When my husband and I were in college we were given advice that instantly changed the perspective on our relationship. We were talking to an acquaintance and sharing our journey about being friends, and how we weren't sure if our relationship could ever go beyond that.
His advice went something like this: The root of any good relationship is expectations. When you find yourselves frustrated or feeling like the other doesn't care, it's because your expectations aren't aligned. When you don't share them, you will disappoint each other. Always communicate your expectations. If you hold them in or assume the other one knows, you'll struggle to be happy.
This conversation was 10 years ago and we still reference it.
Since then I've started a career in organizational development and launched my own business and worked with countless young professionals and managers, coaching them through situations and frustrations that they were experiencing because of …
We walk into meetings expecting a certain outcome. We send an email expecting a specific response. We share our work with others expecting a particular reaction. And when we don't get what we expect in return, we get frustrated and angry.
We don't share our expectations up front, but then we take it personally when they aren't met.
Being mindful about what we expect and aligning our expectations with reality are critical when it comes to alleviating the disappoint we often feel at work. Here are a few other tips:
Pinpoint the issue. Many times we get frustrated over a symptom and not the actual problem. Feeling angry toward a coworker who never answers your emails the way you expect? If you drill down and explore your feelings, it's probably not actually about the email. It's that you don't feel respected. This awareness changes your perspective and turns the issue into something you maybe you don't even need to address.
Admit that you could be the problem. I'm guilty of running on auto pilot all day and never stopping to think about what I might be doing wrong when someone else is driving me crazy. When I do, I usually find that I could have done a better job of sharing my expectations up front. Simply saying "I want to be sure we keep each other updated when we take on new issues with the system, so I'm going to email you every day to share what I'm working on. Will you do the same?" prevents nasty feelings from coming out when I send my updates but never hear a response.
Communicate. We think about what we want others to do but rarely share it. Make it a point to directly share your expectations, whether it's how you expect someone to keep you updated or how something should be done. It's unfair to expect others to read your mind and then be angry when they don't. Saying "What I'd like to see happen is …" can be a great way to get comfortable sharing, and to be sure you come across as collaborative and not overly direct, follow that statement up with "What do you think?" to give the other person a chance to respond.
Expectations are the root cause of the disappointments we feel and simply keeping this in mind can have a huge impact on our happiness at work. And in life.