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Expectations & Contracting in the Virtual World

14 years ago, in this fast growing organization, after spending terrific 1.5 years, according to me it was inevitable that I’d get that promotion! I slogged, worked 24/7 for it, they kept giving me appreciation and awards, and I along with me each of my colleagues and team members thought, that my promotion was 100% guaranteed.

Yet, in that room, this leader was telling me how well I did, and here’s the hike, and here’s the plan for further development, not realizing that I was awaiting the news of my promotion! Oh! You didn’t tell me that you needed one so bad… and here I was hurting real bad! I was unable to comprehend and walked out of the room and eventually the office building with tears and deep disappointment in my heart.

I knew company did well, every other person who I knew was getting promoted…we were in the growth phase, we had budgets too! Then why I had to ASK for it?

Somewhere I believed that if I have to ask for it then it’s not worth it!

This myth eats up most of our happiness. Do you also have it?

Later, within 2 days, this leader went up to the board to get the revision done and get me my promotion, but by then I had applied elsewhere, got the job in a day and resigned. He was gracious enough to tell me that he had no idea that I was expecting it so bad! The more he clarified the more hurt I felt.

Little did I understand at that time, that it wasn’t his problem, it was MINE… It was my limiting belief about “ASKING”. PS : I’m still embarrassed about my reaction and feel for the leader who had to see & manage that immature reaction of mine :-). I guess all of us have those moments… that was mine 🙂

Here’s what I learnt from that experience and would love to share with all of you.

What is Contracting?

Why do we sign a “CONTRACT” before renting a home or buying anything?

“Contracts” are made to prevent any future conflict or miscommunication.

These are effective ways to ensure that our mutual expectations are penned down clearly.

Similarly, a verbal contract in relationships help us prevent any emotional surprises and shocks.

“Expectations” – A word that largely defines our relationships with others. Key issue in all kinds of relationships comes from the fact that we don’t communicate our expectations effectively. Somethings are left unsaid or basis an assumption.

Communicating & discussing expectations or contracting can help us prevent conflicts in both personal and professional relationships.

MYTHS that stop us from verbal contracting?

  • It ain’t worth it if I have to ask for something : Remember it’s a myth that can pull you back in your career. If you have given your 100% and are expecting something, you have full right to ask for it and get it. It’s not a favor, it’s your hard work and intention that matters.
  • What’s the use, they won’t stick to their words : Even if people don’t stick to their words later on, at-least you will have the satisfaction that things were communicated from your side. It feels lighter.
  • Why should I ask for it? I am here to work and give my 100%, they should understand their responsibilities : Choose your battles. If a bit of a verbal agreement helps prevent any future conflict, it will save everyone’s time and make things more efficient. Unsaid expectations are very dangerous for all the parties.

There are different kinds of verbal contracting, here are the 2 most important categories:

Type 1 : Logistical / Procedural contracting

This one is easy and we do it very efficiently most of the times. Type 1 contracting is more about the CONTENT : “How, What, When, Where”, example setting goals, roles, responsibilities, delegating tasks, timelines, meeting schedules, place etc.

However, despite these clear contracts, things do slip, we do face resistances, we do have people backing out or back biting, we do see people unhappy as they don’t speak up on time. Precisely because of the type 2 contracting which if not done, can completely change the course of your relationship/work.

Type 2 : Psychological contracting

These are the undercurrents or those unsaid expectations which have the potential to derail the relationships and projects.

Psychological contracting is about the “PROCESS”. Example “How might we work together”?

Relevance today in the VIRTUAL world

With the growing stress, unknown territories and a completely changed ecosystem, it is extremely important for the leaders to start this dialog with their teams ASAP!

Few Psychological Challenges and Fears in the virtual teams

  • Increased FoMo(Fear of missing out) among the employees
  • With reduced exposure to each other, how would my manager know about all the extra stuff that I do to help others?
  • If I don’t say yes or put in extra hours, I might lose my job
  • I can’t see the facial expressions and don’t know what my stakeholders/managers really think about the stuff I deliver
  • I don’t know what they will make out, if I ask for a holiday or time-off. I’m working from home, why do I need rest? How do I explain?

For every transition in life, be it campus to corporate, marriage, child, promotion/role change, team change, leader change etc., there are changes in expectations from all the parties.

Unnecessary tension, stress and fears are inevitable, if we don’t communicate our new expectations and create new psychological contracts in times of major transitions.

COVID 19 SPECIAL | Re-contracting with your teams & stakeholders

Here’s a list of psychological contracts that you can choose to have a conversation about, with your teams. You can create your own questions, basis the potential conflicts that you foresee.

How might we work together?

  1. How will the decisions be made and communicated at both the ends?
  2. Best modes to reach out to each other or follow up?
  3. What are the best times, mode and frequency to communicate?
  4. What happens to all the great things we use to do before?
  5. How do we bring up the unsaid? How can we make “Feedback” comfortable for each other?
  6. How will we manage conflict, if any?
  7. How shall we engage and motivate each other?
  8. In case there’s something really urgent, how do I communicate with you?
  9. How do we say “NO” to each other
  10. How do we deal with “Disagreements”?

These conversations can strengthen the ties in professional as well as personal relationships.

In Summary

It is more peaceful and mature to communicate what we mutually expect from each other in simple direct words, rather than mind reading and assuming people will understand.

Hope this article helps you strengthen your bonds. Do comment / share with others if you find it helpful!

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