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Reality Check: How to Handle Unrealistic Expectations From Your Boss

By | Jennifer Winter |

Wanting to impress your boss is natural. You work hard, your manager and colleagues notice, and eventually you’ve made your way up the ladder. Pretty clear, right?

Well, what happens when your boss isn’t exactly on the same page—or even planet—when it comes to his or her expectations of your performance? It’s a delicate situation. On one hand, it’s never fun to tell your manager you can’t handle your workload—whatever the reason. But on the other, you’re setting yourself up for failure (and a whole lot of stress) if you keep quiet.

I’ll be the first to admit that telling a manager he or she has unrealistic expectations isn’t easy, but with a little guidance, it’s totally doable. Before you pull your hair out or give yourself an ulcer, here’s what I suggest:

1. Do an Insecurity Check

OK, so before we go any further, you have to make sure what your boss is asking for is in fact, unreasonable. While you may feel a deadline is too tight or a task is beyond your capabilities, your boss might know better. Managers—good ones, anyway—will often push you to stretch beyond your comfort zone to help you develop new skills. After all, knowing how to do everything all the time feels great, but without new challenges, our skills become stale pretty quickly.

If your boss is pushing you to do more and you’re feeling overwhelmed, first ask yourself why. Is it because you really can’t do the work? Or is it because it’s something new that you’re not too comfortable with yet?

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