We have all had one of those days – lots on our plate – and your Boss show up at your door without a coffee for you and says “Sorry to interrupt how about those Blue Jays? Oh Yeah, one more thing. We need to add something to that Bloggins’ project.”

Let’s break that down:

“Sorry to interrupt.” – Translation: They aren’t even remotely sorry

“One more thing.” – Translation: A big add-on but DON’T go overtime and meeting all your other priorities.

“We need to add…” – Translation: “You need to do.”

The next time someone tries to put more work on your shoulders—when you’re already at max capacity—here’s how to respond to a:

Supervisor or Manager:

I can take this on, but I’d like to review something with you before I proceed.

Right now, my current priorities are: [list them in order].

Would you like this new assignment to be my top priority?

If so, that’s no problem, but it means that all my other projects will get completed slightly later.

I can create a timeline of when everything will be completed if that’s helpful to you.

Thanks!

Colleague:

I can help you with this. However, right now I am working on a different project that’s a top priority for my department.

I’m working on a deadline, and I need to stay focused and keep progressing.

I’ll be able to switch gears and attend to your request [at/on] [time / date].

Thank you for understanding!

Client:

Thanks for [writing / stopping by]. I can help you with this.

But first, let’s talk about the other items that I’m currently working on for you.

Right now, I’m working on: [list them in order].

If we add this new piece to the list, I’ll need to bill you for an additional [$$$].

It also means that the timeline we initially agreed upon will need to shift. [describe the new dates, timing, etc.]

Are you OK with the additional cost and new timeline?

If so, [tell me / write back to say]: “Greenlight! Go!”

Remember, whoever is making this “ridiculous and unreasonable” request is probably just as swamped and stressed out as you are or it could be a genuine crisis. In either case, these scripts might not be appropriate, so have some empathy and try to be compassionate.

No matter how colleagues choose to communicate with you (rudely, coldly, crazily), you can still be professional and polite when you respond.

Be patient. Stay cool. Speak firmly.

 

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