CommunicationProject ManagementRisk Management

8 Tips to Better Respond to Unrealistic Demands

At some point, someone will try to assign you work that is borderline impossible to complete. In such times, you can either buy a book of the occult and sell your soul to complete the task on time, or you can learn some strategies for responding to these requests. In a guest post for the Project Risk Coach, Colin Gautrey would prefer you stay away from the New Age section of the bookstore and review these eight tips instead:

  1. Take a pause.
  2. Ask why the request has been made.
  3. Alternatively, find out the “why” yourself.
  4. Check the “what.”
  5. Consider the consequences.
  6. Review your approach to influencing stakeholders.
  7. Think about the opportunities.
  8. Engage your other stakeholders.

Solutions on Demand

When faced with an unrealistic demand, it is healthy to take a pause before responding. It could be risky to let your first instinct take over, which could be something along the lines of anger or blatant annoyance. After this pause, ask why the request is being made, and try to do so in a neutral tone of voice. (You are still trying to avoid displaying anger and annoyance.) If something sounds fishy, or if the requester earnestly does not have a terrific explanation to give, seek out your own answers to why the request has been made. When you learn the true reason, you might realize there is actually a simpler way to satisfy the parties involved without breaking your back with labor.

Another thing to remember, especially with email, is that communications sent in a hurry can leave out critical details. As Gautrey says, “Interestingly, unrealistic demands often come from people who are themselves under pressure.” All the same, consider the consequences of taking on the unrealistic work. Will it jeopardize your ability to complete work for other stakeholders? Discuss with other stakeholders if this new work is acceptable to them and if time tables can be shifted accordingly.

Gautrey reminds us that there can be some odd added benefits to actually agreeing to do this unrealistic work:

Yes, it may be unrealistic, but perhaps there is a positive here too. One of the great things about unrealistic demands is that on the other side is someone is desperate need of something. That brings a certain amount of power to your side. If they need you to do something, how might you be able to turn this to your advantage? Sometimes is could be as simple as influencing them to manage the expectations of other stakeholders, so you don’t have to do it yourself. Other bargains could also be struck so that you can find a way you can both win.

Unrealistic demands happen, but you can manage them if you keep your wits about you. You can view the original post here:

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