November 23

Great Expectations

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"Why does it have to be so one-sided?"

So, the interviews are over. The selection has been made. Everyone is wearing rose coloured glasses. Grins all around. What a future. The company has an exceptional candidate, the candidate is super excited to get started. All that remains is the paperwork. Handoff to HR. Pull out the boilerplate. Just sign here and we can get started.

Why does it have to be so one-sided? So adversarial. HR and Legal have covered every eventuality. All negative. We can do this, this and that anytime we like, and you have no recourse. We can, we can, we can. You can’t. Ever.

Not a great start to that happy collaborative family. Don’t worry about it, you say, that’s just what we have to do for HR and Legal. Really? Overkill is what I see. Come on, how many times has it come down to “clause 14 section 23 line 4 states…..” What about ‘Both sides agree to be fair and reasonable.’

Employee/employer relationships don’t always work out as well as everyone would hope. Most of the time it comes down to setting expectations. Or, more likely, not setting expectations. It is important to go beyond ‘You come work for us and do what we want, and we will pay you x amount.’

I once took a job where the job description listed ten main items. I accepted the offer with the caveat that my focus would be on item ten. I would cover items one through nine as well, but number ten would be moved to the top. After six months, it was clear that item ten should not even have been on the list. The company only wanted numbers one to nine done. I left. I had been clear about my expectations. They hadn’t. No one had to check the contract. My report with recommendations regarding item ten is likely still on someone’s shelf. ‘I can’t do what you tell me. I have to do what my boss tells me to do.’ Moving on.

What about some thoughtful onboarding for new hires with contracts that are built around mutual respect? Addressing the psychological contract openly and regularly can go a long way towards building a mutually productive relationship between employees and employers from day one. Managing expectations is a two way street.

I’ve often said that the worst thing that could happen sometimes, is to not get fired. The mediocre trap. The job is just ‘alright’. The work you do is just ‘alright’. 20 years go by with everything just ‘alright’. Life is more than just ‘alright’. I remember walking into a meeting with my boss at one place I worked. It was rare to meet with him and even rarer to have someone else at the meeting. I had not been very happy with the way things were going and so as I walked into the meeting I said, ‘How long have I got?’ After a fair bit of stammering, he replied with, ‘What do you mean?’ If you don’t want me here then the likelihood is that I don’t want to be here either. Do everyone a favour. Let’s all move on towards better days.

Let’s all make an effort towards more clarity on expectations. Every day. Life is too short to waste with the wrong people or to slog it out in the wrong role.


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