Expectations – They're Not All Bad

Expectations.  I’m beginning to believe they are the life or death of relationships, both personal and professional.

For a season I believed that all expectations were wrong and that I just shouldn’t have them.  And in many cases I’m way too guilty of having too many unrealistic expectations of those close to me.  Some of my expectations are rooted in the traditions of the family that I was raised in.  For instance my family was very purposeful to celebrate milestones like anniversaries or birthdays.  Without even realizing it I was raised to believe that everyone should love celebrating my birthday.  You can imagine the challenges that that expectation has created for me. 🙂

But I’m growing to believe that expectations aren’t all bad.

The key is clarity.

Whether in personal or professional relationships, expectations need to be clarified.  Clarity helps people understand the reason behind the expectation.

For the sake of focus, let’s talk about how expectations play out in a professional setting.

At the most basic level, our job performance is an exchange of expectations.

If I work for you, I expect to be compensated.

If you compensate me, you expect me to work.

Fair enough.

But for most work environments that expectation is not clarified enough for day-to-day activities.

What level of performance are you expecting?

What does success look like?

How do I know when I’ve achieved it?

There are many gaps that occur between your expectations and mine if we don’t take time to clarify them.

Vague expectations are extraordinarily dangerous for professional relationships.  Here’s why:

  • Vague expectations don’t inspire people’s best.  We can’t shoot for a target when we don’t know what it is.
  • Vague expectations can cause people to not feel valued or necessary.  If they don’t know what’s valuable to the organization, they don’t know if they are achieving it and making a difference.
  • Vague expectations are a breeding ground for mediocrity.  Without clarity we coast.

Where do you see drift in your organization?  Do you need to clarify some expectations to help everyone get back on track?

What expectations do you need to clarify for your team today?

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  • @B_Rewster March 19, 2012  

    AWESOME POST! Vague expectations feels like a chapter to a book. 

  • Jayeroth55 March 19, 2012  

    Great post Jenni! Your comment about the not feeling valued is particularly relevant for my current organization.  I see drift especially in junior staff, especially individuals that recently got out of school and are so accustomed to having clear guidelines for success = grades.  

    • turner_bethany March 19, 2012  

      That is a struggle I have personally had. I just graduated last May, and it is so easy to know what you need to do to get the grade you want. Even though I had a part time nonprofit job while in school, it is definitely a different culture to be working in the non profit world full time. 

  • turner_bethany March 19, 2012  

    As usual, you hit the nail on the head. Expectations came from somewhere. It is good to recognize where they came from and why you have them so you can evaluated them and clarify them. 

  • Chris Denning March 22, 2012  

    I couldn’t agree more with you! I could have avoided so many headaches if I would have slowed down enough and asked for clarity on expectations. Great post,