Are you a diligent and punctual employee? Are you willing to work past the regular work hours? Will you help colleagues with their work?

If you said yes to all questions when you started your new job, you could be setting yourself up for trouble. Why? It’s because you’ve set unrealistic life expectations for yourself. It’s okay to help people out from time to time. But if you repeatedly do someone else’s work, they’ll start leaning on you each time they hit a snag.

When you begin a new job, both the organization and you will have some expectations. At this point, it’s important to set expectations that are aligned to your skills, time and abilities. That way you will be able to communicate your expectations to your manager or teammates and work in tandem with them. You will also be able to build stronger relationships and align your personal goals with the organization’s goals.

Let’s explore how you can set reasonable expectations in a professional setting and how to manage expectations to accomplish organizational goals.

How To Set Expectations

The process of setting expectations begins with knowing yourself and your abilities well. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Know Your Strengths And Weaknesses

Are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses? You may have excellent communication skills but you struggle with time management. Or, you’re too shy to make presentations but are exceptionally good at designing them. A great way to succeed in your role is to match your abilities with what your organization expects from you.

Find out what you enjoy doing and the tasks you’re particularly good at. You’ll perform well in those areas naturally. On the other hand, identify areas for improvement and reach out to your manager or a team member for guidance. Ask for feedback wherever possible so you can work on your weaknesses. Self-awareness is important to improve as an individual and a professional.

  1. It’s Okay To Say No

Sometimes we forget that it’s not realistic or possible to satisfy everyone. This is most apparent in the workplace. You do as you’re asked because you don’t want to disappoint your manager. But this shouldn’t come at the cost of your well-being. Taking on too many tasks at once can hamper the quality of your work.

If you find it difficult to say no, try to think of polite ways to turn someone down. Try saying, “I have too much on my plate right now.” or “I’ll take a look once I’m done with my work.”. Learn to prioritize your work before you turn to help others. Not only will this establish your credibility, but also help you thrive in your role.

  1. Engage In Fruitful Conversations

Communicate, interact and brainstorm with your manager or your teammates every chance you get. Schedule one-on-one meetings with your manager to discuss your progress, share ideas and ask for feedback regarding your work. Your manager might have some constructive feedback that can help you improve.

At times you don’t realize you are doing something wrong until it’s brought to your attention. Hence, it’s important to engage in conversations that help you address the areas of improvement in your work. Stay on top of things and ensure that you’re clear on what needs to be done.

  1. Be Accountable And Responsible

If you’re part of an organization, you will most likely have to work in a team where tasks are performed in collaboration. Imagine that you forget to update your team on the status of your work. Everyone else will have to wait for you before they start their tasks. You have to be accountable and take responsibility for your work because others depend on you. This is a critical area to set the right expectations.

While performing a task, ensure that you update and inform the key stakeholders. It will help avoid delays and ensure that everything goes smoothly. There may be times when you’re not able to finish your task on time. That’s okay. What’s important is that you inform your manager or teammate so that it doesn’t affect their work.

  1. Learn To Work Independently

Autonomy is critical for personal growth as much as it contributes towards professional accomplishments. Instead of relying on your manager every step of the way, it’s important to take initiative and complete your work independently. In a team, every person has their own set of tasks. You too should be able to finish your set of tasks without anyone’s assistance. You bring certain qualities and skills to the table. Be confident and take charge wherever necessary.

Your manager will appreciate the effort because they also have their own set of tasks to complete. Autonomy is especially critical in the modern, hybrid workplace, where members of a team work out of different locations.

How To Manage Expectations

Managing expectations is the next step once you’ve set your expectations. It is a continuous process, which requires you to constantly develop your strategies.

Say that there’s been a change in the management in your organization. You’ll have to revise your expectations according to your new manager’s expectations. Therefore, managing expectations is an important aspect of your professional life. Here are some ways to do this:

  1. Be Patient

We live in a society that thrives on instant gratification. We want things and we want them now. But let’s not forget that patience bears the fruits of labor. The best thing you can do is work hard and fulfill the expectations you’ve set for yourself. If you find the opportunity, you may go beyond what you’ve planned to achieve. It’s better to be patient and work diligently rather than rushing through your work. You will get positive outcomes that satisfy your appetite for success.

  1. Communicate Wherever Possible

There are times when you have to communicate with your manager or your teammates to understand what they expect from you. It’s possible that what you envision for yourself is different from what they have in mind. It’s alright to reassess your strategy to a certain extent to suit the organization’s requirements. After all, you have to work with your team to reach the finish line.

  1. Adopt A Flexible Workstyle

Learn how to adapt to different kinds of workplaces. For instance, you may be making a switch from a company with a traditional organizational structure to another that has an informal structure. Having a flexible work style will help you settle in with ease and build good relationships with your colleagues. Furthermore, you can apply what you’ve learned in your previous role to enhance your experience and your skills. Tailoring your expectations will help you go easy on yourself and adapt accordingly.

  1. Learn To Listen And Read People

Managing expectations isn’t always an independent process. Considering what others think and how your decisions impact those you work with is important to help build a rapport at the workplace. Listening to people will help you understand where they’re coming from and how you can help them.

When you’re talking to someone, don’t just hear what they say. Read their facial expressions and body language to gauge how they react to you. Reframe your expectations so you don’t end up hurting someone else’s feelings.

  1. Don’t Make Assumptions

Most of us cultivate biases without even realizing it. Where a person is from, how they speak and their work ethic defines the way we perceive them. Thinking objectively and understanding someone’s situation will help you manage your expectations accordingly. You can anticipate what others expect from you and make modifications as you see fit. This isn’t to say that you should change according to your colleagues’ requirements. But, when you’re working with others, it’s important to meet them halfway.


An effort to become the best version of yourself starts with self-awareness. The way you work with others says a lot about who you are as a person. It doesn’t take too much effort to get along with people, understand them and make adjustments to get everyone on the same page. At the same time, it’s important to not lose sight of what you really want. You can learn to evaluate your life expectations as you grow.

Harappa Education’s Practicing Excellence course will teach you how to manage your expectations and be more productive. With the help of the Eisenhower Matrix, you’ll learn to prioritize your work and present your best self at the workplace. Go beyond what you think you’re capable of and reach greater heights in your career!

Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about topics related to the Lead habit such as ResilienceHumilityPatience vs Self-Control & Self-Motivation.

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