Why Managing Expectations is Key for Success in the Workplace

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  • June 7, 2016
Managing Expectations
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Managing Expectations

“If you align expectations with reality, you will never be disappointed.”

       -Terrell Owens

Have you ever noticed that when expectations aren’t in alignment, we experience more disappointment and disharmony in the workplace? This is especially true in the modern world where companies are branching out, expanding and merging at such a lightning-fast pace.

In fact, studies have shown that 70% of American workers are dissatisfied with their job. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is due to mismanagement of expectations in the workplace, and it could also be the reason that one third of new hires quits their job after only six months.

Recently, I’ve worked with a Japanese corporation that opened a new division based in the United States. They hired me to streamline their new team, which is led by a Japanese person and made up of Japanese and American workers.


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Tweet: When expectations aren’t in alignment, disappointment and disharmony in the workplace are inescapable.


Can you imagine how much work there is to be done? Not only are they faced with the task of finding a method of communication between the Japanese and Americans that really works, but they also must completely invent the systems and processes for this new team.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, click HERE to learn ways to develop your unique leadership skills so you can be ready to manage these challenges.

This is Where Managing Expectations is Key

Since everything is brand new – and I really mean brand new – there are no agreed-upon expectations in place. The group leader may think that he wants things to work one way, while the employees working under him may think he wants something completely different.

Not only that, but if you’ve ever worked in a Japanese-American office (or offices with different cultures), you know from experience that Japanese businesspeople have completely different expectations of what’s appropriate than Americans do! (For more insight on that topic, read my post, “Did that Japanese Executive Really Just Fall Asleep?”.


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Tweet: Japanese and American businesspeople have different expectations of what’s appropriate in the office.


To add a third layer of difficulty, there’s a heavy element of virtual work in this office, which means that they have limited face time and emails are flying back and forth at a very fast pace.

If you’ve ever tried to quickly write emails in a second language, you know what a task this can be. In essence, there are three layers of potential miscommunication in this situation. Fortunately, just being able to pinpoint these potential landmines is the first step to remedying the situation.

How to Manage Expectations in the Office

Taking these three layers of difficulty into account, my task is to lay down some foundations for these employees so they can effectively communicate with one another.

Here’s where we started:

  • We initiated cross-cultural training so the Japanese and American workers could better understand where their coworkers are coming from. For instance, now the Americans understand that it can be very difficult for Japanese people to look at their colleagues in the eyes.
  • We initiated leadership training so everybody understands exactly how to communicate their expectations. For example, when the team leader issues an email asking for a certain report, he’ll know to be very specific about what he wants. In turn, the workers will know that if they’re unclear about any aspect of the task, they are welcome to ask questions until they understand exactly what’s expected of them.
  • We built a culture of trust among employees. It is vital that everybody feels they can approach their manager or fellow employees when they’re uncertain or have suggestions. It is also important that everyone feels they are on the same team and no one is working against another person.

Of course, this process is ongoing and constantly adapting and shifting to meet the needs of the office, but when everyone is willing to jump in and do their best, the organization can thrive.


It’s hard enough to keep an office running smoothly when everyone comes from the same cultural background! If you find yourself having difficulty communicating with your colleagues or just not able to move up the ranks as you’d like, click HERE to uncover how you may be able to increase your effectiveness in the workplace.

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