Whenever a manager ask us to perform a task, we often ask "when do you need this by?" Some managers try to be smart and often say: "yesterday".
What would be the best comeback response?
Project Management Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for project managers. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
If he is a friendly boss I would answer: "can you borrow me your time machine?" and then laugh!
When somebody makes humour he loves to get humour back, you will earn some points. Also, always laugh when you make humour. A lot of times people don't understand humour and this leads to misunderstandings.
If he is not friendly, simply answer "i'll be faster than light!" (which actually means to go back in time)
This does not require a comeback response. He is obviously not being literal and perhaps he is invoking a bit of humor on something that is extremely urgent, a common method to help cope with stressful situations. Clearly, the message is the task is of highest priority, meaning you must demote everything else on your to do list down a notch. If he provides you with a deadline date, then he is giving you permission to reset your priorities as YOU see fit, meaning you may do something else before this new task. Yesterday means, do nothing else but this until it is finished and delivered.
We speak using metaphors all the time. There is no need to try to 'come back' with a smart statement. Interpret the metaphor and get to work.
Yesterday is impossible, if you mean as soon as possible, this realistically will be done around date xyz.
Its unclear if this task needs the highest priority:
The best action is to ask again what the priority is, just to be sure its a joke or not and to find out what the real priority is.