Have you ever been let down when someone failed to meet your expectations? Failed expectations are one of the main reasons that effective interpersonal communication becomes tarnished with so much discord. It’s a major demotivator that must be removed before it can be replaced with the motivation to communicate effectively.
We have expectations about people’s behaviors, their roles, how life should be lived, rituals around death, relationships and so on. In the workplace there are expectations about how we dress, when we take our breaks, how we respond to authority, protocols, and norms for human discourse and so on. Failing to meet expectations can lead to feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment and even sadness.
Why Expectations Are Not Met
Here are three top reasons why expectations are not met.
- Unaware. We may be unaware of our own expectations. They can be hidden and unclear. In these situations unsolicited negative feelings often emerge surprising and mystifying everyone. People cannot respond to our needs and expectations if they do not know what they are. We must take ownership and ask ourselves, “What are my true needs and expectations here?”
- Don’t Care. Sometimes people do not actually care enough to seek a meaningful conversation to clarify expectations and needs. In these situations effective interpersonal communication stops and relationships are destined to an end.
- Unreasonable. Expectations may be unreasonable. People may openly or covertly defy expectations that are perceived to be ridiculous. Expectations may be conscious and reasonable yet one may not feel like they have the right to share them, leaving the other person unaware and ‘guessing’.
A good way to illustrate expectations is through this example.
Vera was an administrator for a government social services department who secured her job through political maneuvering and favoritism. She decided to run her department with a strong hand, demanding that her staff report their whereabouts at all times. This marked an abrupt reversal to the expectation that prevailed prior to her time as leader. She even demanded that her staff report when they were taking washroom breaks when there was no good reason for doing so.
Needless to say, the staff reaction was negative as they lost respect for their leader. They openly defied her with impunity as they united against her. Vera lost total control as her staff effectively isolated her in her own department. The situation became untenable and Vera had to be released from her duties to make way for someone whose competencies matched the responsibility with which she was charged. Vera’s unreasonable expectations of her staff ended her relationship with them as well as her role as leader in her department.
Managing Expectations Effectively
So how do you manage expectations effectively for effective interpersonal communication?
- In leadership, effective interpersonal communication demands clarity. People cannot respond without proper knowledge of what the expectations are.
- Keep your expectations reasonable if you want people to respect and follow your Lead.
- If you find yourself not respecting another’s expectations, ask yourself if maintaining the relationship is important to you. Effective interpersonal communication will be halted and the relationship will ultimately end, if one’s expectations are disrespected.
- If you find yourself in a conflict situation take an inventory of your expectations and ask whether you may have hidden expectations that may be hampering the process. Also ask yourself if you have been clear enough with expressing these expectations.
- Exercise your right to voice your expectations clearly. Effective interpersonal communication demands no less.
Surfacing expectations rests on a two way feedback process . First is: “How often do I tell or inform others what I clearly expect?” and the second is: “ How often do I ask exactly what they expect of my?” There’s a saying: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions” so learn how and when to give it and ask for it.
Getting expectations clear is critical to effective interpersonal communication. Take the unnecessary conflict out of your workplace interactions by making sure that everyone understands and lives by the expected norms. Encourage feedback and debate so expectations can be honed appropriately to match the workplace environment. The payoffs will be great in terms of worker satisfaction.