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Dealing with Unreasonable Requests or Favors

We are all asked to “go the extra mile” from time to time, and work a bit harder or longer or grant a favor to someone at work. On an occasional basis this may present no major problem, but if it happens too frequently or falls to one person to do more favors than the others, resentment may creep into work relationships.

Rather than let resentment build or fester, an approach that can often help to prevent the situation from getting out of hand is to use assertive language and behavior.  This means not only communicating what your boundaries are (so this needs to clear at the outset) but then getting your message across in a calm but clear way so that the person asking for the favor fully understands your position.

To do this well, the tone of voice used for the communication and the right kind of emphasis are key. For example, if the tone is too curt or aggressive, and the emphasis is too demanding, or hostile, you communicate uncooperativeness and may quickly get a reputation for being difficult. If the tone is too passive and the emphasis “light”, you communicate that your request is discretionary.

The key then is to be relatively matter-of-fact, even in voice and reasonable in emphasis. If this can be done assertively, the person asking the favor is likely to take account of your wishes in the future and not just assume that you will always be happy to help, no matter what.

The featured video clip is a short excerpt from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder eLearning program, Assertiveness: An RSB eLearning Course.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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