Expectations and Happiness

People who immigrate to other countries are good ‘engagers’; they know the pitfalls of expectations and instead, invest their energy in the here and now, hoping their efforts will pay off. A shoemaker near and dear to our hearts works a second job on his days off. He also designs websites, drafts budgets, and does books – on a volunteer basis. He’s working toward landed immigrant status, and if successful, has made plans to put his Masters Degree in Banking and Finance to work. And the run-down shoes he’s fixing? He just smiles and says he knew (read “expected”) the path would have its challenges.

It’s when we don’t expect difficulties that we run into trouble. We take on someone’s workload when they leave and the promised new hire doesn’t happen; a slacker colleague on a project gets promoted; or a boss doesn’t like or support us. Yes, they are unpleasant situations, but we can deal with them. We just have to figure-out the crux of the issue so we can create a plan – and manage our expectations along the way. Here’s what we mean…

Management’s primary responsibility is to provide two things: good systems & processes, and a culture of work that encourages innovation and empowerment. An employee’s primary responsibility is to be engaged – which means they are expected to use their strengths, skills and individuality to maximize the business results. Personal and organizational ‘happiness/success’ are likely when both sets of expectations are met.

If we’re unhappy at work, we have to first determine ‘why’. Is it because the systems/processes are out of whack? Is it the culture? Or is it because we’re not using our strengths, skills and natural way of being? In other words, does the issue reside inside or outside of us?

If it’s a process or culture issue, we have to decide if we can change it, along with the personal and professional cost of doing or not doing that. If the decision is to go ahead, we can formulate some ideas, find some like-minded colleagues, incorporate their ideas, and discuss them with a senior person who likes/respects us in the hope that this will improve the situation.  If it comes to naught, then the question is: “Can I accept this situation and still stay engaged?” If the answer is “no”, we’ll most likely disengage from the job or we’ll look for another one.  If we say “yes”, then we’re agreeing to a change of attitude.

If, however, we’re unhappy because we’re not able to use our strengths and skills, or because we’re overusing them and exhausting ourselves, we’ll have to look inwardly. For example, if you agree to take on extra workload and you feel hard-done-by and resentful, a good question might be: “Is this situation a one-off, or do I have an overall tendency to do/offer too much?” If it’s a pattern, the onus rests primarily on you to “change your game” and develop the courage to say “no” when you feel “no”.  This of course is easier said than done, as is true for most personal and professional development. But it is possible. Stay tuned.

In our November issue, we’ll look at how to resolve three workplace laments: 1) “I worked a lot harder and he got promoted”, 2) “My boss doesn’t like or support me”, and 3) “I don’t like my job”.  Pssst: Even if you don’t, you can still be happy.  Next month we’ll tell you how.

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