Manage Stress : Relating Well in the Workplace - Unreasonable Demands & Being Pro-Active

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“Unreasonable” Demands

Demands that seem unreasonable can be a huge source of stress, although they will often arise through misunderstanding. A simple process of evaluating the demand can go a long way towards reducing the stress.

Avoid Unintentional Pressure

Innocent situations can often reinforce one another to create stressful and unfeasible demands on you. Several customers may be clamouring for the completion of large jobs when you have the resources to service only a few of them. Within your organization, requirements can be misunderstood when they are transmitted from person to person, the importance of deadlines can be overstated, and requests can be made in ignorance of key information.

Consider Your Response


A demand is unreasonable only if there is no good reason for it

We tend to react emotionally to such demands, feeling that they are being made by a “bad person”. In reality, most people are fair and rational, and often the demands are objectively reasonable. In the rare instances when the other person does have a “hidden agenda” and actually wants you to feel or be disadvantaged, you will need to know what course of action is open to you if you refuse to meet the unreasonable demand. You will also need to have an idea of the future value of the relationship, as a sacrifice now may bring benefits later.

Explore the Reasons

People may make seemingly unreasonable demands for a range of good reasons. Perhaps the person making the demand is aware of a consideration that is of great concern to the organization. Always try to find the underlying reason for a demand before dismissing it.

Assess the Demand

When you are faced with an “unreasonable” demand, rather than feeling overwhelmed or responding with anger, make sure of your facts and reach a balanced conclusion in which you can have confidence.

  • Run through the process in this chart, checking at each stage to see whether the demand is, in fact, reasonable.

  • In the case of each demand being made of you, make sure that your response is appropriate.

Make a Good Case

Check your information and assumptions

Look at the situation from the other person’s perspective

Explore your alternatives and the cost of each

Explain your perception assertively

Agree on the best way forward, and manage the consequences

Make sure you fully understand what you are being asked to do, confirm delivery times, and check whether there is any flexibility in the deadline that you have been given. You may find that the demand isn’t as impossible to action as you first thought.

Perhaps he is unaware that you are working at full capacity or that a key member of your team has been seconded to another project. Explain the situation and try to negotiate an appropriate solution.

A little lateral thinking may help you to find a solution that will suit everyone. Evaluate the impact of any possible solution.

Arrange a meeting and explain the situation to the other person as you see it, in an assertive manner, making your case clearly and without any hint of aggression or frustration. If you behave in a reasonable manner throughout, the other person will probably mirror your good behaviour.

If you really can’t agree on a fair way to proceed, one or other of you will have to concede gracefully.

Summary: Being Pro-Active

In your working life, you are subject to various forms of external control. This lack of personal control can be a source of considerable stress. When you find that the demands and influence of others are having a negative effect, the best strategy is usually to take the initiative and talk to those concerned in order to remedy the situation.

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