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What Valentine’s Day Taught Me About Succeeding At Work

Ten years ago I went on a date with a girl that was way out of my league. The dinner went well. I guess it was going so well that she decided to pop the dreaded “early stage question.” Here is an approximate manuscript from the evening (I’ll tie this back to work in a second):

Her: So, where do you think this relationship is going?

Me: Well, I could see it going places…

Her: Shall we make this relationship official?

Me: Yes, but I have two rules. First, you have to laugh at my jokes, even if they are not funny.

Her: (With a cute smirk) Haha…

Me: Good, you passed the first rule. My second rule is that if you have no expectations of me, then you will always be happy.

Her: Hahahahahahahahaha (she lol’d before lol-ing was something you texted)

Managing Expectations

Just like in a platonic or romantic relationship, managing expectations with your boss is the key to a positive interaction. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if your performance review scores are based on the performance expectations that were established in the early days of your current job. Here is what each rank probably means:

Excellent: You over-delivered on what I expected from you.

Satisfactory: You did exactly as I expected from you.

Needs Improvement: You did not do what I expected from you.

Personally, managing expectations has been a big struggle for me. In fact, one of my past bosses even said to me, “I would fire you if I could.” Ouch.

Three Tips to Manage Expectations With Your Boss

I won’t claim to be an expert on the subject. However, I have picked up a few tips (from my own mistakes) that might be helpful in your career.

1. Define terms: The world of work relies on terms that are often murky as subject to interpretation. After all, what is a white paper? Try to get clarification on the term up front instead of making an assumption and getting it wrong.

2. Ask for extra time up front: This is a technique that has worked for me recently really well. During my interview for the job, I asked if they found value in spending a small time on the front end in order to save time on the back end. So, when I receive an assignment, I sit with the manager and ask a series of questions related to the project so I know what they are expecting. Despite being busy, I generally get agreement from the manager that the extra fifteen minutes spent defining the project will save hours on the back end revising it.

3. Manage workload: A colleague of mine (with ten years more experience than me) stated that this is the key to success. He mentioned that it is a tough balance. On one hand, you want to please your boss so you accept assignments as they come up. However, if you do not meet their timeline or quality expectations, then they might be disappointed with you. So, he has learned to turn down assignments so that he can exceed expectations consistently.

What are your challenges when it comes to managing expectations? Do you have any tips you can share with the GovLoop community?

Bonus Tip: You may be setting up your expectations during your interview for the job. Make sure, above all, that you are honest during your interview. While you may want to highlight certain facts during an interview, DO NOT make something up just to win the gig. You will pay for it in the long run.

*Photo Credit: Hubspot’s Royalty Free Collection

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