Working with demanding people is pretty much part of being human. We all probably have at least one boss, client or co-worker who asks a lot of us, sometimes at inopportune times and sometimes, perhaps, in less-than-friendly ways.
Looking on the bright side, demanding people can push us to accomplish more and grow beyond the boundaries we set for ourselves. But, they also can create stress, cause self-doubt and put us on the defensive.
Since we’re not likely to completely avoid working with demanding people, the trick is learning how to best to handle them – and ourselves – when the pressure starts to rise. Here are a handful of tips.
1. Learn their triggers
Consider whether there are particular scenarios that tend to set off the demanding person. For example, do they:
- Have a pet peeve about punctuality?
- Harp on grammatical mistakes in your writing?
- Continually push you to do more research before recommending tactical approaches?
- Act like you’re not doing enough work or getting enough results?
Identifying what triggers the other person is an important first step when working with demanding people.
2. Be proactive
Once you know the person’s triggers (and assuming they’re valid), you can work to avoid them. Tagging onto the above examples, try your best to:
- Always be on time.
- Improve your writing skills so you can stop making the same mistakes.
- Beef up your research skills so tactics will be more effective.
- Regularly communicate – even over-communicate – your activities and results, so there’s no question about your value.
3. Find something to learn
While it’s not always the most comfortable situation, working with demanding people can provide a lot of teachable moments. Instead of automatically going on the defensive when being critiqued, open your mind to anything helpful you can glean from the conversation. Also, take the opportunity to ask clarifying questions. That will help you grow as a professional, and could help you prevent triggering the demanding person in the future.
4. Set boundaries
There’s a difference between being open-minded and being a doormat. When you’re working with demanding people, remember that it’s okay to have a voice. If they are going overboard with their requests, asking you to do things that are beyond the scope of work for your job or pressing for unrealistic results, it’s important to set boundaries. Share your perspective and counsel, and don’t allow the demanding person to take advantage of you.
5. Know how to differentiate “demanding” from “toxic”
Working with demanding people and being terrorized by the office bully are two very different things. This HuffPost article does a great job of explaining where to draw the line. In short, yelling, threats and psychological abuse are not okay.
Have any other strategies to add for working with demanding people? Add them to the comments below.