Dangerous Consequences of Unrealistic Expectations


Setting high standards for employees is a good thing. This is conventional management wisdom that many leaders in just about every organization follow. High standards of achievement and professional conduct can be the most effective motivation a leader can create. The general idea is to encourage employees to always aim higher goals, and the only way they can do that is to push harder in order to perform better. In ideal circumstances, employees understand that leader has the confidence if they can accomplish much more than they themselves realize. It is an excellent form of provocation with great power to stimulate growth. Unfortunately, ideal circumstance is few and far between, rendering a good intention into bad managerial style.

 To make matter worse, some leaders fail to recognize (or simply are unwilling to admit) the difference between high standards for and unrealistic expectation from employees. The former is undeniably effective especially when leader is in the forefront of setting examples; the latter is dangerous. By always asking more performance from employees, less successful leader continuously forces everyone to work harder and prepare only to accept great results. The “already high standards” keep on going up to reach “unrealistic” level. At this point the leader will have to deal with an inevitable distress. Unrealistic expectations from employees have some obvious dangerous consequences:

 ·         Employees lose self-confidence: one of the most worrying outcomes of leader’s unrealistic goals and expectations actually happens to the employees. When people find themselves working with or for a leader who is impossible to please, it is only common to feel frustrated and angry. Failure to meet expectation really is not their fault, but merely because the goals are just unrealistic. In such situation, even constructive criticism from leader does not help. When employees feed into the constant negative feedback, they begin to feel inferior as if they cannot do anything right. After a short while, they begin asking why even bother trying if results are not satisfactory regardless of what they try and do. At one point, employees figure out that the best thing to do is to stop trying, and this is bad for the organization.

 ·         Weak organization: if employees are constantly criticized and pushed to perform better, they find it difficult to rise following a setback. Perpetual dissatisfaction on leader’s part will eventually drain employees’ creativity, motivation, mental endurance, and resourcefulness. One instance of failure to deliver as expected can be a learning moment, but leader’s relentless deprecation of their efforts is paralyzing. If the leader is constantly pushing employees to reach ever rising standards, the organization in its entirety is in serious doubt of achieving success in the wake of major problems.

 ·         Self-disappointment: without the ability to feel content, the disappointment can turn inward. It is often necessary to be satisfied with the way things are now, even when there are rooms for improvement indeed. The problem with unrealistic expectation is not that the organization will never achieve anything or that the employees are incompetent; the problem lies within leader’s struggle to take pride in any kind of accomplishment. Such leaders do not have the sense professional satisfaction and will continue to play down their own self-perception.

 Goal-oriented is an excellent trait of an effective leader, but it can turn into obsessive tendency toward perfection without proper managerial practices. While the idea of “pushing employees to their best” is great in theory, inadequate ability to honor and praise their roles or current improvement may actually lead the organization to failure.

 Make good choices and have a great day! Only you get to choose how you feel about it!

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Dr. Paul Gerhardt is a skilled leadership and diversity trainer who builds customized workshops online or at your workplace. He is a tenured professor of management and a diversity and leadership well-respected and trusted trainer who helps organizations get amazing returns on their training investment. Visit www.SupervisionEssentials.com for more great free articles and to learn more about leadership effectiveness. Dr. Gerhardt is the author of several publications available on Amazon.com, including Diversity at Work, The Diversity King; Leadership Lucy and the Leadership Handbook. Consider inviting Dr. Paul Gerhardt to do customized leadership or diversity training at your organization. Most organizations find that diversity and leadership training by the right trainer yields a significant instant return on investment.

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