We all have expectations of one sort or another in our lives; starting with the most basic assumption that we will continue breathing from minute-to-minute and indeed wake up the following morning. The problem is that one day we'll be wrong and there will be no "tomorrow." And so goes all of our expectations; while it's nice to wish, plan or hope that some situation or another will turn out exactly as we want it to, rarely does this happen – and often for reasons well beyond our control.
Personal and Professional Expectations
Two different areas of common expectations are those that surround our personal and professional lives: On a personal level, the things that we as people expect from one another can include a range of actions (or in-actions) from "common human decency" and kindness to violence or apathy – and beyond – with these expectations all based upon our own past experiences in dealing with others. For example, if people have usually been kind and decent to you, it stands to reason that you will expect most people to treat you that way; whereas if most folks have shown you only negative behaviors, then you will understandably come to expect the worst in (and from) other people.
Do you have the right to expect anything? Besides expectations of death and taxes, people have the right to expect to get what they pay for. This expectation is the foundation of all business relationships and when these expectations aren't met, trouble can't be too far away. Conversely, when a person or company exceeds expectations, stronger and more profitable business relationships are easy to forge.
For example, a webmaster purchasing content that its provider claims to be licensed and '2257-compliant could reasonably expect that copies of all of the necessary documents would be included. Likewise, a webmaster purchasing hosting should expect his website to always be "available" and running at an acceptable speed, and when his or her needs turn to design work, the webmaster should expect the job to be done on schedule, on budget, and with an acceptable level of quality.
The list of examples is endless, as is the list of reasons why these expectations aren't always met – or why they were exceeded.
Satisfaction and Disappointment
Having expectations leads to one of two outcomes; either satisfaction or disappointment – and this outcome, rarely being absolute, is typically marked by being seen as a "more or less" situation, as in "I'm fairly satisfied with the way this turned out," or "I'm kind of dissatisfied with the way this is going..."
While the outcome of many situations for which we might have reasonable expectations is often beyond our control, what is within our control is the way in which we respond to these different outcomes. Although advice on dealing with exceeded expectations is easy to give (and to take), and can simply be stated as "reward it with generosity and praise," dealing with un-met expectations is more problematic.
Part of this problem is the sensitivity of the relationships, both personal and professional, that make up the parties to expectation.
With personal relationships where "feelings" may be hurt when one party expresses disappointment in another, it's important to prevent your disappointment from being compounded by your response to being disappointed. Whenever possible, looking for solutions to any problems that might have led to your disappointment, rather than simply focusing on the problems and trying to assign "blame," is a much better use of resources that might also preserve valuable relationships. The same can be said for professional relationships, that despite occasional hiccups, are worth maintaining: Remember, there's no profit in burning bridges.
Some expectations are the result of miscommunications and misunderstandings. Some the result of selfishness or other emotional reasons. Many are mutual, reasonable and prudent. Some are even contractually obligated. Regardless of the nature of our expectations, we should always focus on improving their outcomes and the way in which we show our satisfaction – or disappointment – with the way in which our expectations play out.