INTRODUCTION TO UNSPOKEN EXPECTATIONS

28 Jun

 Some expectations are communicated very clearly, either verbally or in writing, and they are referred to as “spoken expectations.”  Others are not communicated clearly and are commonly referred to as “unspoken expectations.”

Here is an example:

Tom Walker has been a manager for 15 years at an insurance company that, like many others in the industry, has gone through tremendous changes recently. Among those changes is the company’s style of management. Although Tom uses the popular jargon of the new management style, his actions still reflect an old style of management that is autocratic and directive. He is quick to tell people what they are supposed to do, and reluctant to ask for their opinions or to involve them in the daily running of the department. Instead of empowering others, Tom takes on many of the tasks that his people are trained to do, simply because they are things that he has always done.

 Recognizing the problem, Tom’s boss, Anita, encouraged him to attend an advanced management training program that addressed some of these issues.

 When Tom returned, Anita met with him to find out what he had learned and what he was planning on doing differently. His response was, “It’s the same old stuff. The instructor was very motivating, but she didn’t introduce anything I didn’t already know”.  Tom’s reaction to the class surprised and disappointed Anita.  She thought to herself, “He’s missing the whole point. It’s not what you know that gives you the competitive edge and defined your value to the organization; it’s how well you can translate your knowledge into action”. 

 Anita’s unspoken expectation was that Tom should be working to align his managerial style with the company’s new direction and to improve his effectiveness. But Tom missed Anita’ s message by concluding that the instructor reviewed material he had heard before. Anita’s disappointment resulted because, even though she assumed Tom was familiar with the management/leadership tools, she was looking for him to return with new ideas about how to use them. Unless Tom accurately picks up on Anita’s message he needs to start making changes, his job may be in jeopardy.

An essential ingredient in any relationship is understanding the other person’s expectations. That step sounds obvious and simple.  The only trouble is that not all expectations in relationships are articulated.  

 

 

 

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