Managing Expectations At Work

It’s not the best feeling when you learn that your boss doesn’t think you’re ready for a promotion. Or when you feel you deserved it as much as someone else who got that promotion. But some of what happens doesn’t have anything to do with how hard you work or the quality of the work you put out. It has to do with how you’re managing expectations at work, both your own and the expectations of your boss. 

Manage Your Manager

One of the best pieces of advice my mentor gave me is to understand the expectations from my manager. Then, use “I hear language” to verify those expectations. For example, “I hear you asking me to make sure I send a weekly recap report…” Then finish it with your follow up action. “I will make sure to send this report each week by end of day Monday.” This way, both you and your manager understand what is required and how you specifically will fulfill those expectations. 

Once the understanding is set, follow up intermittently to check in. Something simple like “I’ve been sending that report each week as requested on Monday, is that day working well?” You are communicating that the request is important, that you’re willing to be flexible in case the original plan isn’t quite working and you’re reminding your boss that you are doing what they asked. When reviews and opportunities come up, you’ll be top of mind and have a positive reputation behind you. 

Manage Your Expectations of Others

Your expectations are the hardest and most important ones to manage. We observe what is happening around us and form beliefs about those events. If we forget to check the facts and assume the facts, we run up the inference ladder (shown below) and take actions based on incorrect conclusions. 

From Argyris, C., ‘Overcoming Organizational Defenses: Facilitating Organizational Learning,’ 1st Edition, © 1990. Printed electronically and reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. and Sons, Inc

Instead, check the facts. Is what you’re observing what’s really happening? Then check what is possible. Not everyone works at the same pace as you do. You may have expectations for others based on what you expect from yourself.

Manage Expectations of Yourself

You probably have very high expectations for your own progress and work. While you’re managing expectations with and for others, it’s also important to remember to manage your internal expectations. Be kind to yourself and check in on your progress. What have you accomplished in the last week? Last month? Last year? You’ve come so far and you should focus on your wins.

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  2. […] You get annoyed that others aren’t working at the same pace as you. […]

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