When my daughter, Rachel, was around 3 years old, my parents took her to Toys “R” Us.
She was told that she could pick one thing out during the excursion. I should mention that she was the first grandchild for my parents and at the age of 3, she was still the only grandchild for them.
What happened? My daughter saw two “just adorable” baby dolls and asked for both. Being smart grandparents, they told her to pick just one. What did my daughter do? She picked out one doll and left the other one on the shelf, sort of. While placing the doll back, Rachel was heard telling the doll, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back for you later.” She was right. My parents, thinking the display was so cute, ended up buying both dolls.
Funny isn’t it. We create similar expectations in the workplace all the time. Many times, we believe that expectations are created through words (policies), but in reality, they are created or rather reinforced through actions.
My daughter knew with certainty that based on past behavior her grandparents were suckers, or rather so enamored with her they would do anything for their only grandchild. In the doll example, the consequences are fairly harmless. As I’ve been told, it is the job of grandparents to spoil their grandchildren and then give them back to their parents. Of course, if it was a parent instead of a grandparent, we would all say that the child would become spoiled and wouldn’t learn how to earn rewards.
Just as in the workplace, if we don’t set clear performance expectations up front and then communicate when our expectations are in and out of alignment, we end up with poor performance.
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