Are you accidentally training people to punish you? Bad dog.

This is my dog, Skip:

Skip

One of the first things you discover when you own a dog, particularly one with Border-Collie genes, is that every single time you interact with the dog you are training them – whether you intend to or not.

They do some behaviour then you give them some feedback in the form of attention, words, cuddles, play or food.   Even you ignoring them is feedback.  Then they try some different behaviour and get some new feedback.  They are constantly adjusting their future behaviour based on your previous feedback.   It is very easy to accidentally train really annoying behaviour.

This process applies to humans too.  Each time you interact with your boss, client or minions, you are subconsciously training them.  Try to be aware of this and shape your behaviour accordingly.  Make sure you always give appropriate feedback for good or bad behaviour!

Example

The classic case for this is when your boss or client makes some unreasonable demand for work with a ridiculously close deadline.  You curse under your breath, but you want to keep them happy so you work all weekend and deliver what they requested on time.  Well done, you have just trained them to make unreasonable demands with ridiculous deadlines.  They will do it again next week without a second thought.

The way around this particular scenario is to communicate.   You can still work all weekend, deliver the work and keep them happy, but make them aware of the effort it took and make sure they feel appropriately guilty.

Some bosses have a guilt-resistant coating and couldn’t care less if you worked all weekend while they were out playing golf.   Likewise, some consultancy clients have the attitude that they are paying for the work and  can therefore demand whatever they like.

There are two options in this scenario:

  1. Just flatly refuse to work at the weekend.  Promise a realistic delivery date and stick to it.  The boss/client will hopefully look stupid in front of their boss/client, thereby providing the feedback you want.
  2. Use price as a feedback mechanism.  If you are an employee then demand overtime pay.  If you are a consultant then make sure the price is three times higher for a fast turnaround.  If the price still does put them off, don’t be afraid to raise it higher still – the whole point is that if they are going to make painful demands on your time, they need to feel pain too.

Inverse

If you are constantly training everyone else, be aware that they are constantly training you too!