IT’S 3PM ON A FRIDAY. YOU’VE BEEN MENTALLY CHECKED OUT AND READY FOR THE WEEKEND FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR NOW, AND SUDDENLY YOUR INBOX DINGS.
It’s your boss, and she has a task due end of day…so, now. I mean, you didn’t have plans, right?
Right. So what now?
Ignoring the request until Monday or turning it in behind schedule without a head’s up are probably not the best options if you value your job. Unreasonable deadlines, like all frustrating or potentially unfair cards we’re dealt in life, have to be faced head-on. That means communicating with your boss (or whoever has set the unreasonable deadline) and managing expectations.
Spoiler alert—we won’t always be able to wipe away an unreasonable deadline or fix a problem right away.
DETERMINE IF THE DEADLINE IS TRULY UNREASONABLE
Think carefully about the level of effort being asked of you before flying off the handle at the requestor. You may be annoyed that your boss/client/colleague threw this on you at the last second or feel overwhelmed, but take a deep breath and review what she's really asked for. It might not be as time-consuming as you think.
SPEAK UP, NOW
If the deadline actually is unrealistic or even impossible, take action. This means contacting the requestor immediately to discuss. Don’t wait until you’ve totally freaked yourself out—or spent twenty minutes complaining to your work BFF—time is of the essence here! You may feel like your hands are tied and there’s no point in trying to communicate your perspective, but your time is valuable. That makes voicing your concerns in a respectful manner worthwhile.
HAVE A PLAN B
And that's not telling the requestor she's the worst and you can’t even. If you’re able to discuss your hesitations about the original deadline, lay out the facts (no exaggerations!) and offer an alternative solution. This could be a more reasonable deadline or agreeing to get as much as you can get done by the original deadline with the mutual understanding that it might not be 100% complete or perfect. This demonstrates that you are proactive and open to offering more than just a dead end when explaining why you don’t feel you can meet the expected timeline.
PICK YOUR BATTLES
Spoiler alert—we won’t always be able to wipe away an unreasonable deadline or fix a problem right away. If the requestor truly won’t budge on the deadline, you may have to grin and bear it…. for now. Do your best, and after the project is complete, schedule a meeting with the individual to discuss how to avoid or better resolve these last-minute tasks in the future.
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Have you ever been in this situation? What did you do about it?