After working in the business world for a decent amount of time, managers and employers are bound to come across irrational, or simply unreasonable requests from their employees or colleagues. Whether asking for an usually large increase in salary, or being asked to increase your levels of performance without adequate compensation, understanding the most effective ways to handle these situations is an important skill to have.

Aside from interoffice complications, many people in the customer service industry will be faced with absurd requests from their clients as well. In order to best approach this, separate the work in terms of what is necessary, and what is overwhelming. You will most likely be overcome with a sense of dread that the request being made will result in dissatisfaction on both sides. However, so long as you manage expectations and explain why something can or cannot be done, any feelings of disappointment may be subsided.

Consult a more seasoned employee in this situation, as there is a good chance they’ve come across something similar. It is always wise to ask for help when handling a request you have yet to face. What one of your colleagues may do to alleviate the problem could give you a new perspective and inspire you to approach the request differently. Additionally, you are fostering workplace relationships by showing your trust in another employee.

A great strategy to apply in these situations is giving examples as to why something may not work rather than telling someone “no.” Especially true in customer service, most people strongly dislike being told no. Depending on their request, provide a past example in which something similar was asked, and the results were not what either party was looking for. Similarly, suggest different approaches that you feel will be more beneficial. The key is to remain the expert in your field while being flexible for compromise.

Should the request being made be solely due to a recent failure or decline in something, highlight any positives that you can. It’s never a great idea to report back to a client or colleague with just a negative statistic. Instead, points out the success that you have recently had in that specific area, and why an already existing strategy may be better than the unreasonable proposal.


Never put off the request due to fear or a sense of overwhelming. Waiting too long once a request has been made, regardless of how unrealistic it may be, will only hurt these business relationships. Maintain an open line of communication at all times. Similarly, avoid jumping the gun and responding to the request with casualness. Downplaying an irrational proposal will make it seem as though it is entirely doable. The goal is to manage expectations before anything is done.