Simplifying life and work

What if expectations for new employees were explicitly stated?

What if expectations in a relationship of any kind were stated up front and openly?

What if parents clearly and consistently stated their expectations for their children?

I could go on, but you get the gist of what I’m suggesting. I don’t expect this to occur very often because many people are understandably afraid to say what they really want from employees, relationships, or from their children. They might expect to encounter resistance, outright defiance, and possible ridicule if they were to make their wishes known.

On the other hand, such candor might have beneficial results for all concerned, if the communication could be delivered in a non-threatening manner.

Suppose new employees were told: You are here for the purpose of making money for the company. Conduct yourself accordingly and you will be appropriately compensated. If and when you are no longer able to make money for the company, you will be let go.

That tells an employee right up front what he can expect from this employer. If it doesn’t fit his vision of what work should be, he should not take the position. If he is hired, it also lets him know when he should look for a position in another company.

This is actually the viewpoint most companies have, but they carefully mask their intentions under a lot of fine words like professional environment, hiring the best of the best, industry leader in the field of …., etc.

Suppose expectations in a relationship were stated in similar fashion:

I want a wife who will support me through graduate school.

I want a rich husband with a great build who dances well.

I want a spouse who does what he/she is told.

My children must be quiet and obedient.

These are all actual expectations that I have observed. Strangely enough, these and even stranger requirements are being met every day by those who feel that such a relationship is worthwhile. The point I am making here is that telling the truth is not necessarily dangerous. If you can communicate your expectations clearly, you will probably find someone who is willing to deal with you. The price you may have to pay is another thing entirely.

Concealing your intentions is of temporary value only. Your employees, spouse, and children eventually find out what you really want and you end up dealing with the upset later rather than sooner.

This works for employees also. If you put your cards on the table early in the first interview, you will quickly find the measure of this proposed employer. It will save you a lot of upset and wasted time if you find out early that you are needed as a gofer or extra pair of hands instead of playing the professional role you anticipate. You may take the job anyway to have an income, but you won’t stop looking for a better position.

Some may see this open communication of expectations as a total deal-breaker, and so it will be in a lot of cases. If your expectations do not create the possibility of an even exchange, you will not get many takers, but you will save everybody , including yourself a lot of time.

For those of you who understand exchange, an open expression of your expectations for work and for relationships may open the door to a simpler and happier existence.

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0 Responses to Simplifying life and work

  1. I’d have to say that unmet expectations is the biggest cause of disappointment. That could be avoided on so many levels if everyone followed your advice…

  2. Sallie says:

    Your posts are awesome. I always think and check behind me and focus forward after breathing-in here. You are like a mentor-friend from long ago…found in word, with great wisdom. I value your posts. Most-grateful-me to have this place to read and thus expand.

  3. Thank you both for your comments.

    I forgot to include what is probably the most important what-if of all.

    What if children were able to safely express what they want from their families, without fear of punishment or ridicule?

    I have seen a few families where this occurs and where open communication exists between all family members. As you might expect, a high level of sanity exists in those families.

  4. Linda says:

    David, this is great advice on so many levels. I’ve printed this post and hung it by my desk at home as a reminder of the value of honesty.

    What a relief it would be to find a way to express the following to prospective employers: “I only work outside the home to provide for my family. You are the avenue for that. At 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, I will leave here, forget about this place, and focus on the people who hold real value for me. However, during the standard weekday hours of 8:00am to 5:00 pm, and while I am employed in your offices, I will work hard and contribute to the bottom line.”

    I could just imagine the look on the face of a hiring manager in Big Technology hearing those words… [pauses to indulge gratifying mental image]

    As for your other point about children safely expressing their wants and needs without fear of ridicule, I think that takes work on the part of the parents to put ego aside in order to understand that a child’s stated lack of/desire for *something* is not a reflection on the parent. If families can just listen to one another without judgment, then everyone benefits. I mean to do my very best to make sure we’ve that sort of home for The Miss.

    Thanks for yet another insightful post, and for giving me something to mull over while I finish the ironing.

    All the best,

  5. Peter says:

    I think that to be able to explicitly state your expectations you have to know them well. So you have to already be simple in the sense of being clear, calm and considerate whilst having a minimum of extraneous garbage. What about all the people who do not know this simplicity?

    I can imagine some people would welcome being told what to expect while others would get out of there fast. So I think it is worth trying out because the positives do appear to outweight the negatives.

    This is the first time I have visited here and the first post I have read. So now I fully expect to read equally thought-provoking articles whenever I visit. But I am a forgiving soul so I will restate my expectation as “I HOPE to always read clear, well-argued, thought-provoking articles on this website”. What is your expectation of me?

  6. Just keep visiting. That will be enough.

    You make an interesting point about people who do not welcome being told what to expect.

    I recently brought on a young person who supposedly had some knowledge of woodworking. I explained that I needed some help about the shop and what tasks I was willing to have him work on.

    He actually had very little real experience with woodworking, as his woodworking experience was mainly rough carpentry. I knew we might be in trouble when he said, “You don’t seem to use regular nails in this shop.”

    Nonetheless, he was willing to learn as he went along, but it transpired that he had to be shown how to do everything before he could do it the first time. He was only useful when we had repetitive tasks to perform. Shown once, he did a creditable job of repeating the steps.

    In a small custom shop, there is not much repetitive work. Every man in it has to have the skill to teach himself what he doesn’t already know. It is not a training environment where the student can interrupt the teacher and ask questions whenever he gets stumped.

    After a few days of constant interruption by this young person, I drew up a brief job description which contained this statement, “You are here to help us make money. You can do that by doing the things we assign you and waiting until we are free, before you interrupt us.”

    I went over it with him and asked if he had any questions. He said, “How come you can interrupt me, if I can’t interrupt you?”

    He could not accept the fact that his value was as a helper, because he had been told by his teachers that he was an excellent woodworker. He had been trained to operate, he said, all of the equipment we had in the shop.

    Yes he knew how to turn on all of the equipment, but he had never been taught any judgement in their use. His idea of measurement accuracy was plus or minus an eighth inch. We work routinely to less than a sixteenth of an inch.

    Without getting into the matter of his lack of skill, we went our separate ways based on a frank discussion of why he was brought on board. That was not what he wanted or expected and he never showed up again.

    His last words were that he was going into business for himself because he was getting a lot of requests from his teachers to build things for them…

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