How to Manage Expectations At Work

By Somali K Chakrabarti



Very few people will dispute the fact that managing expectations is critical to the success of any relationship, be it a business relationship, a professional relationship, or a personal relationship. A business that manages to balance the customers’ expectations with its product/service emerges successful. On the other hand, a business that fails to live up to the expectations of the customers, loses its customers to the competitors. At work, employees are rated on how often they exceed expectations, meet expectations or fail to meet expectations.

Managing expectations does not imply giving in to all the wishes of your clients or managers which you may think of as unreasonable, but it is about being objective, subtly putting across your views, setting the right expectations, communicating those expectations, and meeting the expectations. At work people need to manage expectations at different levels to ensure that their efforts are directed towards the desired outcomes and their performance gets noticed. As such those who can manage expectations well are often more productive at work.



Setting expectations with your manager

How many times have you felt lost when you have been put on a job and nobody told you how to go on about it?
If your manager does not give you clear instructions, it is necessary that you yourself approach your manager and ask specific questions that help you to understand what is expected from you. These could be questions on:

  • What is your role on the assignment.
  • Where to seek the resources such as information, training, tools, materials, space or people needed to do the assignment.
  • The expected schedule for reporting milestones and meeting interim deadlines.
  • What is the benchmark for success at that milestone.
  • Guidelines or standards that need to be followed and boundaries that need to be adhered to.
  • Where you have a difference of opinion, objectively put across your views giving adequate reasons to support your views and leave it to your manager to accept or reject your views.


Setting expectations with your clients

Businesses are run on the basis of relationship between a firm and its customers. As such it is very important for a business to know and cater to the expectations of their clients. For that every business needs to:

  • Anticipate the Client’s Needs.
  • Set expectations upfront while cutting down on the unrealistic expectations. If you over promise and fail to deliver, people will be disappointed but if you promise too little, people won’t try your product.
  • Manage expectations through constant communication. Inform your customer ahead of any likely changes that may impact their work.


Setting expectations within your team

Your team’s performance reflects your own performance. As such you need set expectations within your team and communicate those expectations clearly to steer your team towards the right direction.

  • Be clear on the outcome that you expect your team to deliver and set motivational goals.
  • Provide Structure, define boundaries.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities.
  • Provide your team with resources that they need to accomplish their tasks to facilitate their work.
  • Listen objectively to their ideas to see if they have something more creative.


Managing expectations of your peers

When you move up the corporate hierarchy, you are expected to get things done, for which you may have to seek the cooperation of your colleagues. It therefore become necessary to build rapport with your peers, manage their expectations and create the required goodwill to facilitate work and improve your productivity.

  • Show genuine interest in their work to improve your knowledge about your company and business.
  • If your work depends on theirs, set mutually agreeable goals on communication.
  • Show them that you are willing to help them with your skills and knowledge. Share information that might be of use to them their work.


Managing your own expectation

Last but not the least managing your own expectation is as important as managing expectations of your clients, your boss, your pears, your family or your friends. Your ability to manage your own expectations will shape your personal brand.

  • Set small achievable, measurable goals, aligned with your larger career objectives.
  • Manage expectations of the outcome. Celebrate each small success but don’t let success rule your head or failure rule your heart.
  • Be persistent with your efforts. Step by step move towards the larger target.



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