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Mitigating Unrealistic Expectations

unreal machine

We all work within the bounds of expectations to perform up to a certain level or hit a deadline.But, I think more often than not, web development people have unrealistic expectations.Managers, coworkers, and we too put higher expectations on ourselves than we ought to.Some of this is healthy, but there are certainly pitfalls when dealing with unrealistic expectations.

The Main Pitfall, Communication

All to often the culprit of unrealistic expectations is poor communication . This happens all the time - the developer knows the work is not going to get done on time but decides to say nothing about it.Then when it comes time for the final deliverable there is nothing to show.It can be tough to set emotions aside, but you better communicate with your manager (or client) that you aren’t going to make the deadline as soon as you know. An honest explanation, communicated as soon as possible is usually all that is needed.Just make sure you set the expectations level to a reasonable level the next time around.

Not Hitting the Deadline, Now What?

Once you’ve given your manager or client a good reason why the deadline is not going to be met, then the ball is still not out of your court. You have to work with your client and manager to come to a solution, and each one is different. Let me walk you through a few scenarios that have happened in my career - some good, some bad. In a larger agency the manager allocated more resources to the project to help out in making the deadline.This only works if you let them know as soon as possible that things were not going as planned. Otherwise, if it was your fault in not communicating then you are expected to take responsibility and put in the extra hours to still hit the deadline.

In some cases you may have to put in extra hours even if it is not your fault, but this should be recognized and warrant a promotion or pay increase (at the very least, respect). In a small company my experience was sour when dealing with expectations. The boss should respect what you say to them.

If the boss does not budge and still holds you responsible for the deadline, and does not pay well for the extra time you are putting in - then it is time to leave the company (if you can) and find another job.The deadlines should be made with you involved in setting the expectation-level at a realistic height.

In consulting, when I agree to a deadline with the client I make sure to indicate how strong or weak the agreement. If there are a lot of unknowns then I give them my best estimate and let them know the contingencies. I make sure to update them on the progress of the project as well as the dependencies all the way through. When successfully following this model, there are no surprises. Communication is key - I can’t emphasize that enough.

The Main Resolution, Communication

At the end of the day, it all comes down to communication. You should make sure to communicate as soon as possible if you cannot make a deadline. As long as you are working hard and have the correct skill-set, your manager (or client) will remain understanding. Going forward you must adjust and learn how to set realistic expectations. Then you will be on your way to hitting those deadlines and making those who work with you very pleased.

Published 25 Sep 2008
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