Responding to Unmet Expectations

One of my favorite books of all time is Telling Yourself the Truth by William Backus and Marie Chapian. Essentially the book addresses how we so often tell ourselves things that upon closer examination simply are not true. One particular thing discussed is telling our self lies when someone fails to meet our expectations. Unfortunately this is an easy trap to fall into because we are so often unaware of our self-talk. This leads to something in business that we often do not comprehend. Below is a rather extreme example.

A Foolish Person

I once knew a business owner who tried to micro-manage nearly every aspect of his business. While he may have known in his heart this was an impossible task, that didn’t stop him from trying. But, that set him up for disappointment as well as making it difficult to grow his business, to say the least.

Everybody is Stupid

Continuing with the observation above, I remember numerous times when someone did something incorrectly and he would explode and talk about how stupid they were. By the way they weren’t stupid. Of course, since he had a preconceived notion of what the person should have done, the mere fact that they had done it a different way guaranteed he would not like their actions. In fact, the results he wanted were often not communicated, so these individuals were left to makes decisions and take actions without knowing what they were really trying to accomplish. In short, they were practically assured of not meeting his expectations.

Nobody is Competent

If the person who made the so-called “mistake” wasn’t considered stupid, then there was a good chance he deemed them incompetent. Remember, they often had no idea what the ultimate goal was, so failure in the mind of the owner was almost guaranteed. Supervisors coming to their defense were summarily dismissed. What they thought was irrelevant. Again, the only message he was hearing from his self-talk was that others were not fulfilling his expectations.

They’re Costing Us Millions

It was not uncommon to hear this same individual say that these people, through their stupid and incompetent mistakes (at least in his mind), were costing him millions. I heard that comment on more than one occasion. Considering the size of his company this was absolutely impossible as he would have been out of business. But hey, what’s a little exaggeration when you’re mad.

mad boss

A Conclusion

Actually I have NOT written the above for the purpose of being judgmental of this particular person. In fact, for the most part I liked him, but in retrospect I realize that the real issue was essentially two fold. One, he was a terrible communicator when it came to making it clear what results he wanted, thus setting others up for failure. Two, he based his ability to enjoy his business on whether others met his expectations, even when he had failed to communicate them.

The point is, how often do we all experience disappointment when others fail to meet our expectations? How much responsibility do we have for others failing to meet our expectations because we inadequately communicated the results desired? More importantly, what makes us think others should always meet our expectations and why is our happiness dependent on whether others do meet our expectations?

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As always, your comments are welcomed.


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