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I'm working with a client that used to say, "no good deed goes unpunished". It seemed that no matter what was tried, whether it be an extra vacation day, turkeys for Thanksgiving, working during a commute or providing a gas card, somebody else would take offense or create drama around the situation. It was getting to the point that the drama was overshadowing the intention.

There needs to be a clear distinction between the individual activities and the expectations of the organization. Expectations are something that override day to day tasks and guide people toward a productive relationship. Tasks and activities are negotiated on a person by person basis. The challenge comes when everybody thinks they should be treated equally when in fact everyone is not equal. Just like a sports team, different players perform different functions and have different responsibilities. I find that employees are spending too much time criticizing what someone else is doing and not paying attention to what they should be doing. It is too easy to point fingers, accuse and deflect attention away from their own lack of performance.

One way to accomplish this is through an expectation conversation. It's like a boomerang. When you throw it, you expect it to come back. Simple, not always easy. The result of the return is based on the execution of the throw. Expectations work the same way. Different people get different expectations and are held to them. This guides the relationship. It also reduces the entitlement that employees feel they have when they are not clear on their expectations or are not held accountable for their tasks, activities and results. Think about some of the drama currently happening within your organization. Chances are it is being caused by differing expectations.

The format I recommend for this conversation is to discuss what their expectations are from you and your expectations are for them. This has to be a dialogue. It cannot be forced on the person. They have to be agreed upon. I also recommend doing this one on one versus in a group setting. I was working with an organization who, on their own, tried their version of an expectation conversation with a group of people and it was a disaster. Group variations of this should only be attempted with the help of a professional facilitator. When you're sitting, one on one, it is important to negotiate any expectations before listing them out that way all expectations that go on on the list are able to be lived up to and can be held accountable for.

I was conducting an on-site training program and after the first session a woman came up to me and said she was expecting to be fed. I asked her if the company bought breakfast for her other days of the week? If she usually ate before going going to work? Then why should she expect me to buy her breakfast? No where was it discussed that food would be provided. It was an unrealistic expectation imposed by only one person. When you conduct your conversations, both sides have to agree on the expectation. What you give is what you get. Try one for yourself and let us know how it goes.