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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Should You "Just Say No"?
Responding to "Unreasonable Requests"?

Your boss asks you to prepare a rush report for a big client the day before your vacation. Or, you are a lawyer/accountant/physician, and a friend asks for free advice at a party. What should you do?

Your response to unreasonable requests depends upon several factors outlined by Rebecca Zucker.*

Who made the request, and what is your relationship with that person? If it is your boss, you will generally try to respond to the request, explaining what the tradeoffs are. If the request is from a colleague, you may try to help the colleague, especially if there is reciprocity: The co-worker has helped you, and you know the colleague won’t take advantage of you. For friends and family, each case is different, but for more complicated questions, you can ask the person to call you at work.

Why has the person made the request? Sometimes knowing the underlying cause for the request will help you provide an alternative solution. "Instead of traveling to Dallas, I can set up a Zoom call with the client and explain the reasons for the cost increase."

What are the tradeoffs if you respond to the request? Will you miss the deadline for submitting a proposal for a six-figure project? Will the new request derail the work of other people in the company? If the request comes from a client who wants more work done, add a surcharge for "scope creep."

Where do you draw the line? What are your ethics and other values, such as "self-respect," "work-life boundaries," and "equity"? When requests cross your personal line, politely "say no."

Offer alternatives, for example, other methods to use or other people to help out. "Joe posts on Twitter and can set up an account for the company. If he works on this request, I can finish the monthly report."

Anticipate future needs, and lessen the probability that you will receive unreasonable requests. Request essential data early enough to complete reports on time. Ask for help when tasks are overwhelming.

You can handle unreasonable demands from people you know in a way that satisfies the requestor, protects your time, and is consistent with your values. But, you may have to set boundaries. When you receive unreasonable demands from people you don’t know, ignore them or politely decline. Additionally, be careful how you present your company and what you request from others. Avoid over-promising in your company’s marketing materials. Finally, don’t make unreasonable requests of others!


"How to Respond to an Unreasonable Request," Rebecca Zucker

Input from my MetroWest Business Associates colleagues

Actionable Business Insights

Copyright © 5/22 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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