I’ve got a relatively new nephew (he’s two). He’s the only small child our family has ever had, and when we get together for dinner, my sister and our family talk quite a bit about what a child should be doing at his age, (eating by himself with a spoon for example) what the next step should be, discipline techniques and the like. 

This got me thinking about expectations in general. What does one or should one expect out of his or her life, family, career? I know this answer is wildly different for everyone. But I also know that expectations can get you in trouble.

The reason expectations are problematic is because they are usually one sided: I expect something from you, and you either meet those expectations or you do not. I rarely (unless there is a two-year-old child involved) have a hand in manifesting the expectations I have for you…I just expect. If you don’t deliver, I am disappointed, hurt, or even resentful.

I don’t know about you, but I really dislike feeling resentful, so I’ve been working on making requests instead of having expectations.

Instead of expecting a coworker to let me know when they leave for the day, I have learned to ask “Would you please let me know when you leave the office for the day? I’d like to know when I’m the last one here.” The request makes a “no” possible, but more likely than not, the person you requested from will want to help you.

So the next time you have expectations and are disappointed, try requesting instead…It may get you further…I say “may” in case you’re requesting something from a two year old.

Lisa Petty, Editor
Equal Opportunity Employment Journal