How to avoid disappointment from unmet expectations
This morning I was talking to a friend who is going through a rough time at work. A new opportunity had come up for a promotion, which he had applied for some months ago. He had gone through an extensive selection process and was led to believe that this would be a quick undertaking, with a resolution expected back in August. August turned into September. September into October. Earlier this morning he had been told that it would not be until November when there could be a resolution.
Frustrated and disappointed, he told me that every time the company had delayed the decision, they had assured him that he was the preferred candidate, that it should be a no brainer. However that the internal process was slower than expected, the right people needed consulting, the offical process and ticks in the boxes doing, bla, bla, bla. It all seemed like an arrear of shallow excuses and cover ups for an intrinsic inefficient decision-making process. Or that there was some other motive they clearly did not want to share with him.
This morning, very demotivated, his gutt was telling him to either throw a tantrum or throw the towel. We discussed both options in detail and, two coffees and a few croissants later, came to the conclusion that neither of them were smart moves that would take him where he ultimately wanted to be. We spoke about what he coudl do next, what he should not do next and what would happen the next time the news was negative. With some new regained perspective, a shoulder to lean on and a new strategy for the next months, we parted ways and he seemed a bit more cheerfull.
It made me think about unmet expectations and how we so often at work (and outside of it) are faced with them and feeling disappointed. When you are a person with high standards who expects a lot from yourself and others, chances are that you will be in this place of disappointment very often. Because the reality of life is that most people´s expectations differ vastly from yours, usually in the wrong direction.
So how can we avoid being drained by this over time?
I have heard and read severals times that you should “lower your bar” and “expect less from others” and personally think it is the wrong approach. Going down that route will turn you into a mediocre, average, “blend in type of person” that settles for half full and accepts middle-of -the-road. Not really the person we wnat to be or have around us, right?
Maintaining your high standards is essential. For your personal development and progress, for your relationships, personal or professional. It is only through aiming at excellence in what we do, that we learn and move forward. So aiming for less and settling is not the asnwer. However it takes a reality check from time to time and the acknowledgment that more often that not, will will not obtain “best”.
How we react and deal with the situation is the key. Anticipation and methodical preparation of our reactions if disappointment happens is a good way to start ie not letting it get to you. This may be easier said than done, since we all are human and have emotions, but these can be channelled and moulded with practice.
Take my friend as an example: experience and repeating history at his company has already told him that the directors are not the fastest bunch around. That making timely decisions is either not their forte or their priority, or both. Therefore, the best he can do is to come to terms with the possibility that it may take until the end of the year or even beyond, to obtain the response he is after. So rather than feeling frustrated by further delays he should anticipate them and plan on what to do and how to react as and when they occur.
This may not solve his problem, but it will certainly reduce his stress levels, give him control over his feelings and reactions and avoid burnout.
We will see how this develops in the next few months.