The Matched Expectation Package

18 Jun

A matched expectations package is exactly what it sounds like: a set of expectations that is discussed and mutually agreed upon by two or more people. Building a matched expectations package goes beyond simply talking and involves engaging in an open exchange for the purpose of establishing a mutual understanding. Thus, the matched expectations package is a negotiated agreement as opposed to a one-way exchange in which one person does all the explaining about expectations. By engaging in a meaningful exchange, each party gets to know what the others want and need in an effort to build a relationship. We commonly engage in an exchange of expectations when interviewing for a job or when starting to date someone. Everything is new and we realize that each party needs to get to know the other and to clarify how best to get along and work together.  We also work to establish matched expectations during everyday communications, whether at work or at home.

Creating a set of matched expectations in any relationship involves clarifying expectations in four key areas: (1) goals; (2) work tasks and roles; (3) work quality; and (4) working relationships.



In today’s fast-moving, multitask environment, it’s easy to let assumptions and instinct take the place of clarifying and mutually agreeing on goals. Surprisingly, when team members are asked do they know the goals of their team or the goal of a particular project, many don’t.

When they are then asked why they don’t try to find out, almost all reply that they are too embarrassed to ask because it is assumed that “everybody knows” and asking might be perceived as incompetent. So, it’s important to clarify goals and get on the same page.

Work Tasks and Roles:

Expectations that surround work tasks and roles get a lot of attention in the workplace. Managers and employees alike have job descriptions and lists of job responsibilities. Still, confusion about tasks can easily set in when you operate in a fast-paced business environment, where today’s high priority becomes tomorrow’s scrapped effort. One of the most common mistakes made when assigning tasks is failure to clarify end results. Emphasis is often placed on “what” to do and left unclear is what the end result is to look like. So, when being asked to do something, be sure to have a clear picture of what the end result needs to look like. Gaining a sense of control requires making sure that expectations are clarified and matched— now more than ever!

Work Quality:

Companies have invested millions of dollars to clarify quality-of – work requirements. But even with formalized standards, on a day-by-day basis we still deal with issues revolving around how certain tasks are not performed at the level of quality expected. The most common assumption is to think a task needs to be done at 100%- when it doesn’t. A good tip is to clarify the level of quality needed as opposed to assuming especially when it comes to preparing PowerPoint presentations!

Working Relationships:

In contrast to the attention paid to work quality, the area of working relationships—or how to interact with each other—has been largely ignored. It’s as if instinct and assumptions are sufficient to get us by. In any group setting but especially at work, you may hear someone labeled as a “people person.” The people person is presumed to have some special means of noticing the wants and needs of others, and even knowing what’s best for them.

There’s no denying that some people seem to have a knack for being sensitive to others and building a rapport, but that talent doesn’t eliminate the need to engage in two-way exchanges of expectations. By the time people reach adulthood, they have amassed a wealth of experiences, from which they have developed preferences regarding common interactions—how they want to be approached when they’ve made a mistake, how they can best be motivated, and so on. Adults like having a chance to express their preferences and to engage in a meaningful exchange about how best to work together.

Working from “assumptions” is a one-way street, and even a people person can assume things incorrectly. Although the incorrect assumptions may not lead to a disaster, they may detract subtly from the construction of a strong working relationship, or the kind of team spirit that fosters exceptional performance.


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