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Mental Harassment Series - Dealing with Difficult Expectations



Next in the series on Mental Harassment is the issue of difficult or unreasonable expectations. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but those measures become troublesome when they force you to choose between work and other pressing responsibilities time and again.


Mismatching of expectations is very subjective. Expectations could be offset from both the sides, the employer and the employee. If the employee puts up unreasonable demands, they are dealt with accordingly by the organisation, which remains the higher authority always.


There are times when employees are expected to step out of their profiles to get work done at the time of need. Problem arises when that happens on a regular basis without any acknowledgement for the employee’s efforts. For instance, many organisations in western economies call working post office hours as overtime, we call it hard work.


Here I again look at some true stories that bear the tag of difficult or unreasonable expectations faced by some employees.


Scenario 1

Reporting Manager: Hey! I heard you have finalised the date for your wife’s C-Sec?

Employee: Yes sir. It is next week.

Reporting Manager: Yeah, about that. Can you postpone the delivery date to the week after? It is clashing with our planning.


Scenario 2

You being a professor have been taking online classes for 6 months now. Unfortunately, your residential area has been declared a containment zone due to increasing number of COVID-19 positive cases.

After Unlock 3.0, the management is forcing you to report to the institute physically to take online classes. You are also facing pay cuts despite students paying full fees to the institute.


Scenario 3

In Pre-WFH Times:

You completed your work and booked a cab. It has arrived. You pick up your bag and bid goodbye to your boss who sits right behind you. S/he stops you asking if you sent him/her the report in the new excel sheet format designed earlier that day.


You: “Oh, I am sorry. I sent that information in an email format to you instead of an excel. If you want the excel sheet, can I send it first thing tomorrow morning?” Reporting Manager: “No, I am travelling tomorrow and won’t get the time to look at it. Please send it right away.”


You cancel the cab, complete the excel and email it to your boss. When you inform him/her:

Reporting Manager: “Okay, thanks. I will check it tomorrow afternoon on my way to Bangalore.”


Now, you are stuck waiting for another cab and it takes an hour for the other cab to arrive due to peak hour traffic.

***

Above stated scenarios are some examples of unreasonable expectations. I know there are cases the other way round, but these days, we are getting to see more scenarios of employees facing the wrath. Drooping economies have brought in the fear of losing one’s job, or facing salary cuts.


Dealing with Unreasonable Demands or Expectations

Having dealt with unreasonable expectations myself, I can say there are measures to make life easier. The trick is to tackle one problem at a time. Once it has been established that the demands put up are unreasonable, below mentioned four steps should come to the rescue:

  1. Know your limits: No matter what level of the hierarchy you are at, knowing your own breaking points tell you what you can and cannot do for the company. It helps inculcate a healthy relationship between the employer and the employee too as expectations can be set on day one.

  2. Be Honest: Both with yourself and the company. Your work should speak for itself in order to earn some well-deserved time-off. This way, the discussion has a better chance of survival and going in your favour.

  3. Have Reasonable Expectations & Find a Middle Ground: The situation of unreasonable demands arises when both the employer and the employee have contrasting expectations. If neither party wishes to reach the extreme situation of quitting or firing, it is important to reset your expectations and communicate well to reach a middle ground. Effective communication here demands negotiating with the reporting manager as well. Most of us have faced the situation wherein every other report is needed “RIGHT NOW!”, but prioritising and negotiating makes the situation more manageable.

  4. Be Vocal at the Right Time: When you see you are being subdued and for all the wrong reasons, it is time to be vocal. Be firm in taking a stand and cite the what, the why and the how. What you think of the expectation, Why does it bother you and How do you think it can be resolved. Communication is the first step in making your life easier. It might not always seem doable for various reasons, but not doing anything does not make your life better either. Most of the times, the reason behind staying silent is a variant of fear.

Every employer was once an employee and understands the struggles associated, whether or not they are openly communicated. At times, work pressure makes lives of both the employer and the employee despicable, but a middle ground needs to be reached. Expectations have the power to make or break any situation based on the communication that flows, or the absence of it.


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