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How to skillfully handle tricky workplace scenarios

Workplace scenarios and terminologies are similar all over the world. ASAP, by the end of the day, in a sec etc. These phrases put so much pressure and can send you in a tizzy. How do you deal with requests that call upon you to reschedule your time?

How to handle these phrases if you want to prioritize your life –

  • Get this done by the end of the day
  • I want this done ASAP
  • Can I speak to you for a sec
  • I'll be there in ten minutes

I am sure you must sometime find yourself 'trapped' at work, in situations that you cannot wriggle out of. All of us go through situations where we are asked to take on an assignment, at short notice, despite us having a busy schedule and deadlines to meet.

Sometimes these assignments are dropped into our lap, at the fag end of the day. Taking them on could mean getting delayed for a personal schedule.

Circumstances such as these put us in an awkward position. We don't want to take on the new projects that are thrust down upon us, but somehow end up doing them, because we do not know how to refuse or get out of the tight spot. We curse and we crib, and get the job done, at the expense of our self.

I always stress on the need to prioritize things and keep a slot for 'ourselves' on this list of priorities. Which technically means that you realize that you are important to yourself. And when I say you, I mean your time, your plans, your personal life and other things that define you. Make a distinction between your work and your life. You need to lay the rules so you're not taken advantage of.

At the same time, make it a point to be a thorough professional and finish work assigned to you, on time. However, don't confuse a professional attitude to be always ready to do jobs, at the expense of your own time. There will be times when you will need to forgo your time, to meet an unexpected deadline. You need to learn to differentiate those times from times when there is no urgency.

Though work is an intrinsic part of our lives, we often make it our only priority, by side-lining other important facets, about ourselves, such as our own personal space.

This article will show you how you can get hold of the reins and steer your life. I will teach you tactics that can be employed, at work, to handle tricky situations that demand more of you and your time, than what is expected. Needless to say, these tricks will assist you in dealing with managers and co-workers and their unreasonable expectations and requests.

There is a problem with the way we talk about and relate to time. We use phrases that involve time without giving much thought to how redundant they actually are. We'd like to believe that our requests are easily understood. But, how can we be understood without providing specifics?

Here are a few typical workplace scenarios that most employees should be familiar with. Let me show you how to get out of them –

Get this done by the end of the day

This is such a vague request because it does not specify a time. What is the end of the day? Is it when the office pulls down the shutters or is it when the clock strikes twelve? Are you expected to work beyond office hours to finish the job?

When asked to do something by the end of the day, you need to follow it up with something that sets a definite time frame to it. To begin with, get them on the same wavelength as you and say something to this effect – "6:00 pm is the end of the day for me; is that fine with you?" or you can ask how urgent the job is, and if it can wait until tomorrow.

What you have effectually done is set a deadline, so you won't be bothered to deliver before that. Remember, if it is urgent then there'd be fireworks and a specific deadline given to you.

I want this done ASAP

Yet, another unclear demand. What is ASAP? It could have a different definition for you. I know it hints at giving the task priority, but in most instances, the job that needs to be done ASAP is not really that urgent. I see it more of a 'cool' lingo, of those in the corporate world.

You don't have to put everything else on your schedule on hold to complete this task. Definitely, not before you understand the deadline for the ASAP. You also need to discreetly let them know that you are busy with other work and are not going to go into a spin, at this ASAP demand. If it is really urgent they will give you 'by this time'.

You can say – "I am currently working on the project report (name it) and it will take me until this evening to compile all the data. I can start on your job tomorrow if that's fine. If you need it done earlier I will have to delay the project report, if not, I'll do it tomorrow".

What you're doing is, making a commitment that suits you, instead of being stressed trying to complete two tasks, by the end of the day. You do the jobs at your own pace.

Can I speak to you for a sec

Ah! If you know how to read time, you know that's one hell of an understatement. Nothing takes a sec, right. Even getting out of your chair takes longer.

You know the sec will stretch into a few minutes, if not more. So, what do you do to avoid the conversation? Be honest and tell the person that you are in a rush or busy with whatever else it is that you are doing.

You can say, "How long will take? I am really pressed for time, can it wait?" However, be polite and apologise and catch up on that conversation ASAP!

I'll be there in ten minutes

People are forever apologizing for running late, but don't fall for the "be there in ten minutes" trap. That is not going to happen, the ten minutes will stretch to a longer duration, and you'll end up waiting and wasting your time.

When you hear the other person say that they are stuck in a traffic jam and will be ten minutes late for the appointment, take the initiative and ask them where they are. You have a right to know because your time is involved.

Their location will help you determine how long they'll take to reach, given that there is a congestion on the road. And depending on who it is that you are waiting for, you can decide whether you want to continue without them or wait for them.

I think it is polite to respect another's time and rude to take them for granted. If a date and time are fixed for a meeting, it is expected of everyone to be there before time, to avoid inconvenience to others.

It wouldn't be inappropriate to tell the individual that you'd like to finish the meeting by a particular time, and since they are running late, would it be fine to begin without them. Add that you will fill them up on what they miss out.


Don't use the above tips just to avoid doing jobs. These tips are meant to stress the importance of setting boundaries, so you can fit time for yourself in your hectic schedule. It is important to draw boundaries as well as show respect for yourself and your time.

When you do this, you send out a clear message that your time is important. And people begin to show respect to you and your time. But, this is a two-way street, if you use these tactics to manipulate others, remember to accord others the same courtesies. Be clear with your instructions and requests, in realistic terms.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

Follow Juana or read 609 articles authored by Juana

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Author: Umesh16 Jul 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

A nice article elaborating the details of workplace pressures and how to cope up with them clearly and precisely without offending anyone.

In a workplace, there is a mix of people. This combination of the workforce is well known to the management and output from these employees is also well understood by the top bosses. So the management will assign important and strategic jobs to a select few and normal tasks to others. In such a situation there will be some conflict between the employees as they are openly being distinguished in terms of the level of their knowledge and talent.

This situation sometimes makes the people behave in an agitated or shrewd way not only with each other but also with the top bosses. Also, it so happens that they do not respond to the queries or assignments in the affirmative or polite ways and complicate the issues.

Theoretically speaking, the employers/ bosses should make the communication as clear as possible to avoid any confusion about completion time of tasks etc but in reality, the human weaknesses will always be there to shadow those polite moments by shrewd gestures.

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