Break The Cycle of Unrealistic Expectations


March 5, 2013 woke up early this morning, again, and started flipping through channels.  I somehow landed on ‘Little People, Big World’.  I was only half watching it when I noticed the mom having an argument with her teenage son.  For some reason it seems like my attention is drawn to moms who argue with their kids lately.  At any rate, I watched the interaction.

The crux of the argument was that the son lost his backpack and with it all his notebooks, pencils, etc.  Mom told him it was his responsibility to find the backpack and that it wasn’t her problem  because she had done her part by buying his supplies in the first place.  The son was upset and basically shut down because he had no idea how to handle the situation.  As a parent, I understand her frustration.  But, as an outside observer, I also thought that her expectations of her child to be able to figure out how to solve this problem on his own was unrealistic for his age.

I see this all the time.  It’s not just people on TV that aren’t measuring up to the expectations of those around them.  It’s in our workplace, it’s in our communities, and in our own homes.

That begs the question:

Are the expectations too high, or are we really failures?

It seems like a simple observation, but if we’re constantly expecting more from ourselves and the people around us than we, or they, can possibly deliver, is that a good thing?  Now, I’m not saying we need to throw out goals, or even stretch goals.  What I am asking though is why is it that no matter where you work, there never seems to be enough staff for the workload?  Why is it that managers say they do not have staff that can meet all the deadlines and do a great job every time?  It’s the same no matter who I talk to or what organization they work for.

It may be simple to figure out that we are setting everyone up for failure.  What is challenging to figure out is how to change that.  How can you as the manager set realistic goals and expectations when you probably report to someone who has unrealistic expectations of you?

How do we break this cycle?  Can we?  Tell me what you think in the comments.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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