How to Deal with Your Boss’ Unrealistic Expectations

BY Rachel Cagle
Featured image for “How to Deal with Your Boss’ Unrealistic Expectations”

If you have never worked for a terrible boss, you’re one of the lucky few people. Seriously, there are probably 10 of you in the entire world. For the remaining billions of us, hopefully the experience is well in the past. If it isn’t, or if you’d like some tips on how to deal with your boss’ unrealistic expectations, read on.

To be fair, even the best of bosses can have unrealistic expectations of their employees from time to time. When that happens, hopefully you feel comfortable enough with them to talk through the situation. If you don’t feel as if that’s an option, you may feel as if it’s time to refresh your resume and start browsing LinkedIn. But that doesn’t have to be the case, says Liz Kislik in a Harvard Business Review article.

How to Deal with a Boss with Unrealistic Expectations

Managing Your Body

Sometimes, we can overthink what our sales managers have said to us and let our emotions take over. That’s a self-​destructive response when the pressure is on. The first step to dealing with a boss with unrealistic expectations is to calm yourself. You can do this using an exercise to come down from anxiety attacks: the 54321 grounding technique. Identify:

  • Things you can see
  • Things you can feel
  • Things you can hear
  • Things you can smell
  • Thing you can taste

Once you have collected yourself, your body and mind will begin to come back from its fight or flight mode. You can then collect your thoughts and begin to craft a reasonable response to the issue at hand.

Get Feedback from Your Boss

Kislik points out that there are few sales professionals who have earned their management position and keep it while purposefully having unrealistic expectations. “It’s much more likely that they have a rationale that they haven’t conveyed clearly, or may not even recognize themselves,” she says. “Rather than just thinking ‘This is ridiculous!’ keep checking to be sure you understand and are delivering on what your boss actually wants.”

When you feel as if your boss has unrealistic expectations for you, it may be because they haven’t explained what they want from you well enough. You need to reach out to them to make sure that isn’t the case. But don’t reach out without a plan. If you do that, it will seem as if you need your hand to be held or that you want your boss to do your work for you. Instead, approach them with carefully chosen questions and language such as examples Kislik recommends:

  • Take a look at these scenarios, and let me know which aspects match your sense of things, and then I can build them out.”
  • I know you’re concerned about the risk of too much investment too quickly. Did I capture the scenarios and factors you’re looking for?”

Talking with your boss this way can help you develop a less overwhelming plan of action. Or if your boss does really have unrealistic expectations, that fact may come to light during the conversation. Once your boss realizes how unreasonable their demands are, they’ll likely apologize and switch up the plan to make the goal more obtainable.