Expectations – the trick is to set them just right

Today was a learning experience (yes another one), well actually it was a reminding experience rather than something too new.

We expect too much, we don’t outline our expectations, we don’t explain how and why we can’t meet expectations, we expect too little and then we forget to expect at all. The trick is to set them ‘just right’.

Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development has the ‘just right’ placement for education. Too hard students lose interest, too easy they lose interest. I am now of the opinion that it’s the same in this job.

I’ve posted before about expectations of academics and how we support them and the fact they are expected to do 15 different things at once, and today it came to my mind again. We are looking at the expectations of sessional staff and then administrative expectations of academics to manage sessional staff and how those expectations aren’t really where they could be. The issue is, where should they be and who is responsible for setting them and then enforcing behaviour of both academic and sessional staff to meet them. The answer is, we are going to find out.

One aspect I love about the people I work with is we don’t assume expectations we work hard with people to ascertain what their expectations are and then work with them and the mechanisms in place to meet the expectations and/or adjust them and/or adjust the mechanisms to meet the expectations. Unfortunately the expectations are never just right, we are regularly in the too hard or too easy basket and so we run the risk of people losing interest. The challenge is how to regain this interest, or start getting the expectation juggle into the ‘just right’ spot.

I have had my expectations not met during my course in this job, and in a meeting today I stated that this had led to a reduction of my trust in another area of the university to meet my future expectations. My boss who was also in the meeting said no, because we are in a meeting talking about expectations and resetting them so I had to start with a fresh perspective. You know what, I think he might be onto something. If I sit and talk epxectations through with people and we agree that everything is not right for what we need, but that we can see a way forward, we may no longer be adjusting expectations, but resetting them.

So, where does this leave my thinking? Well, perhaps when I think that all interest is lost and there is no chance of meeting expectations of academics/students/powers that be, I could remember that sometimes it’s okay to be honest and ask people for an expectation reset. The trick will be to remember to ask….


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