How to Manage Client Expectations

We often project what we think people want from us.

For instance, how often do you find yourself working 60, 70, 80+ hours a week? (You’re not alone – I used to work 100-120 hour weeks!)

Or are you the type who feels like you have to get your inbox down to zero unread messages every single day?

Maybe you just feel like you have to respond to each and every email immediately, instead of giving yourself a 24- to 48-hour window to respond, even if it’s during the weekend.

But why? Did the client say that this was an expectation they have of you? Because the only thing that truly is expected – reasonably and realistically – is what is EXPLICITLY said is an expectation of us.

And even if the client did have that explicit expectation, guess what? We can choose not to live up to that expectation. That’s right, you can choose not to fulfill someone else’s explicit expectations of you. Just say no. 

Sure, I know that sounds easier said than done. We’ve been socialized to shove down our wants, our needs and our feelings. To be smaller. To take up less space. To not bother others. To be nice and play it safe and to not rock the boat.

I give you permission: Live up to your OWN reasonable expectations of yourself. Just say no.

We already know that we don’t always tell others what we expect of them, right? Well, the opposite is true. If people do not explicitly tell you what they expect from you, then you cannot ever meet their needs. So, let that go. 

If someone has a problem with you because you aren’t meeting their SECRET expectations, then you have no business being in a relationship with them until they are willing to tell you exactly what they need and want.

Same goes for you.

Extra Credit

As you go about your day, think about these questions:

  1. When you’re feeling pressure to do that “extra” thing today … did your client tell you that they have that expectation of you? If so, was it reasonable to expect that from you? 
  2. What is the actual frustration here – is it the people, the project, or the pay? Or something else entirely?
  3. Where did you come up with this idea that they have an expectation of you? Is it reasonable? Possible? Achievable? True?
  4. Why do they have this expectation? Why does it matter?
  5. Did you ever not meet this expectation? What was going on? When did this issue start popping up?
  6. How can you start to shift their expectation of you into one that is more manageable, better and more reasonable for you? What is ONE baby step you can take today to start changing this expectation?

Next Steps

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