. Be factual and concise so your boss can focus and prioritize.”
“Some bosses have been taught that being very demanding is the only way to get results, from prior jobs or the current one,” Taylor concludes. “It might be a management culture. That doesn’t mean you should mimic the style with your own team. Instead, role model the person you want your demanding manager to be by clearly describing workflow and priorities. You’ll do yourself, your boss, and others a big favor.”
Smith, Jacquelyn. “10 Tips For Dealing With An Overly Demanding Boss.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 10 July 2013. Web. 15 May 2014. To see more: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/07/10/10-tips-for-dealing-with-an-overly-demanding-boss/