How well does your job fit with your initial expectations of it?
In Roald Dahl’s Matilda, the young heroine’s unscrupulous father sells cars which look perfect on the forecourt, but he’s well aware they will fall apart once taken for a proper spin. Now, I’m not saying that employers indulge in deliberate deception, but why do these discrepancies between initial expectations and reality come up? And how do we avoid getting stuck in the employment equivalent of a Mr Wormwood banger?
One reason for these incongruities might be the employee’s feelings towards their previous job. If you couldn’t wait to get out of the last place, then you risk setting yourself up for a fall in a new role from the outset. As this study by Boswell et al., 2005 on newcomer job satisfaction over time suggests:
When individuals have particularly negative feelings about the prior job, regardless of why they left, they are likely to hold exceedingly high hopes for the new job. The present job then represents, at least initially, a positive contrast to the prior situation whereby inflated expectations set up an individual for subsequent disappointment and disillusionment about the job.
Expectations of new employers vary from person to person. They’re based on lots of variables: prior employment experience, personal values and needs, or individual experiences during the recruitment process. So expectations are not the same for everyone. But whatever their level, if they’re not met they will lead to sticky situations and difficult conversations.
But how big an issue is this?
iOpener Iberia MD Santi Garcia is currently doing research into why people leave jobs. So far, findings show that when asked the question, “How much did the job match your initial expectations, on a scale from 1 to 7?”, answers generally show that most people’s roles match their initial expectations with an overall score of 4.43. Scores rise steadily the older the person is and the longer they’ve been in a role, to just under 5 out of 7. This indicates that, broadly speaking, people are told the truth when they’re hired. And people are not leaving in droves due to mismatched expectations. So you might not be making for the door over the issue on its own, but it can certainly contribute to a feeling of unease.
We know from our research here at iOpener that if your current role does not match your initial expectations, for example if you’re over or under-stretched, this can have a knock-on effect on your work. You might think you’re not achieving your potential, which in turn may affect your confidence. And a mismatch in initial expectations can affect other areas of our Performance-Happiness Model. For instance, the feeling of making a positive contribution to the organization can really take a hit, especially if there are no clear expectations set around what you’re doing!
These negative feelings can quickly spiral out of control. Your self-belief can take a knock and also your resilience. The final result is that you are unlikely to be as successful as you could be.
On the other hand, if you find yourself in a role which matches how it was sold to you, you are likely to have higher levels of trust in the organization, more confidence in yourself and your role, and a greater sense of contribution.
So then what? Frank, open conversations around the subject are the best place to start. And they may well lead to an epiphany on one or both sides of the conversation to help unblock the situation and get your new role back on track.
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