Hone Your Skills

Managing Expectations and Setting Reasonable Goals

April 6, 2022
5 Min Read

Much of workplace communication comes down to expectations. There is an art to managing expectations, and improving in this area can do wonders for aligning your professional goals with your skills and talents. It can also help you build better relationships with your coworkers and supervisors and lead to a more positive work environment that helps your entire team flourish.

Another essential aspect of developing your career is learning to establish realistic goals. Your goals should be attainable but also challenge you to grow each day.

Below, Poised shares some practical advice for managing expectations and setting goals in the workplace.

Why Is It Important To Manage Expectations?  

Expectations in the workplace deal with the boundaries and goals you set with your supervisors and coworkers. Establishing guidelines allows you to define how you will interact and collaborate with colleagues, the personal responsibilities you will fulfill, the specific skills you will acquire, and other aspects. The effectiveness with which you manage your expectations will influence your career outcomes.

Say, for instance, that you hope to get a salary bump next quarter. You could ask your leader for extra projects that will teach you knowledge and skills to make you more indispensable to the company.

If you are a manager, you might focus more time and energy on maintaining team expectations and setting goals to make the workplace more collaborative and positive overall. Some steps might include instituting improved communication and collaboration into company policies, systems, and culture.

Of course, it’s critical to lead by example, meaning you would also need to keep tabs on your own expectations and set goals for yourself like those you assign to your team members.

Managing expectations at work can go a long way in helping you develop healthy relationships and accomplish goals with your team. But it can also help you maintain your mental health. Mental health plays a critical role in work quality and satisfaction, and you can reduce stress by understanding what your colleagues and the industry expect from you.

Furthermore, clear expectations will enhance communication with team members and establish accountability standards for yourself and your coworkers.

Where Do Expectations Come From?  

In personal relationships, expectations develop over time, and many of our attitudes and beliefs can be traced back to our family and society. They can also derive from personal experiences and preferences we have developed through the years.

In the workplace, most expectations will come from industry standards. With that said, each company has leaders and employees with various personalities and skills.

Therefore, the managers in one business will have slightly different expectations of themselves and their workers than the managers in another business. But in most cases, the norms of whatever industry you are in will play a vital role in the expectations set forth by your company.

Unrealistic Expectations vs. Realistic Expectations

As with marriage, friendship, or other types of relationships, you can either set unrealistic or realistic expectations at work. Many business leaders — and employees — set unrealistic expectations in the workplace out of their desire to excel. It's important to tame the fire enough to think through what you should expect from yourself and others.

Any expectations you set for your team should be crystal clear. For example, trying to double your social media presence and conduct better virtual meetings in the next year might be more realistic than planning to triple your sales in the same period.

Your expectations must also be measurable to gauge your team's success. Goals like “improve company morale” are too vague. Instead, trying to “introduce work from home practices” for a set number of days is measurable and, therefore, achievable.

Do What You Want: Set Your Own Path

Establishing realistic expectations doesn't mean you can't dream. The pandemic has taught many of us that life is too short to simply go through the motions of everyday life.

We live in a time when you can do what you want as long as you are willing to work hard. In addition to adhering to company expectations, don't be afraid to set big expectations of yourself that will take your career to new places.

With that said, it's important to maintain specific standards that will apply to almost any employer you work for, including:

  • Showing up on time
  • Completing your daily tasks
  • Meeting work quality standards
  • Abiding by company policies and rules
  • Following instructions
  • Respecting your coworkers

How Do You Manage Expectations in the Workplace?

Knowing the importance of managing expectations is one thing; achieving it is quite another. The most critical step in establishing expectations and meeting the expectations of others is to communicate this information clearly and early. When possible, make your expectations known at the start of your professional relationships to set guidelines.

For instance, you may inform your new hires that phones are not allowed in personal workspaces. Or, you may explain your work process to a new team member so that they are not surprised or offended if you don't respond as they expect when focused on a task.

There may be times when I need to remind others of your expectations. For instance, say that you leave early every Wednesday. If there is a project deadline on a Wednesday and your coworkers ask you to pitch in, you can politely remind them that you have an adjusted schedule.

You will also want to make sure that all your expectations align with the skills and abilities of the team. Asking an employee to do something outside of their skill set will leave you disappointed, and negatively impact the employee. Expectations should minimize conflict and maximize productivity, but they will only do so if they are realistic to your specific team and circumstances.

This goes for setting expectations for yourself as well. If you resolve to come to work early every day for the next week, you will need to honestly assess whether you can take on the extra hours. You’ll also need to confirm with your manager that you can clock in early.

Finally, be sure to keep yourself and your team accountable to your expectations. Celebrate consistency, and encourage constructive feedback among the team.  

How Do You Manage Expectations in Your Personal Life?

Establishing expectations for yourself is, in some ways, easier than setting expectations for other people in your personal life. Even the healthiest relationships are challenging to maintain, and most conflicts can be boiled down to unmet expectations.

While it's essential to identify boundaries and expectations in each relationship, you want to avoid comparing their relationship to others.

Here are a few other tips for managing your personal relationships:

  • Don't shy away from conflict.
  • Don't deny your feelings.
  • Ensure expectations are realistic for the specific relationship.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Remain flexible to change.
  • Try not to sweat the small stuff.

Why Setting Goals Is Essential To Success  

Setting expectations and setting goals are similar in many ways. But it's important to distinguish between the two. Expectations tend to focus on the big picture, while goals are what you hope to achieve to meet expectations.

How To Set Reasonable Goals

As with expectations, your goals must be realistic if you want the best chance of achieving them. Always consider the specific personalities, talents, and expertise of every individual involved so that you can develop reasonable goals for yourself and your team.

Know exactly what you hope to achieve. Also, establish overarching team goals and individual goals that tie into those of the team. To boost morale and collaboration, allow team members to create some of their own goals. And be sure to establish deadlines, track progress, and help your colleagues meet their goals.

How Can Communication Help Set Goals?

Setting expectations can be challenging, but it is nearly impossible when you don't communicate. Effective leaders and employees know how to communicate effectively with their team members when outlining and monitoring expectations.

Sometimes, it's as simple as using the right medium to discuss goals, policies, and other expectations. For example, if you need to go over a new set of company guidelines, you probably don't want to hash out pages of bullet points over the phone. When possible, communicate face-to-face, and keep your message as simple as possible.

With that said, it’s also important to conduct effective virtual meetings. Outlining all of your main points and expectations before each meeting will help you stay on topic and deliver your message clearly. If you need to improve your communication skills, don’t hesitate to try tools like Poised, which will show you the areas that need the most attention, like rushing your words or even adjusting your camera angle — all in real time.

The Dangers of Assumptions

It’s critical to explain to your peers why your expectations are valid and worth striving for. And You want to steer clear of making assumptions. Remember that no other person sees things precisely as you do.

Try to view each situation from the perspective of your team members; empathy can go a long way in helping you connect with others and make necessary adjustments.

Setting Yourself Up For Success  

Without clear expectations of yourself and your team members, it will be challenging to achieve goals and push your career in the right direction. Learning to maintain your expectations and keep everyone accountable will help your team reach new levels together.

Establishing expectations in the workplace is no easy task. But following the information and advice above can you get you off to a great start. And remember to look into tools like Poised if you need to sharpen your virtual communication skills!


How to Ask Your Employer for a Pay Raise | The Balance

How to Set Goals You Can Achieve | Business  News Daily

7 Tips for Setting Achievable Goals | Psychology Today

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