In today’s hyper-connected and competitive work environment, the line between professional and personal life has become increasingly blurred.

Many of us find ourselves working under managers who expect too much—demanding long hours, weekend work, and even clearing emails or taking calls during holidays or vacations.

While organisational pressures certainly contribute, excessive expectations often stem from the managers’ personal insecurities and psychological traits.

In this article, another topic requested by a follower, we discuss the most common reasons behind these unreasonable demands and how to navigate them to maintain a healthier work-life balance. 

In the extended YouTube version of this article, I also discuss 11 strategies for dealing with a workaholic/overly demanding boss. You can watch it here.

The Personal Drivers Behind Excessive Expectations

1.         Learned/Modelled Behaviour

I think the number one reason I see for unrealistic expectations AND poor behaviours in managers is from those who embody the bad behaviours of a former mentor with whom they resonated.

They might have disliked being subjected to that type of behaviour when it was being done to them. However, when they find themselves in a position of relative power, they think that’s the way they should act.

These types of managers tend to have low emotional intelligence and can be extremely bullying and destructive within an organisation.

2.        Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem 

Managers who struggle with insecurity and low self-esteem often tie their self-worth to their professional achievements.

They may feel that their value is directly correlated with their productivity and, by extension, the productivity of their team. This fear of inadequacy drives them to impose excessive demands on their employees to validate their own competence.

3.         Perfectionism

Perfectionist managers set extraordinarily high standards for themselves and their teams. This trait often stems from childhood experiences with overbearing or authoritarian parents who emphasised flawless performance.

These managers may feel compelled to work excessively and expect the same level of commitment from their team, believing that anything less than perfection is unacceptable and a reflection of their abilities.

4.        People-Pleasing Tendencies

Some managers are chronic people-pleasers driven by a need for approval, acceptance and validation. They overcommit to senior leadership’s demands and, in turn, place undue pressure on their teams.

Their desire to be seen as reliable and indispensable often results in pushing their employees beyond reasonable limits.

5.         Unhappy Home Life

An unhappy home life can also contribute to a manager’s unreasonable expectations and workaholic tendencies.

Managers who are dissatisfied with their personal lives might immerse themselves in work as an escape. By staying constantly busy, they avoid facing their personal issues, which often results in extended work hours and expectations that their employees do the same.

6.         They’re Bullies!

In some cases, managers may single out specific employees, subjecting them to undue pressure and excessive demands as a form of workplace bullying.

This behaviour can be driven by various factors, including personal insecurities, jealousy, envy, the need to exert control, or even unresolved conflicts. Again, it can also be modelled behaviour from a bullying parent in childhood or a previous mentor.

7.         Financial Motivations

Business owners and managers whose personal income is directly affected by their team’s or the company’s performance often have unrealistic expectations.

Let’s face it: An employee with no financial stake in the business is never going to be as motivated by the company’s success as the owner! So, to expect them to put in the same number of hours or dedication is completely unrealistic.

8.        Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is very real. Many people fear being judged or thought of as ‘less than’ for not doing what everyone else does. We often refer to this as ‘tall poppy syndrome’.

We are pack animals and there’s an inherent need for us to fit in. Going against the norm in an organisation can often lead to ostracisation (which I’ve discussed in previous articles).

The need to belong is deeply rooted in our DNA as a survival tool going back to our earliest ancestors. When we’re rejected by our modern-day tribe (our colleagues), we know through brain imaging that the same pain centres light up in the brain as they do when we experience physical pain. So fitting in and not being singled out is imperative for many of us as a way of avoiding psychological pain.

The Impact on You

The consequences of working under a manager with unreasonable expectations are significant and multifaceted:

1.         Burnout

Constantly working long hours and sacrificing weekends and holidays can lead to burnout, a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion that diminishes your productivity, creativity, and overall well-being.

2.         Work-Life Imbalance

An incessant demand for work during personal time disrupts the delicate balance between work and life. Relationships suffer, personal interests are neglected, and mental health declines, leading to a less fulfilling life outside of work.

3.         Decreased Job Satisfaction

Feeling undervalued and overworked erodes job satisfaction. You’ll likely become disengaged, which can lead to lower performance and may also result in you either taking time off sick or leaving the organisation altogether.

4.         Health Issues

The stress and exhaustion resulting from excessive work can manifest in various health issues, including anxiety, depression, cardiovascular problems, and sleep disorders. The long-term health implications can be severe and lasting.

5.         Personal Relationship Issues

Being made to work excessive hours can have a significant impact on your personal relationships. Often, it’s hard for partners to understand the need to work excessive hours. They just see that you’re exhausted and unhappy, and work is getting the best part of you while they get the leftovers.

The Wrap-Up

Working under a manager with unreasonable expectations can be overwhelming and detrimental to both your professional and personal life.

Understanding the personal drivers behind these demands—such as insecurity, low self-esteem, perfectionism, people-pleasing tendencies, an unhappy home life, and bullying behaviours—can help you better navigate your work environment.

Implementing strategies to set and maintain boundaries, communicate effectively, and practice self-care can help protect your well-being. I discuss these strategies in detail in the extended YouTube version of this article, which you can watch here.

Ultimately, finding a manager and organisation that aligns with your values regarding work-life balance is critical to a fulfilling and sustainable career. Trust in your worth, prioritise your health and happiness and seek out environments that respect and support your need for balance.

What Next?

If you need coaching support to deal with any of the issues I discuss in my articles, please DM me or email me at info@jobanks.net to arrange a 15-minute complimentary discovery call.

Again, in the extended YouTube version of this article, I also discuss 11 strategies for dealing with a workaholic/overly demanding boss. You can watch it here.

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