Why Worry About Expectations?
Why Didn’t You Do What I Expected You to Do?
The importance of understanding expectations cannot be underestimated. Expectations exist in every single relationship and encounter that we have with others. Yes, this even includes chance encounters that we have with perfect strangers. Case in point, when we walk into a department store and there is a greeter at the entrance, you immediately have an expectation for that individual. If you make eye contact with that individual on the way into the store or on the way out of the store, what do you expect? You expect that individual to acknowledge and speak to you without you having to speak to him/her first. If they make eye contact and don’t speak as you approach and pass, you immediately begin to experience negative feelings and have negative thoughts. Now, what happens if that individual speaks to the person behind you, and the person after that? Is it possible that you get so upset that the rest of your shopping trip is ruined? Is it possible that you get so upset that you seek out this individual’s supervisor or manager to complain about his/her behavior?
And what initiated these negative actions – Expectations! Suppose you are standing at a checkout counter and the cashier is busy doing something else when you arrive. She notices you standing there alone and states that she’ll be with you in a minute. By the time she makes her way to the counter, several others several others have made their way to the counter to be checked out. What happens if she proceeds to help one of these other customers before she helps you? Do you get upset? What if she helps every individual at the counter before she helps you…do you say anything or do you just boil inside? What’s causing these negative thoughts and emotions – Expectations! You expect the employee to help you first because you were there first. If the employee honestly did not know who reached the counter first you expect her to ask, “Who’s next” or “Who’s first”. This can truly become a problem for the manager or owner of the store if this is perceived as a discriminatory act. It is easy to see how not living up to expectations can quickly result in undesirable circumstances.
How Does this Affect You on the Job?
In certain situations you expect certain things from certain people and if those expectations aren’t met, then someone must “pay”. It’s the same way for us on our jobs. If your boss has certain expectations of you and you don’t act or deliver results according to those expectations someone must pay. In this case, that someone is you. So if understanding expectations is so important, why is it that we spend so little time discussing expectations? One reason is that it is usually not a quick and easy exercise to formulate and communicate well thought-out expectations. It takes time to make sure that these expectations are in line with company goals and objectives and to make sure that they are relevant for measuring an individual’s level of success for the time period in which these expectations are valid.
How Important is it Really to Discuss Expectations?
Since none of us have evolved to the point where we are able to send expectations telepathically, we have to deliver them through verbal or written means. As a worker, your immediate expectation of your boss is that he/she provides you with a list of expectations so that you can increase your likelihood of being successful while reporting to him/her. However, if this doesn’t happen, you must take it upon yourself to initiate the “expectations” discussion. There is too much riding on this matter of expectations to leave this issue to chance. Since you will be held accountable to deliver certain results, it only stands to reason that you should know what results you are expected to deliver. Your semi-annual and annual reviews will be based on expectations. If you have not had the “expectations” discussion prior to the review, you have just shown up at the gunfight brandishing no weapons. If you are lucky, the boss loves you and thinks the world of you and you might leave on a cloud. There may be no discussion about a single major accomplishment that you have made, but you do know that you are “loved”. If you are not so lucky, the boss resents you and dreads even having to spend this “quality” time (being facetious, here) with you and he/she can’t wait to fill your ego full of buckshot and get you out of his/her sight. He/She may have no legitimate reason to treat you this way, but without the list of expectations to fall back on, you are literally defenseless.
Expectations and the Performance Review
By having clear and concise discussions about expectations, you can make sure that you convert what may have initially been “perceived” expectations (which are prone to a subjective performance review) to “concrete” expectations (which will lead to an objective performance review). In order for a performance review to be fair and unbiased it must be objective. In order for the performance review to be objective, a detailed discussion about goals and objectives, “deliverables,” timelines, and no-nos must occur. Why is it important to understand the no-nos? It is important because it is these things that may cause irreparable damage to the working relationship that you have with your boss. An example of a no-no might be boisterously disagreeing with your boss publicly in such a manner that harms the credibility of your boss. This may be an extreme example, but it is an example of a no-no that can have a long-lasting negative impact. When it comes time for your performance review, the incident won’t show up as being the reason for your poor review but it very well may be the root cause. It could be the reason why you get the “buckshots” instead of the “forget-me-nots”.
How Do I Recognize that I Have “Good” Expectations?
At the end of the “expectations” discussion you should walk away with SMART goals. “SMART” is acronym which implies goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Once you have concrete expectations in hand you are better prepared to have a fair and just review. The likelihood of being surprised by the outcome of your performance review is minimized. With concrete expectations in hand, you can have regular discussions with your boss about the progress you are making or the obstacles you are encountering. In addition, you are able to discuss which expectations have the greatest priority, relatively speaking. Your enthusiasm towards accomplishing your expectations demonstrates your level of commitment and desire to do that which is needed from you. If you deliver according to your expectations and you are not able to receive an acceptable performance review, then rest assured that there are other factors at play which are beyond your control.