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It’s inevitable.

At some point in your career, you’re probably going to have to deal with a workaholic boss.

And those bosses usually want their employees to have the same dedication and commitment to the job as they do. So how do you deal with a boss who expects you to work around the clock?

Check out these 5 secrets to handling a boss’ unrealistic expectations.

1. Listen and Repeat

Ingrain this mantra in your head: listen and repeat, listen and repeat, listen and repeat.

The next time your boss assigns you a project, listen carefully to what is being detailed. Take notes. And before you leave your boss’ office, repeat your responsibilities and deadlines.

Clarifying your responsibilities and deadlines you can achieve two things.

  • It will help you better understand the project and your boss’ expectations.
  • If you can articulate your duties succinctly for your boss, he or she might realize that the expectations are unreasonable.

Don’t repeat a high-level overview of the project. Detail it step by step so that your boss understands all the steps involved.

For example, simply saying “you want me to do a review of the third quarter” doesn’t sound like a lot to ask. But if that involves 27 steps, list as many of those specifics as you can.

The longer the list, the more likely it is that your boss will realize they’ve given you a week’s work of work but expect it to be completed in two days.

2. Ask Yourself…Is This Unreasonable?

Is the task at hand truly unreasonable or are you easily overwhelmed? Ask yourself why you feel overwhelmed, and get to the root of that issue.

  • Is it because you lack the confidence?
  • Is it because you need additional training?
  • Is it because you are lacking the necessary resources?

There is nothing wrong with saying “yes” to any of the above questions. Some expectations really are unrealistic, but you need to be able to identify why.

3. Make a List

If you’ve assessed the situation and decided that the project or task at hand is unreasonable, make a list as to why.

Is it because you have to rely on 10 other people to provide you with the information you need to do your part of the project? Is it because the time frame is too short?

List all your priorities and deadlines that would be interrupted by the expectations.

Do not tell your boss “I can’t do this.” No boss wants to hear that, and you don’t want to peg yourself as the employee that can’t get the job done.

Instead, approach your boss with a list of what you need to accomplish the task. Whether it be outside help, additional resources, or extra time, let your boss know.

By making a list and knowing what you need to achieve success, you can approach your boss with a proactive solution.

Your boss expects you to get the job done. If you can’t do it under the current circumstances, the least you can do is demonstrate that you took the time to figure out a solution.

4. Talk To Your Coworkers

Ask around the office to see if your coworkers have ever run into a situation like the one you’re facing. If you’re working in a tough and demanding environment, seek out those coworkers who have worked there for a while.

Ask them how they have handled similar issues. They very well may have some insight into how you can make an unreasonable situation a little bit easier.

Don’t complain when you talk to your coworkers. Keep your conversations professional and positive. If you’re already bogged down with work, the last thing you need is for a coworker to run to your boss and say that you’re griping about the task at hand.

5. Talk To Your Boss

DO NOT wait until the project is due to tell your boss that you’re having issues. As soon as you’ve completed the previous steps, speak up.

Have a plan of attack in mind before you meet with your boss. Present your concerns and findings from Step 3 and make sure you have a solution in mind. Don’t be the employee that creates problems. Instead, be the employee that can think creatively. Present your boss with ways to solve the problems.

For example, you can suggest that you may want to bring in additional team members. Perhaps other projects can be put on hold. In some cases, you may need to adjust expectations or shift deadlines.

The more honest you can be, the more likely you are to receive the help you need to get the project done.


If your boss’ expectations are an ongoing issue, you’ll need to have a bigger plan in place for how you are going to deal with the situation. Set boundaries and let your boss know what you can do and what you can’t do.

If your boss expects instant responses to midnight emails, let him or her know that you’re not available at that hour.

If the day-to-day workload is overwhelming, ask your boss for assistance in prioritizing what is most important.

Does your boss task you with new projects daily and expect them to be completed in a moment’s notice? If this is the daily routine, let your boss know that the constant interruptions make it difficult to complete any task on time.

And remember, sometimes saying no to a project can be in the best interest of both you, your boss, and the company.

Finding Balance

Dealing with a workaholic boss means you’ll have to find that delicate balance that works for both of you.

In some cases, letting your boss know that you can’t meet their expectations will lead to a much more productive work environment. In other cases, especially if everyone around you is a workaholic, it may cause even more aggravation.

Your mental and physical health is the most important thing.

You need to feel strong and be healthy to be the most productive employee you can be. If your workaholic boss is affecting you in a way that you can’t resolve, it might be time to start looking for a new job.

Written By
Caitlin Sinclair currently works as the marketing manager at Jefferson Chandler, a luxury apartment complex located in Chandler, Arizona. Caitlin loves traveling, meeting new people and trying new cuisines, having lived all over the world such as Hong Kong, Cyprus and of course, London. In her free time, she is rarely without her 2-year-old boxer dog, Aurora!

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