Pushing Back on Targets, Goals, Quotas and Pressure.

I am often asked about what to do or say if your boss is putting you under too much pressure to meet targets. My answer "It depends".

Let's get the 'depend' out of the way - the first thing to look at is you. Look at yourself in comparison to those around you. If you have the same goals and targets as everyone else and you aren't meeting yours while everyone else is, then you may need to change something.

Assuming that it is not you, that it is your boss who is being unfair, then they need to change. You would know that goals should be in the SMART format - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound. There are many variations of this acronym however all have it expressed somewhere that the goal has to be realistic.

The problem with setting goals is that they are either set so high that people give up, or, once achieved the work rate drops off.

Research now suggests that, while targets are a good way of motivating employees, this only works if the goals are agreed upon by both parties and that the goal is a range rather than a set mark.

So how do you push back on too much work and what do you say if you aren't meeting your targets?

The first one is relatively simple and often works if done appropriately. When your boss gives you more work - agree with them that you can take on more work, then show them your list of current work and ask "How do you want me to prioritise this list?" They may not be aware of how much work you actually have so this a good way of showing them. If you don't want to tell your boss face-to-face, send your list of tasks in an email and ask your boss to number the tasks in the order that they would like them to be completed.

Targets are different. If you aren't meeting your targets and you have looked at yourself first, the next step is to establish why you aren't meeting them. It is unfair of organisations to berate you if you aren't meeting a target in one area yet excelling in another. Write down where you are doing well and show how this balances out the lack of achievement in another area. Often when setting targets, we aren't comparing like-for-like nor taking into account individual strengths and weaknesses.

If you cannot persuade your boss to set a range of targets as the goal then ask for additional support or resources to assist you, such as training or mentoring. If they are unmoved or being a 'dick' (a technical term for a bully) about it, go back and read my post on dealing with bullies.

You might want to consider asking them to read this post and point them to the latest research!

It is important to have pressure in our lives, it keeps us motivated, enthused and vibrant. However, it becomes detrimental to our health when we are under relentless pressure and see no clear way forward.