We all have ‘em
Think about the last conflict you had. It could be a small argument, a heated disagreement or – though I hope it wasn’t – a full-blown fight. What was the true cause of this tussle? Did someone have expectations that weren’t voiced or weren’t met? Probably.
Expectations are strong beliefs we all have that something will happen or be achieved. They’re a huge part of the goals we set for ourselves and how other people believe we will, should or do behave. Often, other people’s expectations of us are based on observations that can set us up for the wrong results.
Understanding the pros and cons of expectations is part of setting yourself up for a more positive, productive and successful relationship. When communicated adequately, they help others know what we want and need, and vice versa. They also help us determine what we can do to keep our friends, family, co-workers and clients happy and satisfied. The thing with expectations is that you must make yours known for the people around you to meet or possibly exceed them. On the other side of the coin, when you are told what the people in your life expect from you, you need to be able to determine what you can and can’t accomplish in order to meet these needs. If these expectations are unrealistic, alternatives can be discussed and agreed upon so that everyone ends up happy and no one feels like they were left in the lurch.
In public relations, communicating the expectations you, your boss and your clients have is an important part of the onboarding process. Getting a clear view of what everyone wants from each other is critical to making sure you’re all moving in the same direction and that you’re set up for success.
Knowing when to say “yes”
Coming from a place of “yes” is a great way to experience things in your personal life – meeting new people, experiencing new foods that you might not have tried, going on exciting trips around the world, etc. In the workplace, being someone who starts at “yes” can also be beneficial if you’re entering a new office or career as it often showcases your positivity, readiness to help and helps you assimilate into new teams and activities. But, as with all other things, every pro has its cons. It’s important to know where to draw the line, especially in your professional life. Saying yes to everything can lead to unrealistic expectations, both from your clients and your team.
An important aspect of managing expectations is to make sure you know exactly what is expected of you. This includes everything from meeting a straightforward deadline to planning and executing a successful campaign (in which case a clear definition of what “success” means relative to this specific campaign is also necessary). If your client or manager expects an outline of a social media strategy from you at the end of the week, you should have a clear idea of what you need to do to get that document into their inbox before EOD Friday. If your client proposes an idea for a media event on a Thursday morning but you know, based on your extensive experience and relationships with these media, that they will be scrambling to meet their editorial deadlines at that time, it is your responsibility to communicate that right away and propose an alternative date and time for the event so your client knows you are thinking critically about meeting everyone’s needs and delivering the best possible results.
Suggesting an alternative to a client can seem daunting and telling them “no” can feel nearly impossible, but the important thing to remember here is that this is why they work with you. You are the expert in this area and if something isn’t going to end well for your client, don’t you think they’d rather hear it from you in the early planning stages rather than in your event wrap report and after they’ve probably spent thousands of dollars? As human beings, we would much rather adjust course before anything is at stake than to receive the bad news that a plan totally failed.
What to do when things are getting out of hand
So maybe you’re already in too deep. Maybe you were brought onto a team or into an event that was already careening toward a dead end before you ever got jumped in. Your initial reaction might be one of helplessness and that things have already gone too far to be saved, but this is rarely the case. Speaking up as soon as you know an idea or campaign isn’t going to land and laying out the reasons for this is a valuable tool that can save your team from having to explain why an idea flopped.
Meet with your manager and discuss your reservations in a constructive way, offer alternatives and remain open to other ideas and suggestions. Keep in mind the fact that at the end of the day you all want to succeed together. Regroup with the client and let them know what the end results are going to be so that you can adjust their expectations without totally bursting their bubble. Voicing your concerns and suggestions will show your team and the client that they can trust you and that you have everyone’s best interests in mind. Even better, if your idea and course-correction turns out a big win, your expertise and quick thinking will be recognized and often rewarded.
A great way to avoid mismanaged expectations and the failures they can lead to is to constantly check in with yourself. Know what you’re capable of, don’t shortchange yourself, understand your personal work style and be realistic about what your strengths and weaknesses are. After all, a wise man named Aubrey Drake Graham once said, “know yourself, know your worth,” and we’re all a little better off when we do.