Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Unrealistic Expectations = Asking For Frustration

The sounds of frustration: Have you had these thoughts when someone hasn’t done what you wanted or expected, or has not responded as you hoped?

“I should have known…”
“I don’t know why I tried….”
“I thought if I gave him one more chance….”
“Well, he did it again.”
“I wish just once, she would…..”
“Was that too much to ask?”

The value of Get real! At work and in personal relationships, we often add to our frustration and disappointment by expecting something from someone that experience and intuition clearly indicates is not likely to happen. Think about your last frustration, disappointment or irritation with someone you know well, work with or supervise. Was it completely unexpected? In fact, have you caught yourself fishing for a response that you know is not likely, so you can say, at least to yourself, “See the way she is?”

  • If a friend or coworker has nearly always been uninterested in one or more topics that seem important to you, you will probably be hurt and frustrated if you try once again to get them to show some excitement about it.
  • If an employee has repeatedly done work that is barely standard, you are setting both of you up for problems if you expect things to change dramatically for the new task you assign him or her. Unless you have done something to intervene and make a difference, you will probably not get different performance.
  • If you have a boss who has rarely if ever said one word of appreciation for even your best work, you should plan on only a nod of the head when you get the big project done early–and be prepared to shrug away not even getting that.
  • If you have never enjoyed collaborating with someone, don’t volunteer to work with that person in the hopes he or she will have changed. You haven’t, so why would he or she?

Few people are so attuned to you, and you to them, that they can be everything you need and want. You probably have friends who are great for one activity, but you call someone else for another activity. You work with someone who is the guru about one thing but not as knowledgeable about something else as another coworker. You supervise someone who is strong in one area but needs help in another–and you get them the help they need to improve. You don’t have it all, either!

The key point is this: You and I are being unrealistic to keep trying to get something from others that they are either unable or unwilling to provide. If we cannot tolerate the way they are, we should stop the relationship. But if we keep the relationship we must accept that the person will always essentially be the same as they are now. Without being fatalistic about it, we should try to keep the attitude that our friends and loved ones are as they are, just as we are as we are. There is no point in putting them to the test one more time to see if they are different today than they have been for the last ten years.

Far too many supervisors do nothing to help or require employees to improve, but continue to supervise as though every employee is able and willing to do every task. This is an unrealistic expectation that is doomed to problems. A supervisor’s main job is to provide the guidance, support, directions and clearly stated expectations, that will ensure good work. It also means you must provide enough oversight to ensure that behavior and performance are at the correct level. There is no point in merely observing so you can say with disgust, “See? He just can’t get his act together!”

Don’t set yourself up for frustration. There are some aspects of friendships and work that will probably never change. Employees can learn new knowledge and skills through training, but they will always have the same traits and personality. Friends may change some behaviors in order to show their caring for us, but they probably will always have the same intrinsic attitudes they do now–and will occasionally revert back to what is more comfortable behavior for them.

Use the team concept, even in your friendships. The value of a team is that each person has strengths that, when combined with the strengths of others, makes for the most effective work. Apply that concept even in your friendships. You know which of your friends can provide the different elements you need–do not expect them to be completely interchangeable. Also realize that the reason they have friends other than you is that you are not all they need either!

Do you know someone who has it all, all the time? If know someone who has it all, and thinks you do too–you are indeed fortunate! Express and show your appreciation every chance you get, be the best possible family member, friend, coworker, employee or supervisor you can, and don’t burn them out or use them up! One way to keep such great relationships going is to keep finding new things to share.

July 21st, 2008 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 4 comments