The Cain and Abel of the Expectation bloodline

Expectation has two offspring; disappointment and confidence. As with any family there is always a favorite which ironically happen to be disappointment in our scenario. Strange you might think—well it is in fact the case that we spend more time on our disappointment than its older brother.  Confidence is the first of the two and disappoint is the last; you know what they say about last babies. Disappointment gets the most attention for most people and there is a reason why. People tend to remember the bad things more than the good ones. Like most last babies, too much attention breeds some sort of a negative behavior. 
If you have ever been disappointed you know it is because of your expectation. You also know that your expectation has given you confidence either to do or not to do something in other situations. Disappointment themselves are not always a bad thing so you may want to consider not throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water. Very often, we find later that the disappointment we cried about was in fact, a blessing in disguise.  Go through your list of major disappointments and you will find a few that will make you feel foolish for crying. It is not everything we think we need that is the best for us. And it is not true when we decide to think we cannot live without someone or something. Spousal disappointments are probably the most devastating and I have had a few of my own.  There are many stories about people who have ended up in mental hospitals because of non-conforming spouses. The depression list is much longer. Of the many women I know who have suffered this; most have later decided that they didn’t really need him anyway. They are in fact better off without the man they wanted to die for. They soon learn that there is a better man and a world of new possibilities awaiting them.

In the final analysis, it is expectation that is the root of the problem. Even when the signs are as clear as day light, we choose to hope for the best. That’s the other one— HOPE is an accomplice in this matter. Well the signs are always a warning of what is coming but we choose to ignore them; not necessarily because we want to give the benefit of the doubt—that will be more purposeful. But more because we are comfortable leaving the work to others and we do not really want to shift from expectation’s comfort zone.

Humans love predictability. If we didn’t, prophets won’t have a job and they do get a lot of clients I can tell you that. People go to very serious lengths to be able to know and control the future. They want to shape it to meet their expectations.  We are more comfortable and confident when we think we can predict what will happen next. So we expect a spouse to do this and that. We expect staff to do this and that- after all what are you paying them for? We expect a friend to do this and that— yeah what are friends for? We expect good customer service— doesn’t the book say we are entitled to it. We expect everything and when they fail, the emotional price is quite high if we do not know what to do. Disappointment is on the loose and he is no easy child to control. His cuts are deep and almost impossible to forget. Since our lives are full of expectations (and we need them), it doesn’t appear to be something we can get away from. This means that we are going to experience a lot of disappointments and you probably have a few stories of your own. The emotional price can take a very heavy toll on your performance in your occupation and larger life. Don’t forget to run the race, you must shed the weight. Emotional baggages are among the worst kind and they without a shadow of doubt force low performance.

Think of a team member who is depressed all the time because his wife is cheating. Or maybe his children won’t do what he wants.  This person might not give their work all the attention it needs forcing team members to do more to fill the gap. Some people even have the wonderful talent of turning their problems into other people’s problems forcing the whole team to slow down. They infect others with their emotional viruses. One depressed person can depress a whole team with their negative thoughts and its attendant negative attitude and before you can say Nkrumah, one kiss refused at home has evolved into a corporate disaster.

So how do we maintain performance in the face of the endless network of emotions that surround any environment with human beings in it?  The solution starts with being aware of emotions themselves; how they are generated and how they affect performance. This helps to develop a management system. There are only two kinds of emotions and they are both generated from the two kinds of thoughts—negative and positive. Like generates like. Knowing what to think to generate the right emotions that will result in the right action is emotional intelligence (EI). The creator of EI (Daniel Goelman) asserts that success becomes more certain for people with high emotional intelligence. The person who is high on the EI scale also exhibits very good social intelligence and hence is socio-emotionally competent. He knows how to navigate around people to ensure they don’t become obstacles and ensures that an emotion doesn’t slow his performance. This also means he knows how to manage others well enough to ensure their emotional baggage are not transferred over. Since people are the key actors in the performance of organisations, we must see how this issue is important for organizational output. Machines are only as good as the people who man. This makes it prudent to invest more in people than in machines to ensure high performance.

To finish off, here is a promise I can make you with my head on the line: You will experience countless disappointment in all aspects of your life. Even in your bedroom. In fact you have already experienced so many already, it is shocking you are not used to it. The solution is to develop a way of managing expectations and its trouble child while maintaining your confidence. Emotions are the results of thoughts and they express themselves in our actions. No bearer of negative thoughts is able to give their best.  EI therefore is a major influence on both occupational and life performance. By all means, have expectation; in fact engage her to Hope. Because without them, you might be discouraged from taking action and we don’t want that.  No one does something for nothing and that includes you. To improve your performance however, you must learn to manage disappointment with big brother confidence. It is how you will be able to identify the famous hidden opportunities that hide behind the notorious disappointment. Like any spoilt child, he is not all bad- listen carefully to what he has to say and choose wisely or he will take you off your performance track.  It is no coincidence that the two are from the same source and you must understand the source very well. Emotional intelligence makes you more powerful and makes your success in your occupation and larger life more certain. The uptimetrics® training program includes Socio-emotional competence testing and development as part of the information management module. Join us in our next training program for more.

Answering the following questions is a great way to start.

Email the answers to to join our no-obligation,  one month free performance coaching program.

Recall a major disappointment in your life?
What was the feeling that came with it?
How did it affect friends and family?
How did it affect your performance at work?
How would you handle things differently if the situation repeats itself?

About Markus Kennedy Katey


  1. Disappointments can be setbacks if we let them. I try to turn them into building blocks. No this is not always easy but it can be done. When I look back on things and people that have disappointed me I can see how that has propelled me to a different level a higher level in my life. Great post!

  2. Thanks a trillion Amira. Always good to see you.

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