“What did you expect?” is a question asked rather often in relationships and you can tell by the tone, it’s generally asked after a problem has already surfaced. If this sounds familiar, don’t kick yourself. The fact is we were never given the tools to live in harmony with each other. We often have to figure this stuff out on our own and it’s usually based on what isn’t working! Harmony in a relationship hinges on being clear with expectations. But like anything else, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a need for common sense!
Consider this hypothetical situation…
A Couple: Dave and Claudia are on their first date at a local restaurant. They’re pleasantly surprised by the way they hit it off right from the start. After a few hours, Claudia looks Dave in the eye and says, “I really like you so I want to be upfront with you. Commitment leading to marriage is very important to me. My goal is to be married within the next 2 years. I also have my heart set on three kids and a dog; preferably a poodle.” Dave puts his fork down, clears his throat, and signals for the waiter… “Check please!” The date is cut short and the relationship ends before it begins.
Can setting expectations spoil a potentially good thing? If common sense is absent, than the answer is YES! But take a look at what happens when expectations are never discussed:
Same Couple: The first date was a success! Dave and Claudia really hit it off and continued to see each other and within a month or so, they became “exclusive”. They spent a lot of time together, went to concerts together, cheered for the same sports teams, met each other’s friends and families and scheduled occasional weekend getaways, but neither discussed the future or their individual expectations of the relationship.
Eight months later, Claudia overhears Dave bragging about her to his buddy Ralph. “She’s just awesome! We think alike, you know? Like she’s completely on board with staying single and she doesn’t get caught up in the pressure society puts on us to be ‘married with children’! Thank God, ‘cause you know I’m not cut out for that!” Ralph nods, “Yup, darn good thing you found a woman on the same page!”
When Ralph leaves, Claudia explodes! “What do you mean I’m on board with staying single?” She holds out her left hand, “I’ve been waiting for a ring! And having children? Just look at this body! It’s made for having kids and I thought you knew I wanted three, maybe four of them! How could you not know that?”
What prevented both parties from being clear with each other? What caused this communication breakdown? The answer is most likely due to one of these…
1. FEAR: Dave was afraid to ask because he might not like the answers and be faced with a decision he’d rather not make. Claudia avoided telling Dave for fear of his reaction, or fear of being faced with a conflict. Both were basically afraid of the outcome for whatever reason, so they postponed the inevitable. Fear can ruin relationships!
2. ASSUMPTIONS: Dave simply assumed Claudia was on the same page since she never brought up marriage or kids. Claudia assumed Dave should know because… “Well doesn’t every woman want that?” Both were basically assuming the other thought like them. Assumptions can ruin relationships!
3. UNCERTAINTY: Dave or Claudia never set expectations about the future because neither were quite sure what they wanted anyway. They were comfortable just riding the waves of life hoping the other would decide for them. But uncertainty about one’s future often turns into resentment when someone else makes the decision for us! Therefore, uncertainty can ruin relationships!
These are the same three feeble reasons that occur repeatedly in the workplace and it can set the employee-employer relationship up for failure right from the start! Don’t be afraid to have the conversation. Don’t ever assume the other person knows what you are thinking or what you expect. And DO be certain about your own expectations – because if YOU’RE not certain, you can’t expect your employer, employee (or even lover) to be either!
The common breakdown in workplace relationships…
“She never told me want she wanted, yet she expected me to know!” is an expression shared by many the unemployed person who got fed up and left a job. People interact and perform better when they know exactly what their employer wants from them. Even the most skilled person often fall shorts when expectations haven’t been discussed by a superior.
Although communication is a 50/50 proposition, the responsibility of discussing expectations falls heavier on the shoulders of the employer. Why? Because the average employee won’t ask what their superior expects of them, let alone risk expressing their own expectations as an employee! When an employee isn’t clear about what’s expected of them, they become hesitant, distracted and make mistakes, or lose interest completely. When an employee isn’t asked what they expect, a subtle wave of “I guess my thoughts/needs/concerns/goals don’t really matter here!” is ignited and overtime a “guard” develops between that employee and his/her supervisor. NOT GOOD!
But there is good news! Setting expectations is much easier than most people think! In the next post, Johnny reveals an extremely easy, extremely successful technique in setting MUTUAL EXPECTATIONS with employees. (Don’t miss it! Click HERE)
And here are some questions for you to ponder:
- Which of these Expectation-Setting-Pitfalls describe you best? (Fear, Assumptions, Uncertainty)
- Which describes the person who supervises you?
- Which would your subordinates say is your biggest pitfall?
- What is your biggest strength regarding the overall topic of expectations?
- What is your biggest opportunity for growth regarding the overall topic of expectations?
Johnny, signing off…
Johnny Supervisor is a platform dedicated to strengthening the weakest (yet most important) link in the chain of command — through developing superior supervisors who are committed to the company’s smooth succession. Follow Johnny for articles, resources and recent trends in healthy succession at the supervisory level. By the way, Johnny travels well!
DISCLAIMER: Johnny is a fictitious character who emerged while training thousands of employees in different organizations. Johnny represents males AND females in a variety of industries.
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