Wednesday, July 03, 2013

"Managing" Expectations at Work

I am one of those people who will pretty much google anything and everything (Yes, I use ‘google’ as a verb). I had yet another dismal day at work today and it had a lot to do with “managing expectations” at work. So I got back home, googled this phrase and read the top few articles that showed up. Most articles spoke about communicating well with your boss to manage his/her expectations; to ensure that we performed exactly the way we are expected to...... Now all these are certainly important and some of those articles I did read with interest, but that is not what I was looking for. Today at the end of work, I was left wondering how to manage one’s own expectations from others – the team, the wider community, people you deal with during work etc.
I’ll tell you what triggered this post.  We are about to launch a new branch in a new rural/ semi-urban location and it is a very exciting time for my organisation and me. I booked a few pieces of furniture last week and today its delivery was due. When I inspected the piece of furniture I was about to buy, I noticed it had a few scratches on the top surface... I forced myself to look away. The shop owner read my mind and said that these things happen during transportation....Again I forced myself to agree with him. I looked in another direction but then noticed another scratch on the side. I diverted my gaze to ignore it. I looked in the downwards direction and noticed that the ply had chipped off on one of the doors. I couldn’t handle it anymore and I requested a replacement. I was told not to expect 100%. I agreed and thought to myself, probably 95% wasn’t too bad an expectation to keep. The shop owner was non-chalant. He knew he was the only furniture shop owner in a 10 km. radius and I would have to agree with him. I still stood my ground and refused to accept it. He refused to offer a replacement and the deal was off. I left with really mixed feelings. I was glad I refused to purchase the item, but somewhere I felt, what now? Where would I get the furniture and how would I set up the office? Two senior colleagues at work also inspected the table and while they agreed it was not perfect they did gently tell me to purchase it..... I held on to my stubborn demand to have a non-scratched, non-chipped office table. Later when I sat on the bus, I kept wondering if I had done the right thing.  Probably. Probably not.
Now that I am writing this post, I decided that I’d go back and well..... purchase it L . I fought hard with myself and accused myself of lowering my expectations. Then I weighed the options. If I didn’t get that table, I’d have to order one from Udaipur, 70 kms away and in all likelihood that would be scratched too, not to mention the additional costs involved in getting it transported here to Salumbar. That would mean no table for a week – a disorganised office for a week – a complete mess. I was given this feedback quite subtly earlier that given the context we operate in and its limitations one needs to set expectations accordingly and work around that. That doesn’t mean lowering one’s expectations, right? It probably means learning to manage them better. Managing expectations is TOUGH and I wouldn’t say I’ve done a very good job ..... but now I’m comfortable admitting it to myself, which for me is a big step, a difficult step. Hopefully I will ease into it over time. It will hopefully do a lot of good to my team management skills as well.

I wish there were an easy way to learn this. Having grown up in a big city and then having moved to work in a small semi-urban/rural town is not an easy transition. I thought I had made the transition 3 years ago, but apparently not. I’m still learning to. None of this stops me from dreaming though.....that how wonderful it would be if furniture shop owners cared for what they sold, that painters would give you a perfect finish, that the cleaner would dust a little better, that plumbers would fix your pipe on time and that someday expectations wouldn’t make you feel super-guilty. Some day..... 

1 comment:

ramani said...

I can entirely sympathize with you. How often I too have had to do this - settle for something less than what I want; accept a poorer quality product than I like - I do it, but still don't like it, after 25 years in rural India.