The Boss’s Unreasonably High Expectations

High Expectations
The Boss’s Unreasonably High Expectations

The movie “Eight Men Out” is about the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal in which several members of the Chicago White Sox fixed the World Series by losing games on purpose. They did this based on an agreement with two gamblers who promised to pay them more for losing than they would have gained by winning the World Series.

Eddie Cicotte was a pitcher on that team and had a $10,000 bonus clause in his contract if he won 30 games. When Cicotte reached 29 wins, White Sox owner Charles Comiskey ordered the manager to bench him for the remaining two weeks of the season.

And such is the world of business. People are provided incentives to reach milestones that can be manipulated, preventing them from being reached. In other situations, the carrot is set so far out of reach that few, if anyone on the team can reach them.

This can create a competitive atmosphere that can hurt morale and overall performance.

For example, let’s say that you are responsible for a group of people you don’t manage. Your performance is directly related to their performance. Yet, you have little control over them with limited authority.

This is often the case in consulting where you have a project with some members from your own firm, some members from other consulting firms, and some members from the client. You may have some authority over your own firm’s employees (but not always). You have little to no power over the other two groups.

This calls for a creative mix of creating incentives to make people want to complete tasks you want them to do, and working in cooperation with the people who do have authority over those people.

When is it unattainable?

That doesn’t always solve the problem. Like with Mr. Cicotte, there are times when individuals are held accountable for activities well beyond their control. This may be a devious approach by management to get rid of someone.

More often, it is management going too far to obtain a quota. You sold $1 million last year? Sell $3 million this year. One should be able to increase production year over year. But there may be limits on what that increase can be.

There are some individuals in some industries who will tell us to stop our whining. Farmers are held accountable for their crop output, but they have no control over the weather. Entrepreneurs are held accountable for revenue or they go out of business.

True, yet they accepted the risks of their industry.

These days, all employees are expected to be entrepreneurial. Yet it is still difficult to be held accountable for impossible outcomes.

What to do

A manager needs to use issue management to notify his management if things are not moving in the right direction. If and when the desired outcomes do not come to fruition, at least top management has been notified.

If they still hold the manager accountable, it depends on the consequences. There could be a number of possibilities in that. There may be no consequence at all if they realize that it was out of reach. The individual could face losing his job if they want to play hardball and make an example out of him. Somewhere in-between, the manager could be passed by for a bonus or a promotion.

Depending on the consequences and the manager’s options, he will then have to make the decision to stay and try again for the next cycle. Or, he could move on.

Sr. management that creates these out of reach goals must be aware of the “consequences of their consequences.” To do nothing indicates that you don’t hold people accountable and may not be taken seriously in the future. However, everyone makes mistakes. To come down hard indicates that you are unreasonable and inflexible.

Each side needs to determine diplomatically how they will deal with unreasonably high expectations.

How have you dealt with unreasonably high expectations?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of XXX at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Related Posts
How I Learned that Burning Bridges is A Career Limiting Move
When I was in high school, I had a job at a restaurant. At one point, being a mature 16-year old, I wanted to quit. I didn't just want to ...
READ MORE
The Difference between Consultants and Employees
I was involved in a conversation the other day about what differentiates a consultant from a non-consultant. If you asked a non-consultant, perhaps the first answer you’d get is that there ...
READ MORE
Befriending Your Enemies
Hate has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet – Maya Angelou I recently had the pleasure of seeing the movie Lincoln. I’ve always had ...
READ MORE
Pushing Too Hard and the Monkey’s Dilemma
Have you ever worked so hard that you didn’t get anything done? The elusive banana The monkey’s dilemma is a well known story about how hunters figured out a way to capture ...
READ MORE
A High Status Workspace is Not Usually Given to a Consultant
We see evidence of status all over the work place.  The boss in the corner office; larger, more comfortable chairs for management; and cubicles by the window for people with ...
READ MORE
Is it Gut Feel or Wishful Thinking?
  Perhaps my father didn’t like me, because he raised me to be a Chicago Cubs fan. And since I’m a slow learner, by the time I realized the futility of ...
READ MORE
Independent Consultant
Although there are many ways to categorize consulting, one major difference is whether someone works as an independent consultant, or as a consultant working for a consulting firm. Firm consultants vs ...
READ MORE
Consulting On the Bench – Still Part of the Team
My son, a senior in high school, is a pitcher for the school’s baseball team. He’s been playing since he was five years old. I’ve watched him and many of ...
READ MORE
The Talent Acquisition Game
Prior to the 1982 baseball season, the Philadelphia Phillies traded their shortstop Larry Bowa to the Chicago Cubs for shortstop Ivan DeJesus.  To sweeten the deal, the Phillies threw in ...
READ MORE
Contrasting Middle-School Management Styles
Like millions of kids out there, my son is just winding down the school year.  He’s a good student but also a free spirit and sometimes goes beyond his limits ...
READ MORE
How I Learned that Burning Bridges is A
The Difference between Consultants and Employees
Befriending Your Enemies
Pushing Too Hard and the Monkey’s Dilemma
A High Status Workspace is Not Usually Given
Is it Gut Feel or Wishful Thinking?
Can You be an Independent Consultant and Work
Consulting On the Bench – Still Part of
The Talent Acquisition Game
Contrasting Middle-School Management Styles