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The Consequences of Unclear Expectations

When I was six my mom signed me up to play soccer. At this point, the games look more like Pong than they do actual soccer, with every child floating directly around the ball as it bounces from one end of the field to the other. After our second game, our coach began assigning positions. For our next game I would playing defender. Coach tells me I have one job, "Take the ball from the other team."

The whistle blows and the other team begins kicking the ball towards our goal. I remember what my coach tells me. In a moment of athletic heroism, I sprint over, pick up the ball and run off the field toward the parking lot. Mission accomplished.

It was a classic case of unclear expectations. Whether at school or at work, we've all been a victim of this travesty. Unfortunately, unclear expectations can have a drastic effect on our lives, especially in regards to our work.

A Gallup pole found that only about half of U.S. workers know what is expected of them at work. If we don't know what is expected of us, how can we meet our managers expectations?

In a work culture based on performance reviews, those being reviewed must know what their performance is being measured against. The same can be said for teachers and students. If you find that performance varies greatly from one student to the next, your first step should be to review the expectations you've set. Unclear expectations can result in a disengaged, anxious, and stagnant employee or student.

Unmet expectations are not a reflection of a bad employee. Rather, they are a reflection of poor leadership. The best leaders and managers set clear expectations so when their employees succeed or fail, there is no surprise.

The reason most expectations are not met is because they were never clear in the first place.


List three roles in your life and the current expectations that have been set on you in each.

*If you can list the roles and not the expectations, there's your sign.


Are you generally setting expectations or seeking to meet them? Which is more important to you?


"You were hired because you met expectations. You will be promoted if you exceed them." - Saji Iljiyemi

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