Sometimes you are simply at your peak of frustration, and then it comes out . . . the ultimatum. “Do this or I will leave.” Some people feel ultimatums are their only line of defense when a stubborn boss or colleague won't listen to anything else.
Is an ultimatum a point of no return? Some bosses and co-workers may treat it as such. Both bosses and employees should think about what’s at stake before the ultimatum ever gets thrown. of course once it’s out there you have to deal with it. Here is my approach and more expert insights from my Inc. colleagues. on how to productively manage ultimatums.
1. Dial it back a bit.
Most ultimatums come out of helpless frustration. The threat may kick in your fight-or-flight reaction, which is bound to produce an emotional response. Tell the aggressive party that you need to consider the situation carefully. Give yourself and the other party time to calm down and think through the circumstances and repercussions. Then, revisit the options calmly. The result may be the same, but now it should be for the right reasons.
2. Don’t back down unnecessarily.
If someone gives me an ultimatum, that means whatever I tried to do--compromise, explain, discuss, etc.--didn't work. So, in some ways, it's a failure on my part, but I still need to deal with it. Bottom line is all you can do is decide what you are willing to do or not do, share that, explain your reasoning, and let the other person make whatever decision they need to make. Just know that backing down is rarely a good option; if you weren't willing to give in earlier in the discussions, why are you willing to give in now? Jeff Haden–Owner’s Manual
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3. Look for alternative outcomes.
No one likes to be given an ultimatum, but sometimes that's the way it goes. In most cases, the best way to deal with an ultimatum is to continue to explore other options--looking for a win-win outcome that benefits both of you. However, sometimes--if the other person isn't being reasonable--then the very best way to deal with an ultimatum is to tell them NO, and to move on. Peter Economy–The Leadership Guy
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4. Take them up on it.
Are you treating others fairly, remaining in integrity with your values, and producing quality work? If someone presents an ultimatum, determine the validity of their concerns and practicality of their demands by asking yourself questions like these. Consider what is fair and just for all concerned and take appropriate action. If the other party is just being a bully, do not allow their demands to persuade you. I encourage entrepreneurs to never allow others to “hold them hostage,” to their behavior or demands, especially a client or employee. When you step outside the boundaries of what is good for you and your business that’s exactly what you’re doing. Do what’s right; you’ll never go wrong. Marla Tabaka–The Successful Soloist
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5. Understand the underlying problem.
When I am given an ultimatum, I have to consider what else is going on. An ultimatum is about more than what is demanded. It is indicative of a larger underlying problem and represents a deeper issue between the employee and the boss or between co-workers.
I had a project manager give me an ultimatum--she threatened to quit--if the way a project was being handled didn’t change. The ultimatum had nothing to do with that specific project and was instead a reflection of her desire to be trusted to do her job.
An ultimatum can be a sign that the boss is ineffective, doesn’t respect his/her employees, an employee’s performance is poor or they are having a difficult time at home. If you receive an ultimatum, you should work to understand the underlying cause in an attempt to rectify the real problem. Eric Holtzclaw–Lean Forward
Want to read more from Eric? Click here.