The other day I heard someone expressing frustration (the corporate code word for anger) over a decision that had been made that he obviously did not agree with. As a key influencer on that decision, he was also puzzled that the decision went the way it did given the overwhelming data supporting his position. What the heck? He had expected that the group do one thing and they went the opposite way, even though he had provided them clear data that would have brought about the decision he wanted.
Another time, in talking with a client who had recently joined a new company, he voiced disillusionment with the start time of his meetings. A 10:00 meeting seemed to always start about 10:15, even though he was the one in charge and ready to go at 10:00. It seems the culture of the new organization just “ran late”.
There is missing ingredient in both stories – a clear request. In both cases, assumptions (also known as internal expectations) are substituting for a clear request. In the case of the decision gone awry, the complainer discovered too late that no one had read the data he provided via email. In the late meeting situation, the client contended, “they should know to be here on time.” Both resisted the idea that they “should have to ask for something that they had a right to expect.”
And that is the assumption at the root of countless breakdowns at work. Yep, they do have a right to expect that someone would read an email attachment or come to a meeting on time or any of a number of assumed professional behaviors. Turning that internal expectation into a clear request can be transformative. It gets you on the same page, and shows what is important to you.
How often do we let our expectations go unspoken? What keeps us from making a clear request for someone to take action? What stops us from asking for what we need?
Ask for what you expect. Otherwise, you are destined to be disappointed.