Expectations suck. Basically because you can’t win. Ever.
Take the example of work, to start with, because that’s probably the worst. I’m someone with a high work ethic. I like doing a good job and I like delivering it as quickly as I can because I don’t like people waiting on me; so when someone asks me to do something for them, I usually try to have it done by the end of the day or as soon as possible at the very least. Big mistake.
You see, it gets really tricky, because on one hand, you want to prove that you’re reliable, that you’re doing an amazing job and that you’re efficient. But on the other hand, if you always prioritise the work you’ve been asked to do (understand that as in addition to the tasks you normally have to do), people don’t really see you as someone who works well and goes the extra mile for them any more, they just expect you to come up with this quality of extra work all the time. You want to impress and prove yourself, but working like this usually leads you to a massive burnout and zero thanks in the end.
This is exactly what happened to me a year ago. I started a new job, and because it was a new contract there was tons of work to do – which I was more than eager to carry out because I wanted to prove that I was up to the task and show that I could do incredible work, even if I wasn’t passionate whatsoever about the work in question and I wasn’t particularly impressed with how the company was handling stuff. I nevertheless did my job impeccably and made sure to always go the extra mile for my superiors, for my colleagues and for the people I was managing. That lead me to… absolutely nowhere. People will just expect you to do everything on the spot, to always be there to help them do their job and to say yes to every extra request, and when you start saying “hang on, this is not my job, go ask someone else because I’m really busy right now”, people get shocked and confused and start criticising you by saying you’re not a good team player. I ended up highly stressed and miserable, stacking overtime hours every day – and no one to say “thanks Sarah, you’re doing a great job!”. Appreciation anyone?
My overtime hours, all my breaks that I never took and my eagerness to work hard and please everyone was only just masking the fact that I was doing the job of 2 people (for a salary that was definitely not worth the effort, by the way…).
The exact same thing can happen in your personal life as well. Take my best friend for instance: she’s the kind of girl who always thinks of others before herself. You can ask her for anything and she’ll help you do it. And she’s not like this just for me and her other best and close friends and relatives, but basically for everyone. She’s the kind of crazy person who invited a total stranger she met on the street one afternoon to crash on the couch for the night, just because the girl asked her where the closest hostel was, for Christ sake! But you see, people tend to forget to appreciate what my friend does for them, because they now just expect her to do all these things all the time. So in the very rare occasions she was up to her eyes with other stuff and had to refuse, people took it very seriously, were offended and gave her a hard time for it! How fair is that?!
I’m looking for a new job at the minute, and believe me, I do still want to find a job I’m 100% passionate about, that drives me to my core and for which I wouldn’t count my hours – just because I love it and I want me, my colleagues, the project and the company to succeed! But there’s this voice inside my head saying “what if this all happens again?” I want to prove what I’m capable of, that I don’t mind working long hours and that I’m willing to give 100% of myself, but will it be appreciated? Or just expected until… until what exactly? Until I break down? Where do we draw the line?
Is it possible to find a job where you commit 100% of yourself, but where your work is recognised and appreciated, and not expected? I wish I could find a job where I could stay long hours and work over the weekend if needed, but where it wouldn’t be business as usual but occasional and, again, appreciated. But I also want a job where, if I leave on time at the end of the day, and when I take my deserved breaks, I won’t get frowned upon. I want people to expect that I’m going to do an awesome job from which I will get recognition and thank you’s, but don’t expect me to be the girl who will always say yes to tasks that I shouldn’t be doing, who will help everyone always and who will work twice as everyone else. Is that too much to ask?
I don’t think it’s just me be being crap at drawing the line, because I hear stories like that every day! Is there a magic solution that a lot of us just didn’t pick up yet? Have we just not find the perfect job or company or place for us to work yet? Or is it just how we should expect to work nowadays?
In any case, even if I did learn from some of my mistakes (I’m not afraid to say that a task is not my job to do anymore if I’m already too busy, or to give longer deadlines to give me time to do my initial work as well, for example), this is not going to prevent me from working like I have always have, giving 100% of myself, because I’m someone who cares about my work and I don’t think I could do any differently. Let’s just hope I’ll find a place were my hard work is recognised to its right value!
Same goes for my friend: she will never stop helping others, because it’s who she is, but I do wish that people would stop expecting too much of others, especially from the ones with big hearts or high work ethic who seldom say no to give you a hand. I wish these people would show more appreciation instead.
Please leave me your thoughts if you have experienced the same kind of situation or if you have any tips to give!