On Undisclosed Expectations and their Repercussions ….

It has been some time since I wanted to write on this. I held myself off this to ensure I don’t over react and put in something out of frustration. Usually, I have a lot of patience and don’t lose my cool easily but there’s something which has been bugging me for some time.

It is about undisclosed expectations. Now what’s that? I’ll have to build up a story around that. Let’s assume that there’s a kid in your neighborhood. You’ve got a family and there is a kid in your family as well, but he is too small to the world outside. You come to know of the neighborhood kid, meet him and somehow like him. Luckily you’ve got a chocolate with you and you give it to him. A couple of days pass, and by chance, you meet your little friend while taking an evening walk in the adjoining park. He greets you and and this time you offer him a chocolate again. Days pass on, and it becomes a sort of a routine. You buy chocolates for the neighborhood kid, slowly more because of an obligation rather than anything else. On the other hand, the kid has developed a shuttle expectation within himself, that you’ll offer him chocolates whenever you meet him. The kid has grown up, and so have the expectations. You think, now that the kid has grown up, probably he doesn’t need chocolates anymore. You’d rather give those to the kid at home, who has grown up enough to try out the chocolates now. You stop giving chocolates to the neighborhood kid and reserve them for home.

What happens now? In all probability, the neighborhood kid would start feeling uneasy and react. He would probably not think of all those days you’ve offered him chocolates, but will definitely react to the situation at hand. Assume that you can afford to give chocolates only to one kid. That makes it straightforward to be the kid at home rather the one in your neighborhood. You don’t really like the neighborhood kid’s reaction. Though he can’t claim those chocolates on you, he’ll show his resentment in one or the other ways. That makes you annoyed. You think you offered him the chocolates all these days you could, and now that the kid in your family needs you’ve just switched the attention. You think why should the neighborhood kid react like this?

In the above fabricated story, who is to be held responsible for the situation? You for offering chocolates initially and then pulling off? Or the kid for not acknowledging the fact he got chocolates out of nothing for all those days and should not complain for something which was never a norm?

Well he was just a kid! If you do this to the eldest of people, the situation is not going to improve. It is a human tendency to take things for granted, if they happen on a regular basis. We are bound to complain if it goes missing, even if it never belonged to us. It takes a lot of guts to happily acknowledge the fact that losing something which never belonged to you is not a loss at all! Why to complain? It was a bonus anyway. You can’t hold anyone responsible for not offering the bonus consistently.

It has happened to me is some way. It turns out that to avoid such situations, one should not stretch beyond limits on a regular basis. It sets that ‘Undisclosed Expectation’ which is very difficult to break. The ‘delta’‘ or the additional effort you put in should never be comparable to the ‘mainline’ effort. The undisclosed expectations could be very dangerous. Since one just can’t force this upon, they tend to react in unjustified ways.

Notes to myself: If I have to avoid setting ‘undisclosed expectations’ , I need to make a deliberate effort not to stretch beyond the comfort zone . Else, I’ll be in trouble. Anything which is within the comfort zone is fine, even it has some ‘delta’ 🙂

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Amit Srivastava

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Nep - June 17, 2008

Stumbled upon your blog while searching for inverter, you have some great postings.. I think that will make me a regular visitor to your page… on the undisclosed expectations…

your example of giving chocolate and setting expectation is atleast a predictable type.. and you can satisfy once you know the expectation.. but the undisclosed expectations are dangerous 🙂 as you have said with grown people… its tough to deal. good reading.. thx

Amit Srivastava - June 17, 2008

@Nep: Thanks. Glad that you liked the posts!

Jon - June 27, 2008

A very insightful article indeed.You could also add the example of Dudley from Harry Potter to this.I’d say Anyone who harbors this so called Undisclosed Expectation = Spoilt. What you did was spoil that kid.Giving only a few chocolates to that kid for behaving well would have been reasonable rather than lavishing the kid with a plethora of chocolates…..takes a lot to cultivate character I guess.

Amit Srivastava - June 28, 2008

@Jon: Thanks for the point. Nice point.


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