Managing Expectations When You Have a Demanding Boss

Managing Expectations

To manage expectations means you influence someone’s belief about what they expect to happen. At work you have to manage your customers’ expectations, employees and your boss.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that smoothly most of the time. There can be many unknowns when delivering your product or service. You need a strategy to manage expectations.

Expectations are influenced by what you believe, what you have experienced in the past, assumptions, pressures, other people, external messaging, work related goals and priorities.  It is up to you to manage expectations, in order to have healthy and fulfilling relationships, success at work, and less stress along the way.

One problem with expectation is we expect other people to know what we have going on!

Expectations can create drama and increase the stress reaction, if they are not managed.  Let’s start with managing your expectations.

Here are the steps to manage your expectations with your boss:

Step 1: Know what you want. Be honest with yourself.

Do you know what you need from your boss? What is the type of support and or feedback that would help you work at your best?

Step 2: Do not make assumptions.

Assumptions happen when you do not get clarification. If you do not hear from your boss, schedule a short appointment and find out how you are doing - in the boss's eyes.

Step 3: Listen, ask, understand.

Take the time to ask questions, listen, and ask more questions in order to understand what your boss wants. Consider doing a Job Analysis. Clarify their expectations on project delivery and general workflow. What type of communication do they like and expect around this issue?

Step 4: Be present to what is going on within you, and around you.

Mindfulness helps you avoid emotional hijacking or being caught off guard by emotional reactions, yours or someone else’s. It will also help you get in touch with what you really want.

It is natural to have expectations for how things turn out; the challenge comes when you insist other people meet those expectations. Make the time to build trust in the relationship to negotiate these expectations.

Managing Your Boss's Expectations

As an employee you want to manage expectations of your boss, so you do not get overloaded with work, and continue to perform at high standards. As a leader, you need to manage your staff and your customer’s expectations.

Successful expectation management requires you are consistent in meeting your goals and satisfying those people who are invested in your performance. When your performance becomes dependable, you build trust.

Here are guidelines to help you manage your boss's expectations.

1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Too often plans fail or expectations are not met because there was not enough communication in the planning stage about what is important, when and how it gets delivered.

Since no two people receive messages in the same way, you want to clarify that what people heard, is what you said, and meant. Avoid confusing and conflicting messages; be direct.

And if you are unsure. Ask. You can always follow up your conversation with, “Did that make sense to you? Let’s confirm what is being agreed upon.”

Download the communication checklist to clarify expectations. Use this and you will be a step ahead when handing off projects.

2. Anticipate what they may want.

This is not trying to read their mind. By asking questions, clarifying their answer, you can help the other person identify their needs, and you will be able to anticipate what might work for them. Very often, someone may want something for you but are not clear on the deliverables. Help them figure it out by asking questions.

This is very helpful in work-related situations. Being able to solve your customers (or bosses) problems makes you indispensable.

This is also true for personal situations, ask questions, use examples, clarify and understand what is expected.

3. Design your feedback loop.

How will you handle communication flow, feedback, boundaries for your workload, uncertainty, mix ups? The checklist above is helpful. What other forms of communication may keep you and your boss on the same page? Huddles, stand up meeting, reviews?

4. When you have to say No.

You may not feel you can tell your boss no, however without a conversation on your workload, they will never know what is on your plate. Here is a suggestion about how to handle demands to take on more work:

BOSS: I have a new assignment. I need this report by the end of the day tomorrow.

YOU: Jerry, I look forward to ways I can help you out and today I have X, Y, Z, due and if they do not get done, this is the what happens. So If I take on this report, I would have to let something go. Do you have a preference for what I let go of? Or can someone else do your report?

Practice using this approach, find your words to make this your own. You are stating your positive intention to your boss - I want to make your life better - and you are informing your boss about what you are doing - X, Y, Z - giving them the ability to make the decision about workload.

I highly recommend you speak later to your boss about devising a system to handle these unexpected requests and demands. Build in a process, it could be a "Backlog Que" that also prioritizes those projects that need immediate attention. Having some standardized approach will effectively establish boundaries and limit the emergency petitions for unexpected work.


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