I’d estimate that a large percentage of adults that I know are either working for, or have worked for, a demanding boss. Like deadlines, taxes, and budgets, demanding bosses seem to be a fact of life for many working people. Even if you don’t technically work “for” someone else, you may have a demanding people that you work with or who pay your bills, or demanding customers you must attempt to please.
Like everything else, there are two ways to deal with demanding bosses. We can, like most do, complain about them, talk behind their backs, wish they would go away, secretly plot against them in our minds, wish them ill will, and feel forever stressed about the situation. Or we can take a different path and try (hard as it is) to stay focused on the positive aspects of the demanding party.
This was a particularly difficult concept for me to embrace, as I’ve always hated it when I feel pushed to perform. However, after dealing with many, many pushy people in my career, I’ve come to realize some important things.
The first “saving grace” I realized about demanding people is that, generally speaking, they are demanding to everyone. In other words, it’s not personal. Before I recognized this to be the case, I would assume, as many do, that Mr. or Mrs. Demanding was “out to get me.” I took their demanding demeanor personally and felt pressured. I would then compound the problem by thinking about his or her hidden motives, making a case within my own head as to why I had “a right to be angry.” I would even go home at night and complain to poor Kris, who had already heard my story many times before.
All this began to change as I began to see a hint of innocence in the demanding party. In other words, I began to see that, in a very real sense, he or she really couldn’t help it-they were stuck in the role of being demanding. This didn’t change my preference for working with less demanding people, but it did make it easier to accept when I had to.
I was working on a book a number of years ago when I was forced to work with a very demanding editor. I was having a difficult time with all the criticism and pushing, when a friend of mine asked me a very important question. She said, “Has it ever occurred to you that the most demanding people are often the ones who push you out of your comfort zone and help you rise to a new level of competence?” Until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me that this was true. As I look back at my career, I now realize that it was often the case that demanding people were the ones who brought out the best in me. Everything-from my writing style, to my ability to use a computer and adjust to technology, to my ability to speak in public- was greatly enhanced by my connection to demanding, even abrasive people.
Suzanne worked for someone who could only be described as “a real jerk.” She described him as “a person who was demanding for no other reason than to demanding.” He seemed to feel a perverse sense of power when he was ordering people around.
Other than Suzanne, everyone in the office was either frightened to resentful of this demanding boss. For some reason, she had the wisdom to see through his huge ego and obnoxious behavior. Whenever possible, she tried to see the humor in her situation and instead of hating him, to see if there were things she might learn from his skills rather than focusing on his flaws. Her learning curve was sharp. It wasn’t too long before her ability to stay cool in a hostile environment was noticed by her boss’s employer, and she was promoted to a more interesting position in a different department.
The realization that there are two sides to demanding people-positive and negative-has made my entire life, especially my work life, a whole lot easier. Whereas before I would become defensive and dread the process, I now approach demanding people in an entirely new way. I’m open to what they may have to teach me, and I don’t take their behavior personally. What has happened is quite remarkable. Because I’m so much less adversarial and defensive than I used to be, the “demanding” people I meet and work with seem to be a lot easier to be around.
I now realize that my overreaction to demanding people had a lot to do with how difficult they were for me to deal with. As is so often the case, as I have grown and have been willing to open my mind to my own contribution to my problems, I have been rewarded with an easier life. I’m not advocating demanding behavior, as I still see it as a negative and abrasive personality trait. However, I have learned to take it in stride and see it as “small stuff. “Perhaps the same can happen to you.