Unrealistic Expectations & Their Consequences

It’s the same old story: impossible deadlines, unachievable KPI’s, not enough team members, inadequate budgets and bosses who seem to live in a fantasy land.

Whilst setting goals is perfectly normal and an expected part of any job, the reality is that setting the bar too high has incredibly negative ramifications on employees and over time, the business as well.


Unrealistic expectations in the workplace can have immediate effects on employees and the business, including:


What happens when we have deadlines that are unrealistic? We rush. We cut corners and we don’t double check things…. because we don’t have time!

And when we rush, we miss things. The quality of our work is sacrificed and things become sloppy and disjointed.

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Who would want to get out of bed and go to work, knowing they will never live up to their bosses expectations?

Unrealistic expectations create stress and anxiety which costs workplaces money in sick/ stress leave.

Not only does absenteeism go up, but pressure rises too – the rest of the team has to pick up the slack.


When there are unrealistic expectations, deadlines and due dates become increasingly difficult to achieve.

This becomes a massive issue, especially in team environments, where missing due dates could potentially mean missing out on bonuses.

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Setting unrealistic goals, time-frames or other expectations in the workplace not only have immediate ramifications, but can also lead to longer lasting issues in the workplace, including:

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People don’t want to work in a job that has an unattainable ideal. If workers don’t get praise, or manage to reach goals and feel successful, they end up disenchanted.

Often, employees feel they have to seek validation and success somewhere else.

This is a huge issue, where companies want to achieve great things, but end up losing workers with valuable knowledge and experience in the process.


If the work is ‘never done’ and the goals are never met, when do staff get a chance to celebrate their achievements?


When we don’t celebrate the successes, it can lead to low self-esteem, low motivation and productivity, and eventually, low morale.

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If success is not an option and targets are set too high, failure is a given. Sometimes, this failure becomes the norm, and eventually accepted.

People stop trying, projects become doomed, and no one achieves their true potential. Not only that, but respect for managers becomes non-existent and employees become un-willing to do anything but the bare minimum.

So, how do we avoid setting the bar too high?

Unrealistic expectations make for an uninterested, unproductive team. It affects employees, managers and the company as a whole, so it is worth tackling properly. So how to we do that?


Understand Your Employees

How will you know what your workers are capable of doing, if you have no idea of the scope of their skill set?

Understanding what people are good at, what they need help with and who is able to help them are all important things to know.

You also need to know their limits.

If you know your Call Centre employees can make roughly 80 calls a day, you don’t set the target to 300. If you know a job requires at least 4 people, don’t make one person do it.

Gallup uses the Clifton Strength Finder is an amazing way to understand the people who work for you, and how they tick.

But asking questions, being available and have a workforce that isn’t dehumanized is a great place to start!

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Constant Evaluation

If you want to make sure you aren’t setting unrealistic expectations, looking at trends in your data is a great tool.

Not only that, but asking for feedback from the people who work for you is an excellent way to keep an eye on morale, while also finding out what works and what doesn’t.

If you can keep track of the numbers, and can see there hasn’t been any goals hit for months, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate.

These days, there are even websites like Peakon, which gathers employee feedback, and can provide insights for improvement.


Be Reasonable & Outline Expectations

Look at the project you need completed as a whole. If you want something completely in a month, what resources will you need? How many people, how many hours, how much money, etc., etc.,etc.

You can’t just decide what you want and when you want it and dive right in without a plan.

Take a step back and consider what the entirety of the picture looks like, and how it will be achieved.

Only then can you set the expectations, and only then will they be thought out and reasonable.

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Support Your Staff!!!

You’re all in this together!

Why put unnecessary pressure and unrealistic expectations on the people you see day in and day out? They’re there because they have the ability to make real changes in the company – so support them!

As Wolfgang Von Goethe puts it:

A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.’

Shayde Morley

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