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When is it going to end? (unreasonable expectations)

Steve Sheridan's Profile

One of my colleagues told me a story I've heard often lately.  I've even seen it myself in other companies.  It's the story of upper-level management having unreasonable expections of mid-managers.  As my colleague relayed the story to me,the mid-manager at her second job did as much as possible, many times working long days, to meet expectations.  He was respected by his workers for his effort and inspired them to do the same.  Then suddenly he was just let go, unannounced.  No time to say goodbye, just out the door.  The word is that he didn't meet an expectation.

I've seen and heard about other similar instances:  Managers having their staff slashed so much that work can't get done without hours and hours of overtime, managers asked to accomplish things in a month that reasonably take 6 months to finish.  I know of one time when a manager was given expectations and told to make a plan to meet them.  When upper-level saw the plan, they remarked "This is a long list.  How are you going to do this?".  It was upper-level who set the expectation, and they seemed surprised at what was needed to accomplish it.

That's the point I'm trying to make.  We as upper-level managers not only need to look at real data, but also the people and man-hours involved before we set expectations.  We need to listen better and not always think our people are making excuses.  The other day I just felt a need to write something like this, to hopefully get us all to stop and think for a bit at how we manage.  Many times we were the one who hired the people involved, and I'm sure we hired high-achievers.  We need to ask ourselves why our hires are now struggling.  Maybe it's us, not them.



(Controller) |

Steve, your post may be difficult for some managers to read, but I'm thankful you wrote it, as it speaks so much truth! In my experience of having managers like you describe at 2 different companies, in both cases they were new and seemed like they put a lot of pressure on themselves to get things done and make their mark, and that resulted in completely unrealistic expectations, since they didn't really know the employees involved or processes or what things would take. Coming in new, it's also easy to make assumptions that prove to be incorrect! One manager put so much pressure on herself (and me) that she came across as a huge bully; in one case she changed a deadline at the last minute such that I had to cancel my own birthday dinner to work late to meet the deadline. (It turned out moving the deadline made no difference.)

Thank you for the post, and I really do hope some managers take that last sentence to heart. Sometimes they just need to take a step back and look at the big picture.