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I reckon once you enter any type of relationship, be it personal or business, expectations are a natural progression of this acquaintance. Without meaning to we create a set of behaviours or outcomes that we expect and are disappointed if they don’t occur or at the very least we place a meaning on that behaviour or outcome which is entirely our own and may be totally wrong.

The insidious thing about assumptions and expectations is we don’t realise we are making them as they feel so right; that’s because they are coming from our own mind and how could you be wrong?

We all know the saying around assumptions, ‘don’t assume, it makes an ass out of you and me’, and yet we do it quite unconsciously. There are some things we think that can’t possibly be seen differently from the way we think; surely it’s a given that no one enjoys housework, or that everyone is after a promotion.

Assumptions are our own thoughts and even though they seem obvious they are not the same thing as in everyone else’s head. Our thoughts are not facts they are simply our interpretation of something based on our life experiences, culture and how we’re feeling that day.

A manager assumes the people who are performing well are the only ones who deserve a reward and further isolates those team members who seem not to be performing. But if there is no agreed upon structure to perform to then it could be the others are performing to a different outcome- they are making their own assumptions about what is acceptable.

It’s easy to assume the cynic or disengaged person is not interested in their job or the organisation when in fact maybe the cynic has been hurt or rejected too many times and is just covering up their hurt and vulnerability.

Knowing what is expected is really the only way to ensuring the outcome doesn’t disappoint. No-one can be expected to know what's in your mind. If there is a disparity between what you expect and what you are getting, instead of assuming it’s a character flaw or short coming, try thinking of it as a communication issue.

If it’s not broken you don’t need to fix it, but if you are disappointed then look into it a bit further:

Ask questions- what’s going on? Why aren’t you getting what you expected? Learn how the other person is feeling.
Put it out there - make sure you state your expectations clearly and without blame or criticism. Remember, they are only your thoughts they aren’t right so there can be no blame for someone not knowing what you want.
Identify the gap- what is the difference between what they are thinking and what you are thinking?
Work the solution – reach an understanding and reset the standard with agreed upon expectations.
Avoid disappointment in your relationships by communicating through your assumptions.


Lisa works with managers to help them get more out of their team. If you are a manager with great technical expertise and would like to know more about the finer points of people to boost performance and engagement, please be in touch: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.