Handling a workaholic boss

Handling a workaholic boss

by Eunice Chua 04 Feb 2020

If you’re lucky, you’ll never have to meet one in your life, but chances are most of us have at some point been through the stressful experience of working for bosses that are married to their jobs. There’s only so much tolerance one can have for perpetually overflowing email inboxes and unending deadlines before the stress leads to burnout. Unfortunately, it’s not like you can just hand in your resignation letter every time a boss gets too demanding. Your best option is to live with it – but not without asserting your ground and negotiating for a compromise!


The thing that most workaholic bosses don’t get is the concept of balance. They may not see the need to set distinct boundaries between work and personal life, and put work above all else. As an employee, you have to strike a balance between meeting their demands and your own needs, and the way to get there is through earning trust and cultivating understanding.


  • Establish your boundaries

There’s no way around this except to sit down and talk to your boss about it. Voice out your concerns about your workload and explain how it will affect the quality of your work. Psychotherapist and author of “#Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn on Your Life“ Bryan Robinson offers a good approach that’s more likely to get your boss to listen: start off by saying something positive to build some rapport before you address the problem and finally, end on positive terms. An aggressive or emotional approach is more likely to fail, so try to come off as rational and logical as much as possible.


  • Be firm in keeping to these boundaries

During crunch time, you may have to work overtime or even bring work home over the weekends. Here’s when you need to exercise some flexibility. Accept reasonable job requirements but be firm that you’re only doing this temporarily because it’s necessary, and that you won’t be continuing with such a routine once the peak period is over. Don’t allow your bosses to overstep your boundaries so often that they forget it exists!


  • Negotiate and compromise

When a deadline is too tight for you to meet, request for a reasonable extension. Acknowledge the importance of the assignment but assert your right to have time off from work too.


  • Make your sacrifices known

Every time you sacrifice your personal time to complete some last minute work obligations, inform your bosses about it. It’s important that they’re aware of the steps you are taking as an employee to meet their needs, and you’re more likely to earn their trust and respect that way.


  • Find time to manage take-home work

Some take-home work is inevitable, but to prevent it from eating into your family time, you need to re-think your schedule in order to make sure that the fit is a healthy one. For example, you could wake up an hour earlier to finish some quick reports or reply to emails before the rest of the family wakes up.


When you establish fair grounds for a compromise in a professional manner, your workaholic boss is more likely to agree to and respect reasonable boundaries that exist between work and personal life. Of course, it goes without saying that you should also endeavour to be a productive and trustworthy employee on the whole, even if only in the spirit of fairness!