Great Expectations

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You Are the Magic 8 Ball

The utterance of “That’s not my job” or its companion phrase, “That’s not in my job description” are inevitable. Perhaps we ourselves have muttered these very same words. Indeed, the very purpose of a job description is to set some sort of expectations between us and our teams. Whereas murkily vague descriptions fill potential employees with curious dread, vividly detailed ones can invite unreasonable adherence to each minuscule detail.

Yet, our ability to set expectations is crucial for success in every area of our lives. In our personal relationships, there is an expectation of how we wish to be treated. There is an expectation of good intentions in the pursuit of mutual benefit. That is no different in our professional lives.

Invocations of “it’s not my job” run the risk of polluting team morale, adding an unnecessary causticity to workplace culture. Abby Wolfe of the Daily Muse suggests numerous ways by which to navigate this ubiquitous scenario. After all, many of us—perhaps indeed all of us—would prefer to be on a team whose members eagerly go the extra mile for each other.

NPR’s Invisibilia series depicts the amusing effect of expectations as explored by psychologist Robert Rosenthal. Doctor Rosenthal famously pursued a social experiment around the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy. If we set an expectation for ourselves or others, we may indeed manifest that very outcome, whether good or bad. Start the day expecting it to be miserable and—bam! We made it miserable.

Expectations are powerful…and are cleverly utilized by an emerging trend in the world of work—overemployment. Overemployment is the concept of working two full-time remote jobs without alerting either employer. To pull this off, the Overemployment community advises participants to set very low expectations for their leaders. Consistently offer less so that teams will continuously expect less. It is undoubtedly an interesting exercise of Doctor Rosenthal’s expectation experiment.

Expectations influence every facet of our lives—from romantic relationships to professional ones. They can be manipulated for both self-gain and mutual benefit. It is important, then, that we give considerable thought to how we set them for both ourselves and our teams. If our intention is a team culture in which members voluntarily go above and beyond, then it begins with us. Start the day expecting the best from ourselves and our teams and we might discover pleasant rewards on the horizon.

“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”
– Stephen R. Covey

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