Unrealistic Expectations

By Carol Campbell
Published on: January 22, 2021

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Last week I talked about working with a perfectionist. This week I want to talk about another creature from the deep, those colleagues with unrealistic expectations. Whether it’s a team member with pie-in-the-sky optimism or a boss who sets completely unrealistic goals (especially when it comes to sales forecasts!), here are a few recommendations of mine that might just help rein in unrealistic expectations:

Find common ground. This is always the place to start when dealing with someone with unrealistic expectations. If you challenge them, you will just aggravate the situation. Instead, don’t get defensive, get on their good side. Go back to the basics of how to win people over – make eye contact, don’t take up a defensive posture, listen carefully and smile, smile, smile. Put on your winning personality and win that person over.

Agree on the agreeable. It doesn’t take a lot to find something you can both agree on. I try to look down the road and see what this person is ultimately after. If I can agree with them that the goal is acceptable and reasonable (even if the methodology and final results are still pie-in-the-sky), then I can at least start a conversation. And that’s when I can start to inject some reality into the discussion.

Make your own proposals. If you’ve gained some trust and found common ground, and you’ve agreed on a basic framework of what the team is capable of achieving, it’s then acceptable to make your own proposals. Keep in mind to always reference that common ground you both came to, as well as on what you both agreed would be an acceptable endgame and/or outcome.

Some people just have unrealistic expectations. Others feel pressured to take on unrealistic expectations. Either way, if you keep your wits about you, you can convince almost anyone to take a reasonable approach to business matters.


Carol Campbell

Carol Campbell

Carol Campbell is the Managing Director of the Technology Insider Group, Publisher of Technology Designer Magazine, and Executive Director of the Women in Consumer Technology association. She is a publishing, marketing and women’s thought leadership executive with a history of offering outstanding presentation, communication and cross-cultural team management skills.

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