Kritika’s company recently restructured to prepare for a poor financial quarter. Senior management assessed their financial obligations and decided to cut back on year-end bonuses, performance appraisals and other incentives.

In Kritika’s organization, promoting employees with a 5-year tenure is the norm. As her 5-year work anniversary was approaching, Kritika was expecting a promotion. But she was told that there would be no promotions this year. So, she decided to quit her job and look for better opportunities. Her organization—because of their circumstances—failed to meet her expectations.

An expectation is a strong belief or assumption that certain events will take place. They’re based on our experience and past events. We set expectations regarding personal relationships, business plans and career growth. Expectations depend on the future, making them unpredictable and hard to determine. You never know if something or someone will meet your expectations. This can often lead to disappointment or, in a business context, significant losses. 

There are different types of expectations based on different contexts—personal (family or relationships) or professional (economic, profitability or career success). These can be realistic expectations like getting a well-paying job or unrealistic expectations like being successful without putting in the hard work.

Let’s look at the different types of expectations from a personal and professional perspective.

Different Types Of Expectations

Most of us expect our friends or family to get us a birthday cake and a present. At work, we expect positive feedback and incentives for our work. Senior managers expect their associates to achieve monthly targets.

If you think about it from a business perspective, organizations plan for contingencies expecting a downward trend in the market. Trend analysts are never 100% accurate; some part of their assessment is based on speculation and some expectations.

In each aspect of life, it’s natural to set expectations because they drive us to perform and take action.

Expectations vary from case to case. Here are six types of expectations that can be observed in a personal and professional setting.

  1. Realistic Expectations

For an organization, realistic expectations would mean setting objectives and goals within the scope of their budget, resources and timelines. In the example, Kritika had realistic expectations because they were based on company norms. Other realistic expectations are getting paid for your work, being treated well by loved ones and your manager expecting you to perform well.

  1. Unrealistic Expectations

The meaning of unrealistic expectations is to set goals that aren’t realistically achievable. There’s often disappointment at the end of these expectations. This is because we base our wants on something that may be unachievable. We don’t always have control over our lives and sometimes we tend to forget that.

  1. Adaptive Expectations

These expectations determine what will happen in the future based on past events. They are similar to rational expectations but here you’re more likely to pre-plan than make a new one. For instance, we know that Apple Inc. will release a new and more expensive iPhone each year. Apple users expect this price hike based on past launches and plan accordingly.

  1. Implicit Expectations

When you assume something, it’s an implicit expectation. This is the kind of expectation we have from our parents. We know that they’ll be there for us when we need them. In a business context, customers have implicit expectations from brands they trust. For instance, you’d expect a packet of Maggi Masala Noodles to have the same flavor no matter where you buy it from.

  1. Explicit Expectations

From a customer’s perspective, explicit expectations are based on product quality, durability and performance. For instance, a customer expects to get what they paid for. You may have set a date to meet your friend, an explicit expectation here is that your friend will show up to meet you.


  1. Rational Expectations

These expectations are common to economists and industry specialists. These are based on past experiences and trends like inflation or price hikes. It means that you base your expectations on your experience and existing knowledge. Mostly, rational expectations lead to positive outcomes because people research extensively to arrive at a conclusion.

Expectations may be good or bad. In most cases, they drive us to achieve our goals and plan better for the future. Even at work, we have to meet certain expectations to achieve collective goals.

If you can work hard to fulfill these expectations, you’re more likely to succeed in your career. Learn more about how to set the right expectations with Harappa Education’s course Practicing Excellence. It’s been designed to help you understand your strengths, overcome barriers to productivity—like procrastination—and present your best self at work. Our expert faculty will guide you on how to become a productive and efficient professional.

Explore blogs on topics such as How to Set Life Expectations, Self-Management, Meaning of Ikigai & How to About Know Yourself in our Harappa Diaries section to go on a path of self-development.

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