Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Managing Expectations:

Expectations are the bane of human interaction, a facet of interpersonal interface that is unavoidable yet a source of recurring agony to all concerned. Expectation, per se, is not something to be scorned; it is unmanaged expectations that are the thorns in the flesh. What do I mean? I intend to address that in just a moment. I hope that by the end of this post, we will all share a common understanding of what managing expectations mean. Now, how to do it warrants its own post, something that I intend to deal with later. (Managing your expectations with this sentenceJ)

The dictionary definition of expectation is: The state or mental attitude of expecting something to happen; or Supposition with regard to the present or the past. Now as may be inferred from above, an expectation is a state of the mind, a mental attitude. This definition makes expectation look like an innocuous feeling, something as harmless as a baby, but beware, it is a baby alright but also may be a baby cobra. Let me explain. In any relationship there is a process of give and take. There are always two parties to it, one that hopes to receive something, aka the customer, and the person from whom the expectation lies, aka the seller. Now the thing desired may be material, like a good or service in lieu of monetary compensation, or it may be spiritual, emotional or in other words, non-material.

The buyer always has some expectations from the seller. To give an analogy from the material side of things, the organization that you happen to work for has some expectations from you as an employee in return for the salary that it pays you. The company here is the buyer of your services, and you are the seller. Now, it is the seller's responsibility to ensure that he under-promise and over-delivers rather than the other way round. He must be able to manage the expectations such that the buyer, the employer, does not set unrealistic goals for him to achieve, those that cannot be achieved and the failure at which causes the employee to look like someone who does not perform at all. The fact is that the employee is not performing to the employer's expectations and only the employee is to be blamed for that. It is his failure to manage the expectations. For example, he might have committed to complete the said task in a time frame that was an unrealistic, off the cuff estimate. Be careful when promising.

This has even more implications and relevance to the management of relationships. The failure of any relationship, marriage, friendship, and so forth, all have the basic cause of failing to do something that the other person involved expects. Again the same word, expect. The expectation of time spent together, support, love, respect and so forth from the other person is a natural feeling. Now the expectations, if not fulfilled, cause the people to drift apart. If each party involved in the relationship learns to make it clear to the other party, what and how much can be readily spared, nothing like it. Easier said than done, though.

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