Ever feel under appreciated at work? Under compensated? Overworked? Ever feel the same way in your personal relationships?
Sad to say, but it’s your own fault.
So, why do I say all of this is your own fault?
While it’s true that some of the demands of life are outside of your control, the fact of the matter is that you have way more control than you might think. The trick is learning to manage expectations.
Fortunately, with a few small changes, you can spend less time at work, make more money and look like a rock star (at work and at home) in the process.
Now, when I say that you have way more control than you think, I speak from experience.
Early on in my career I worked as a web analytics consultant for a large corporate company. As a new college grad, I quickly discovered that I was far from the smartest or most technically gifted consultant in the department.
In fact, because I lacked the skills and acumen of my peers, it took me a lot longer to complete the same tasks, which meant I was working harder and making less money than most of the other people on my team.
It didn’t take me long to realize that trying to reproduce the skills and results of my peers would make it very hard for me to achieve my personal and professional goals. If I wanted to start making upward progress, I needed to approach things differently.
I started looking at exactly what our contracts entailed and I made a remarkable discovery. Most of the work we were doing wasn’t in the Statement of Work. In an effort to deliver great results, the more talented and experienced consultants had made a habit of going far above and beyond the expectations of their clients.
Obviously, this was great for the clients, but we were making one big mistake: we were telling the client about all the extra work at the beginning of the engagement. As a result, all of that extra work became a client expectation—even though their contract covered far less.
Think about it, we were doing all of that extra work and getting no real credit for it! Does that make sense to you?
Once I made this discovery, I decided to see what would happen if I focused on exceeding expectations instead of increasing expectations.
So, instead of kicking things off with new clients by telling them about all the extra value I was going to provide, I simply reviewed the project scope as outlined in the agreement with them and assured them everything would be done well and on time.
Then, if I got their project done ahead of schedule, I would do a few extra, unexpected things to show the client I cared.
The end result? While I wasn’t producing amazing solutions like my peers, my clients were always more happy, bought more from us and frequently sang my praises to my boss. As a result, I was the team rock star and I ended up receiving numerous raises and promotions—even before my peers. 🙂
Putting This Into Practice at Work
The key to successfully managing expectations is to figure out exactly what is really expected of you. Often, in an effort to please coworkers or the boss, we take on extra tasks that aren’t really expectations.
That can be a great way to increase your value as an employee…as long as those extra tasks don’t become new expectations. Or, if you’re okay with adding new tasks to your plate, make sure that your efforts are being appreciated and appropriately compensated.
It’s easy to become a “yesaholic”—much like my fellow consultants—and simply add to your workload without asking for anything in return, but that’s how you end up overworked and underpaid.
Now, if you’re already in this situation, you may need to have some tough conversations.
One of the best ways to approach this is to make a list of everything you are already committed to doing and the time it takes to do those things. Take this list to your boss and go over your expectations. Prioritize your list together and determine which tasks are expectations and which ones you can let go or assign to someone else.
To be honest, it’s a good idea to slightly overestimate the amount of time your tasks take. It’s life, you can expect the unexpected. But, if you leave enough time in your schedule to accommodate the unexpected, things will still be manageable even when weird things happen.
And, if you end up with a little extra time, you can use it to exceed expectations and really make your boss and coworkers happy!
Putting This Into Practice at Home
These principles work just as well at home as they do at work.
For example, I used to have this problem where I would tell my wife that a project would take 4 hours. Then, as it always does, life happened and the project would consume an entire weekend. Other times, I would tell her that I’d be sure to be home by 6:00 pm only to arrive at 6:20 pm.
I’ll admit that I was a little slower at figuring out how to manage my family’s expectations than my clients’ expectations, but I’ve since learned that setting the right expectations with your family can do wonders for your personal relationships.
Case in point, when my wife asks me what time I’ll be home and I know the realistic answer is 6:20 I tell her 7:00 pm. When I evaluate the time a project will take I times it by 3! As a result, when I show up at 6:20 (or even 6:40) or finish a project in half the predicted time, I’m greeted with a smile—not a frustrated sigh.
So, if you feel overworked, underappreciated or under compensated, stop blaming your boss or your spouse! Sure, they might be contributing to your situation, but if you aren’t managing expectations appropriately, the blame ultimately rests on your shoulders.
The good news is, if you take the time to set reasonable expectations, you set yourself up to work less and still look like a rock star—its a win for everyone!
You’ve heard my two cents, now I want to hear yours.
Are mismanaged expectations really at the heart of work frustrations? How do you manage expectations at work or at home?
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