Do performance expectations matter in the new normal?

By Belia Nel, CPT 

I often write about performance matters and this time is no exception. In all organisations, large and small, irrespective of industry, performance issues seem to be a hot topic. As we are all struggling to get upstream with how we need to change our work habits and routines, I was thinking about expectations – and particularly how they relate to performance.


So much has been written about expectations – in personal, customer and work relationships. Our attention and thoughts are heightened during this time of turmoil, uncertainty and change. We hear, listen to, read and engage in so many articles, webinars, online meetings, online learning and much more. And I often ask – what is expected? What is the outcome? How can I apply this? Will it improve my performance? So little seems to go the way we planned or how we anticipated the expected outcomes or results, albeit personally or work-wise.

Unrealistic expectations can be exacerbated by trauma during the world-wide lockdown and social distancing of many countries. This seems to bring out a set of behaviours whether covert or overt – good or bad. For example, anger is a behaviour manifesting in avoiding responsibilities, sarcasm and stubbornness to name but a few. And this could result in bitterness, a very negative construct particularly in our personal lives and possibly spilling over into our “new” work environment and online interactions as well as the long list of things we (and/or our managers) are expecting from us during this time.

I want to turn the focus of expectations to workplace relationships. Expectations are closely linked to barriers which affect performance and these are key to positive outcomes and results. However, I have found during normal circumstances people are usually blamed when performance drops. These barriers show up in many ways – in operations and processes, such as technology issues or challenges, the individual or team’s competence and capability as well as organisational barriers, for example poor strategy interpretation and vague or unrealistic expectations. Unclear expectations bring their own dilemmas which could result in poor performance.

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For the rest of this article – as a PDF – please click here: Do Performance Expectations Matter 2020

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