Managing Expectations

In continuation to my previous post, I wanted to add a few more thoughts.

In my working life, one of the things that I used to stress to my team was on the importance of managing expectations. There were several instances where people would commit to more than they could deliver, or to time lines which were just not practical or possible, for that matter. It did far more harm to then have to go back to the client and tell them that the work item that was promised could not be delivered on time.  We have an unexplicable urge ‘to please’ people. So many times, people say ‘yes’ to things, to avoid conflict, but then end in bigger conflicts than what would have been, if they had handled it right the first time.

Managing expectation, in my experience, is the crux of all relationships, be it professional or personal. It makes much better sense to set expectations right, rather than set high expectations and fail to deliver.

And it works both ways. Some children have a sense of entitlement that is mind boggling. I remember having a conversation with somebody who was angry at his parents, because he needed money for something and his parents refused – they said they did not have it. Now this fellow is well educated, in a well paying job, surely time to stop expecting handouts from his parents? I feel it is totally fine for his parents to have refused, but he kept saying that they had enough to spare. Whether they had enough or not – surely, it is their decision. Can’t they decide what they want to do with their hard earned money? Does being somebody’s son or daughter entitle us to everything they own? I think once parents have brought us up, given us an education, we really cannot expect handouts from them. If they have money, I would rather that they kept it and used it for something they like. Have some fun, go on holidays..

There are other instances of parents assumed to be ready made, free, babysitters. I find that really unfair. Even more so, when sometimes, they are uprooted from where they are comfortable, and brought to places(sometimes abroad), where they know nobody, have no life for themselves, and have the job of looking after the grandkids.  It is perfectly acceptable if the parents want to do it, but sometimes, they just do not know how to say no and end up in a situation where everybody is unhappy.

The same goes for parents. Just because they have brought us up, does not give them a ‘right’ over our lives. I am sure that most children would love to be there for their parents, but it works much better when expectations are managed and set.  There are families where the parents live with their son and have a miserable time, because they cannot understand why their daughter-in-law comes home so late from work.  Their son coming back late is perfectly acceptable, but not for the daughter-in-law. It really helps if expectations are set right in the first instance. The fact that both of them hold down jobs and that both their jobs are equally important is something that is best understood at the beginning rather than after things spin off into a point of no return. Pixie’s comment on this post is one such example.

Unreasonable expectations from all quarters can be equally de-stabilizing. Be it from the younger generation or the older. It makes life so much easier, if we could all set, manage and handle expectations at all fronts. Although I have to admit, managing expectations in professional life is a cake-walk in comparison to the managing expectations in personal life.