Some employees can be very demanding, and when they're high performers, you might feel like you have to put up with their aggressive behavior. They demand your time and attention. They demand answers. They're impatient and judgmental. They're intrusive and persistent.
They can be cynical and sarcastic. To them, the glass is always half-empty, and they complain a lot! They hold “you” accountable, and they can be a real pain in the….(well, you know!) Their demands can feel like attacks on you (and sometimes they are!), but their demands have nothing to do with you. They're demanding with everyone.
These people are often self-centered and they lack empathy. They're on a mission, and they see those around them, including you, as a means to an end. This is a challenging personality type, and it’s hard to change. Their self-image is that of the under dog, and they have this “me against the world” mentality.
Believe it or not, it’s one of the ways they stay motivated. They’re not looking for you to meet all their demands, they just want you to acknowledge their plight! The key, is to acknowledge their demands, without encouraging their demands.
Here's what you can do with demanding, high-performing employees:
Don't take it personal because it has nothing to do with you. Don't expect them to change because they won't, and don't make promises you can't keep because they’ll only come back to haunt you!
Sometimes, we just want to make them go away. We say things like, "Let me look into it" or, "I'll get back to you." But when you do that, you're just giving them another chance to be demanding.
When they make unreasonable demands, hold your ground, and explain what you can do for them. And don't apologize. When you do, you just encourage more aggressive behavior.
- Here's what you can say. "I understand what you're saying, and that's not possible. But here's what we can do."
- If they persist, don’t debate, just offer coaching direction and encouragement. It sounds like “This is what I’d do…and I’m confident that you can make this work!”
- If they complain about you or give you feedback that's unreasonable, (again) don't debate with them. Your goal is to disarm them, and here’s what that might sound like. “I’m sorry that you feel that way, but I accept how you feel, and I do appreciate (and will consider) your feedback. Thank you.”
Remember, though, that valid feedback can feel unreasonable. So make sure you do take a step back and consider their feedback.
When they demand answers you don't have, acknowledge their uncertainty and focus them on their choices. Here's what that might sound like. "I don't know yet, but I'll let you know when I do. In the meantime, here’s what we do know. What's your best course of action?"
Listen, you're going to have demanding employees, and some of them might be worth putting up with. But don't take it personally. Set your boundaries and anticipate their demands in advance. Don't debate and don't overcommit.
The more you can mentally rehearse these interactions, the better. These people aren't going to change, but you can manage them on your terms, not theirs.