I love watermelon! As I anticipate summer and all that goes along with it, seedless watermelon is on the list. Last week, I went to the grocery store to purchase another of my summer delights. I inspected the green globes and joyously thumped, thumped each one until I found the perfect specimen, ripe for the taking. I asked the man in the produce area to confirm my selection, and he looked at the melon in my cart, gave it a quick thump, nodded his head, and said, “This is a good one!”

I took the watermelon home, got out my special knife, and excitedly made the first cut. I heard the split of the rind, and as I continued to cut, the first drop of goodness dripped out. I sliced the melon in half, and it was pink and beautiful, but…it had seeds!

That is not right It is supposed to be seedless!
• Was this a grocery store error, did someone mix up the watermelons?
• Did I read the sign incorrectly?
• Did Mother Nature play a trick on me?

I felt cheated! My expectations were not met, and my frustration grew as I picked out each little black seed. It took 35 minutes to dig out seeds in my little “supposed” seedless watermelon. As I picked, I realized how frustration and unmet expectations build.

Then it dawned on me, how frequently does this happen in the work world? We go into a company, department, situation, and believe it will be a certain way. We have an expectation based on the communication and/or signs we have been given. Then our expectations are not met, and we become frustrated. Do we assume this was “done unto me” and become a victim? Do we plod along as we pick out every little black seed? Or do we throw away the whole watermelon, and just say the heck with it?

The goal for a leader is to understand expectations and communicate reality. When you communicate honestly, respectfully, and realistically the other person can make the decision that is right for them. If the grocery employee had said, “The sign says seedless but there may be a few inside, thank you Mother Nature!” I could have made the correct buying decision and would not have been surprised by the outcome.

When interviewing a candidate ask:
• What type of training is best for you? Listen for timeframe, mode of training, mentoring, etc.
• What is your desired career path? Listen for timeframe, progression, and desired positions.
• What type of feedback do you require? Listen for constant coaching versus a “DIY” approach.

When you hear responses that are aligned with your organization you can say, “Thank you for telling me, we provide the training, career progression, and coaching you are asking for. Sounds like a good match!” Then you can be specific about the types of programs or opportunities the company provides. When you hear responses that are not aligned with the offerings in your company, you can say “Thank you for telling me your desired training. Instead of a six-week program, we offer an eight-week program. We have found that provides the hands-on experience that is best for the trainee.” Or you may respond, “Instead of a one-on-one individual training, we have found that on-line courses provide the consistency and visual aids that are the best method to train the processes in the company.”

From an employee’s perspective, unmet expectations typically involve compensation, career progression, or culture.

What are unmet expectations regarding culture? “The company is not walking its talk; they say one thing and do another. This fosters mistrust regarding other programs or promises made.”

I recently spoke with four managers who were interviewing outside of their current company. When asked why they were leaving, all four mentioned that their expectations had not been met. “I was told I would receive an increase, training, bonus, promotion…and it never occurred.” Some of the situations were out of their control; the company was acquired, COVID impacted the business, or they had a new supervisor. Others said that their unmet expectation and frustration resulted from a lack of communication. “I asked if I would receive the increase, promotion, training, etc. that was communicated when I joined the company? I never received an answer. The truth is better than no answer at all!”

Yes, things change!

An organization restructure, financial challenges, and individual performance all affect current and future decisions. When changes occur, explain the reason for and impact of the change. This reflects integrity, inspires trust, and garners respect.

A leader may have unmet expectations when a project is not completed as expected, an interaction with a customer does not go well, or there is tension among the team. When you hear the little voice in your head that says, “I thought they knew better” or “How could they?” or “I am so frustrated,” that is a sure sign of unmet expectations. The leader needs to address the issue as quickly as possible.

Tell the employee, “We need to talk about…”
• the service provided to the customer
• the late project deliverable
• the interaction with the team.

No one likes to have these conversations, but they are necessary to correct the issue. You may hope the situation corrects itself, and perhaps it will…or perhaps it won’t. The employee may not know they have something that needs correcting, and it is the supervisors responsibility to tell them. Determining whether “there are seeds that need to be dealt with” requires honesty, courage, and communication.

Remember
“Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. The harvest can either be flowers or weeds.” — William Wordsworth