Expectations accompany us throughout our entire lives. From childhood, they shape our parents' ideas about our career choices.
Later on, we form our expectations about our future professional lives. Especially for those starting their careers, there is often a big gap between wish and reality, leading to disillusionment after a short time in the company.
People have different expectations regarding the company they work for or will work for, the tasks, colleagues, supervisors, and their own performances.
Many desire interesting, responsible, sometimes also challenging tasks, pleasant colleagues they get along with, and an understanding and empathetic boss. Others prioritize creativity in their tasks or flexibility in working hours.
Leaders, in turn, have expectations of their employees. They typically desire productive and motivated employees who stay with the company for a long time and demand few breaks. These expectations also strongly depend on the industry. Leaders in innovative sectors usually expect employees to be very creative and propose numerous new ideas.
Changes in Expectation
Expectations can change over time. The younger generation of employees, for example, values global teamwork, freedom, and flexibility in the job. Due to digitalization, mobility, and increasing networking, it's already possible to work from anywhere with a laptop and mobile phone. Trend researcher Sven Gábor Jánszky describes criteria that will decide whether we will accept a job in the future. He sees the criteria in whether the pending project is a challenge, the task makes sense, and whether one can work with interesting people.
This trend is also reflected in a study on the topic "What is important to employees?". The study shows the following results:
- 77% of employees desire flexible working time arrangements
- 52% expect a flexible workplace
- 47% want to better reconcile work and private life
- 38% long for a corporate culture
- 35% expect appropriate IT infrastructure to work more flexibly
- 32% find the behavior and competence of the leader particularly important
- 10% wish for higher flexibility in career and development paths
- 9% want to be able to design their working environment more flexibly
(Source: Alpach Study 2012, Flexible Working - Sample: 137 people from 130 companies)
However, not only employees' expectations are changing but also those of the company and leaders.
A study in German companies conducted by Statista from 2013 to 2014 clarifies this. It reveals that besides hard skills, a high degree of soft skills is also expected from employees. It's not enough to be technically competent, as social skills are becoming increasingly important.
The points given range from a maximum of 350 points to a minimum of 0 points.
It is evident that motivation achieves around 285 points, thus there's a large expectation regarding this factor. Responsibility is in second place with 248 points, followed by communication skills and team ability. Self-management is in fifth place with 209 points in the ranking. This is followed by personal appearance, time management, organizational skills, and ability to handle criticism and conflicts.
(Source: Hochschule der Medien, Statista 2015: Expectations for Starters in the Field of Soft Skills)
Expectations are individual and can vary from person to person. For this reason, it is especially important to communicate expectations clearly. Often, employees are not even aware of what exactly the leader expects from them, and vice versa. This leads to misunderstandings and dissatisfactions that are easy to avoid. Clear expectations can already be set during the job interview, clarifying what is demanded from an employee and the expectations the employee has towards the job and the company.
However, open communication about expectations is also of great importance in everyday work life. For instance, at the start of a project, team members often have different expectations regarding collaboration, the goal, and the importance of the project. If these expectations are not uncovered and discussed from the beginning, conflict or even failure is pre-programmed. The same applies to work assignments. Employees might approach a task with different expectations than the leader, leading to misunderstandings of the assignment. This, in turn, results in wasted time, unnecessary additional work, and frustration.
By openly communicating expectations, much frustration and annoyance can be avoided. It is easier to modify one's expectations beforehand. After the fact, one is more likely to be upset if one's own idea deviates from reality. Therefore, one should reflect precisely on what one expects from oneself, from others, or from projects. These insights should then be shared and exchanged to clarify any differences as early as possible.
Expectations can only be disappointed because they were the wrong ones
by Helga Schäferling