Observations on expectations and praise

There are a few things I’ve observed recently that have made me understand work relationships a little better.

Regarding expectations, I’ve noticed that those who are expected of and feel they deliver on those expectations often get disappointed. This is usually due to the fact that what they delivered was expected and therefore not praised as some work of heroics. Or maybe they weren’t praised at all. Generally: do as you’re asked and nothing happens.

Put another way, those who continue to deliver as expected are generally asked to do more of the same. And with each delivery less and less praise is received (if at all). This is strictly because it is expected to be done. However this disappoints those who deliver on expectations because everyone could use a “pat on the back”.

Now consider those who deliver more than expected. This often receives some form of “praise”. Naturally praise is given when “above and beyond the call of duty” work is performed. For those who did the work ,this feels great. And sometimes it’s motivational. People will want to do it again.

Let’s then consider when “above and beyond the call of duty” work is performed again and again. That creates a new normal. A new expectation level. Above and beyond is now expected. Praise then wanes. Disappointment brews in those who do the work. This demotivates those doing the work. Sometimes indignation creeps into those doing the work.

In all cases bad blood is created between those asking for the work and those doing the work.

In my opinion there are things that each side can change that may prevent disappointment and bad blood.

For those doing the work: do it for yourself – not for praise from others. Remember that work is what you make it. If you are lucky enough to really enjoy your work, leave it at that. If you don’t enjoy your work, well that’s an entirely different problem. Expecting praise will lead to disappointment because it’s never enough. Face it, people are busy and what you do in the big picture is yours. No one else is going to really appreciate your work. Learn to praise yourself and learn to need only yourself to feel good about what you do. If you are happy doing exactly as you’re expected, good for you. The world needs more of you. If you want to do more and go beyond the call of duty, good for you. You should be proud of yourself for being a person who wants to do more. But in either case don’t get ruined when others don’t provide you some form of recognition. Recognize yourself.

For those asking for the work: remember what people are sacrificing. At work it’s easy to say that within the window of 8-5, people are willingly giving up life’s pleasures such as free time and leisure activities. But don’t forget that there are emotional and psychological sacrifices made all the time. Pride and ego are big things, and you shouldn’t inadvertently stomp all over them by simply forgetting to throw a little praise around. If people are delivering on your expectations, remind them that you know. Let them know that you’re paying attention. Rub their pride a little with an easy “thanks” or “good job”.

“No good deed goes unnoticed”. Bullshit. They do all the time. So keep doing those deeds for yourself and learn to notice others doing the same.



  1. Bart Jackson

    I’m sure you dont remember me but I worked the day shift at Hyannisport for the Barnstable P.D. for four years, two while you and Paul Landis were working there. I have never forgotten either of you and how proffessional you both were as well as nice guys, remember the softball games? I am reading the book written by Gerald Blaine and was hoping to get you to autograph it for me, Any info you can give me on how to get this done would be appreciated. Thanks Bart Jackson

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