It turns out we spend a lot of our lives running around trying to do what others expect of us. It is essentially how we're reared. Parents set expectations and we either meet them or don't. Our spouses have expectations, our children have expectations, our friends have expectations...we have expectations for ourselves. Man, even God (or Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus...pick your favorite) has expectations for us. Wash, rinse, repeat.
And then comes work. Holy expectations! But workplace can suck. Big time.
They're often misplaced, misunderstood, misused. And all this "mis" can be dangerous...damaging.
So what do we do about it?
For one: if you get to have some expectations for me, I get to have some for you. I'll tell you what they are plain and simple. And if you don't think it's right for a subordinate to have expectations for a superior, then you are sadly oblivious to the human condition and probably shouldn't be in your position to begin with.
For two: there should be protections around expectations-not-met. If I don't meet yours you can ding me in any number of ways. You can give me a shitty bonus. You can deny a promotion. You can shun me to least-favored status. You can even kick me to the curb. But what do I get when you blatantly fail to meet my expectations? Nothing, nada, zero, zilch...that's what. Nothing. Yes, I can vote with my feet and leave. But that's far more disruptive to me than it is to you.
For finally: just tell me what you want for goodness sake. I am not clairvoyant. All those little unsaid expectations floating around in your head need to get out on the table. Don't let the implied outweigh the explicit. Expectations should not be a like a secret handshake that only those who survive some rigorous pledge-ship get. Write them down. Share them. Do it regularly. Just a good old fashioned sit-down will work. "Here's what I expect of you. Does that make sense? Good. Now what it is it that you expect from me?" The sooner people understand each other's expectations, the sooner they'll go about meeting them...
Or the sooner they'll go about understanding they cannot or do not want to meet them. In which case, they can self-select out and you've now saved everyone a whole lot of nonsense. In fact, I say share your expectations during the recruiting process. Why blindside them after they're already on board? So if you're a recruit, just ask: "can you tell me exactly what you'll expect of me - everything and anything? And how do you go about understanding what it is I might expect of you?"
If they can't answer those questions with some good meat on the bones, then caveat emptor. Caveat emptor, my friend.