Do This, Do that: How to Deal with Your Coworker’s Unrealistic Expectations

Article Categories: Other & Administration

“I am not a robot,” Robert, a medical assistant at a local hospital, angrily mutters to himself after a physician gives him a third task with a specific deadline within the next hour. He has barely started with the first, which will take more than half an hour to accomplish, IF there are no unexpected delays from the laboratory. Yet he finds himself saying “yes” half-heartedly to the third task at hand. Still early in this shift, he already feels overwhelmed and stressed out. Just like every day, Robert thought, as unrealistic expectations from his coworkers seem to worsen day after day. With similar situations happening more often, he is really starting to resent his colleagues.

Robert’s case is not unique. Many medical assistants feel the same way, as short-staffing and transformational changes demand more and more from healthcare workers. Colleagues become over-demanding, making requests with impossible deadlines, interrupting already rushed procedures, and assigning workloads above what any healthcare worker can handle in a day's work. Amidst MAs going the extra mile just to finish essential tasks, leaders tend to increasingly delegate responsibilities to front-liners such as them.

While MAs do their best to meet the demands of the job and their coworkers' expectations, they sometimes still feel inadequate and inefficient. But this thought pattern should not keep you down!

If you are a medical assistant and you have coworkers with unrealistic demands, the tips below should help you get through the day:

1. Be logical and keep calm.

When the going gets tough at work, it is best to keep a level head and calm demeanor. Do not let your emotions get in the way of problem-solving. Remaining logical and keeping a clear head will help you communicate your concerns more effectively to the right people.

2. Be pro-active and communicate.

If you are assigned a task with an impossible deadline, inform the delegator that the request is not feasible and then give a brief description of your current duties and what time you will become available. This will push the delegator to look for someone else who can take on the responsibility. If they are still amenable to your availability then you may accept the assignment. If you have accepted it and you know you will not make the deadline, tell them as early as possible. It is unprofessional to take on the task and say nothing, informing the delegator only at the deadline that you were not able to make it.

3. Learn to differentiate between difficult tasks and unrealistic demands.

Difficult tasks that are well within set goals can be accomplished, but may need lots of collaboration and critical thinking. Unrealistic demands will not be accomplished even with your best efforts, and can greatly compromise patient safety. If there’s a possibility patient safety will be at risk, provide a brief explanation of why this is so.

4. Know if the extra-heavy workload is due to bullying behavior.

Workplace bullies tend to dump huge workloads on their victims to make them look inefficient at work. If you think you are being bullied, refer to your institutional policies on how to handle aggressive behavior in the workplace.

5. Learn organizational skills.

Always have the upper hand at work by developing a system of doing things efficiently and in the least time and effort. Make this a personal challenge and meet your coworkers halfway. For example, place signage around the office so that other staff do not need to constantly interrupt you for frequently-used office items.

Medical assisting is a tough job. When a day becomes overwhelming because of your coworker’s unrealistic demands, be sure to set your boundaries clearly and early.

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