I was in an interesting conversation with a team today. They were talking about their boss and how he might handle a certain situation.  Someone said “I would be really disappointed if he did x.”  I couldn’t help but ask whether the team was going to wait for the boss to disappoint them, or whether there was an alternative.

Do you find yourself in this situation…hoping desperately that someone will do (or not do) something?  Do you try to telepathically will that person to do the right thing? Does your inside voice repeat “please don’t do that, please don’t do that” over and over? Here’s a news flash—THEY CAN’T HEAR YOU!  They have no clue that they are about to disappoint you.

Now you can just wait and hope that they do what you want.  You can judge them based on whether they arrived at your version of the “right” answer. You can get mad that they didn’t do what you never told them you wanted.

OR…you can open your mouth and communicate.

Unfortunately, too many of us sit in silence and hope that our bosses, colleagues, and direct reports will act in a certain way.  (Don’t even get me started about how often we do this to our spouses and children!) We set people up to disappoint us.

Next time you think to yourself “I sure hope she doesn’t…” or “he better… ,” try one of the following

“I have been thinking about ______. How are you planning to _________?”

“I’ve been worrying about ___________. Can I ask that you ____________?”

“It would mean a lot to me if you could__________?

I get that it would delight you if these people would just miraculously land on your version of the right behavior without you having to say a thing (oh honey, a diamond ring…you SHOULDN’T have!) But there’s a lot of territory between delighted and disappointed.  How about really having your boss’, (or teammate’s or direct report’s) back by giving them a chance to do right by you, rather than waiting until they disappoint you.

Further Reading

How to Disagree with your Boss

How to Change a Teammate’s Bad Behaviour

When the Problem is Outside your Team

4 Responses to Why wait for someone to disappoint you?

  1. Regan Sorensen

    What great advice. I hear this almost on a daily basis from both employees and managers. Why is it that we are, at times, hesitant to communicate to one another?

    • It’s a great question Regan. I think we concoct all sorts of scenarios in our heads about how someone might react. I think most of them are fiction. Put yourself in these shoes: one of your direct reports has something that’s really important to him/her. Would you rather they let you know or not? Regardless of whether you are going to do what they want, it’s nice to know where the landmines are. I would encourage people by asking “would you want to know? If so, then do your boss/coworker a favor and tell them!”

  2. Jason

    Some people fear being perceived as too direct or blunt and so don’t pull the trigger on having these conversations. Your suggestions on how to lead into the dialogue helps!
    We just have to find the right balance.

    • Jason, good point. I think much of our poor communication comes from concerns about being perceived as pushy or blunt. It’s all in how you say it. 1. Don’t make it a command, make it a request. 2. Don’t assume how the other person thinks or feels, just share what you think and feel 3. be gracious about the answer either way…say “thanks for hearing me out.” Once you try it a few times, you’ll see how people respond to candid and respectful communication.

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