Time and time again clients relay their irritations and frustrations about their work environment. The specific complaints may vary but at their core they often revolve around the issue of erroneous or violated expectations.
a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
a belief that someone will or should achieve something.
Some violated expectations are accidental and innocent enough. Think about that time you ordered coke or Pepsi, and as you drove away and took your first sip you got a mouthful of root beer. Sure, it’s not the end of the world, and it is fixable, but they had one job, right? So, what happened there? You expected one thing and received another. You seemingly communicated your desire clearly, and, they even repeated it back. Yet here you are with the wrong product. Your expectation was clearly violated. And that’s probably not the worst part because now you feel like you can’t trust them and you may even start making assumptions as to their competence and why they didn’t deliver. Your new-found distrust may manifest in a few ways. First, you will probably share your frustrations with those around you, and second, in the future you will probably not leave that drive thru until you ensure that every part of your order is correct.
Translate that to an office where often roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined. Where the workflow and procedures are often not clearly documented. Where there’s no encouragement for people to understand one another in a fundamental way that would allow them to build trust and avoid making false assumptions about behavior or intention-e.g. if someone you knew and respected was working that drive thru you would probably drive away believing that it was a simple mistake and leave it at that.
So why are expectations violated so often? Well, I think a major reason is lack of trust and accountability rooted in with poor communications through what I like to call “don’t ask, don’t tell”. From a manager’s perspective, I won’t ask if my expectations for completing a project are reasonable, and you won’t tell me if you think they are not (but you will tell your spouse or co-workers). So, let’s just wait until the deadline approaches and the project isn’t complete so I can further bolster my belief that I can’t trust anyone to do anything and I need to get even more involved. And, from your perspective, you are not comfortable enough, or trust me enough to tell me I may be wrong or I may have missed something. You will just keep at it and hope for the best. Neither of us is being malicious. We are, ironically, each just operating in our comfort zone. Eventually we start disagreeing about more things. But those things are several floors up from the foundational issues, and well, we’ll just keep trying to deal with the cracks on the third floor without ever discussing the foundation.
DOES ANY OF THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?
I know this seems like an over simplification, but I think it’s no different than baseball. It doesn’t matter the level of game or the stakes, the basics do not change. Developing a solid foundation of trust within a team is basic and paramount to performing well. Trust allows us to be vulnerable with each other, ask questions, and learn to enter into and resolve conflicts and disagreements in a healthy way.
Too often I have witnessed, and sad to say participated in, these communication misfires first-hand. These may be simple concepts to understand, but nonetheless, difficult to perfect. So, since I was told today that I sometimes belabor the point, let me just leave you all with this challenge. The next time you are in a conversation or transaction and the little voice in your head wonders about a timeline, cost, percentage, responsibility, or anything that isn’t spelled out clearly, consider asking and...
Striving to achieve Clarity
Gaining a new level of Trust
Equalizing all Expectations
Remember that assumptions are just premeditated disappointments, and no one needs that.