Video blog: Unreasonable requests can help you manage better


By Bruce Tulgan — Sometimes people who make insane demands are actually giving you the clues to getting better work out of your team.


(requires the Flash 9 Player)
iPod Video – Download

10 replies
  1. Sarita
    Sarita says:

    Bruce, that was your best video yet. Very entertaining!

    My personal “needle in the haystack” would be to bring my dog to work. But I’ve never thought to ask. Maybe I should show my boss this video, then bring it up? ;-)

    I’d be interested to hear what others’ “insane demands” are.

    * * * * * *

    Good idea, Sarita. I’d like to know other peoples’ insane demands, too.

    My insane demand: I asked to leave work at 3pm every day to go to a yoga class. (My boss let me :)


  2. Joe C
    Joe C says:

    The thinking couch, eh? My insane demand would be to set up my workspace by an open window, with natural light. Not too insane, I guess.

  3. Career-Change-Wanted
    Career-Change-Wanted says:

    An interesting concept. Too bad that so many companies have enough rules and regulations that even a manager who wants to cater to employee’s wishes, such as this one, really can’t.

  4. Tom Morgan
    Tom Morgan says:


    Wow! What a great idea. By getting to know what makes people tick we can customize their work experience so they feel at home.

    My insane demands would be to tele-commute 2-3 days per week, have an office by a window, and have a Starbucks nearby.

    BTW I just started reading your new book “It’s OK to be the Boss” and found the first chapter to be very engaging. I agree that it is much better to give team members direction than to hope they get it right on their own and get frustrated when they do not meet your requirements.

  5. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Where is the link to actually view this video? Both the links in the post go to Flash Player.

    * * * * * *
    Ugh. Thanks for letting me know, Rachel. I’ll pass this on to the guy who handles the technical stuff on my blog.


  6. Andy
    Andy says:

    Hi Rachel,

    If you can’t see the video then you probably have an older version of Flash. You need the newest version, 9.0 to view the video.

    If you follow the link for Flash 9 and install it and then come back to Penelope’s site you should be able to see it then.

  7. Carter Cathey
    Carter Cathey says:

    Several years ago, I brought a mini-fridge into my office and put it under my desk. This one item really changed my outlook on that job.

    The sad thing now is that most places are so regulated with petty rules that a “thinking couch” or even something much simpler would never be allowed. I have been in offices were cube decoration was limited, where plants were restricted, where space-heaters were confiscated, etc.

    I think the difference is in how you view your workforce. Is your workforce your “inventory” that goes home each day or are they replaceable cogs in a machine. But, then again, I have never been a code-breaking math genius working for an intelligence agency. Maybe that would warrent a “thinking couch” afterall.


  8. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I finally got around to watching this, and I must say it was more than a little confusing. Here’s why: the meaning of the idiom “finding a needle in a haystack” is “doing an almost impossible task.” Bruce seems to think it means “discovering a hidden gem.” Since he uses this as a theme for his comments, it took me a while to figure out just what he was talking about.

    I know I sound like one of those curmudgeonly English professors, but they do have a point when they say that language skills are the foundation of communication.

    Anyway, I get the idea– be thankful to the people who actually tell you what they want, even if it seems unreasonable, since they save you the pain of searching for the right solution. I’m not sure how the anecdote fits in, since the “unreasonable” request was actually heeded (not that unreasonable, I guess.)

    I was hoping that there was going to be something more substantial about truly unreasonable requests. Like, that unreasonable requests, even if they are extreme or impossible to meet, can shed light on problem areas that many employees are not satisfied with. Or, if employees are requesting something, it may actually seem reasonable to them. Which means that they may not have an adequate understanding of company priorities, and they need more information.

    In any event, I agree with Bruce that considering requests, even those that seem unreasonable, can be useful.

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  1. says:

    Unreasonable requests that make perfect sense, object fetishism, and keys to better performance

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