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Setting Healthy Expectations in the Workplace

Last week was my birthday. And I kinda like my birthday... Just a little. If you are a New Girl fan and remember the Jess birthday episode, I would compare my love of my birthday to a toned-down version of that. I mean, I try very hard not to have expectations when it comes to my birthday, but alas, I still have them. Thankfully this year my boyfriend knocked it out of the park. ;)

Expectations can be extremely harmful to hold, especially when they are not communicated, yet we all have them for most people in our lives. This is a subject I have begun to ponder in my personal AND professional life. If holding expectations is a reality we can’t escape, how do we make these expectations healthy ones?

In the workplace, we have expectations with our colleagues, boss, clients, and individuals we manage. Our bosses also set expectations for us to fill within our job roles. To begin to think about this concept, here are some helpful tips on how to set healthy expectations.


  1. Communicate Clearly and Effectively

 No matter the expectation and no matter who you have it with, the biggest sense of resentment, anger, and frustration happens when the expectation isn’t communicated. Specifically, when the expectation isn’t communicated clearly and effectively. Effective communication includes clear and focused objectives. “This is why [objectives] work so well: The steps to achieve are well-defined. Review your objectives each quarter and make notes on what worked and what didn't. By having these open conversations, you can set even better objectives for the next quarter,” said Luanne Tierney, chief marketing officer at Betterworks, a workplace empowerment and performance company. Not only will clear steps and objectives help communicate expectations as a manger to employees, but this will also be a helpful tool in setting expectations with fellow coworkers.


  1. Encourage Open Conversation and Feedback

To further emphasize the first point of this blog, communication is key. This is even true after the initial expectation has been stated and outlined. Expectations and objectives change. On both ends. So, if healthy expectations are going to continue, feedback is essential. Engage in open dialogue with your coworkers, clients, and the employees you manage. It is important to even set time aside to walk through the expectations in place. The more open the dialogue, the more effective work and relationships will become. And this all begins with the environment you have created in your personal office and the workplace as a whole.


  1. Know the Motivation and Purpose 

Often unhealthy and unclear expectations come from an individual not knowing what they exactly want or are entering an expectation with a sense of individualism/selfishness. It is important that you know who you are and what the key message is. "Develop a key message supported by examples," Perkins said. One way to do this is with storytelling. "It's powerful when leaders share real stories about themselves and employees," Perkins added. "The more specific, personal and memorable the story, the better. Storytelling is a great way to create the opportunity to learn." This creates the opportunity for connection and for the key message to be shared within the company. Expectations are better met when the message and motivation is shared. And this begins with empathy and understanding one another. Storytelling is a powerful tool to make this happen.


Just as I try to manage the expectations I hold surrounding my birthday, I encourage you to think about how you navigate expectations in the workplace and in your personal life.


To read more about setting expectations, check out this source:

SHRM’s “6 Tips on Setting Expectations for Employees

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