How to deal with the gap between reality and expectations at work?

July 21, 2022
Diya Mathur
Diya Mathur
Diya Mathur
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Leading or managing a company is challenging. Leaders come across a lot of situations for which they may not be prepared, but they have to learn things on the go to handle every kind of situation. Working in the corporate world often leads to situations where reality and expectations differ.

It can be a big source of frustration for the leaders. Most leaders and managers recognize that there is a gap between reality and expectations.

The question is how to close the gap?

A leader's ability to engage the employees and win their hearts is what wins them over. In order to meet employee expectations, it is important to understand their needs. Motivating employees and enabling them to achieve their best performance requires managing these expectations.

By fully understanding the needs of employees, organizations can better serve their needs, increasing employee engagement, thus resulting in lower turnover rates and better performance. Recognizing that not every employee is the same is vital: every employee operates at a different level of consciousness, therefore their needs will differ.

Why is closing the gap between reality and expectation important?

When there is a gap in reality and expectation, it is not only frustrating for leaders but also for the employees. As per a recent study - what tops the list of complaints employees make related to work is poor communication. Look at the below data:

57% of employees have reported not receiving clear and direct directions.

86% of employees and executives blame the communication gap and lack of collaboration for workplace failures.

33% of employees have agreed that lack of open and honest communication negatively affects their motivation levels.

The above data clearly suggest there is a gap somewhere in how communication happens in the organization. When a leader starts having clear communication, it increases the performance of the individual and also makes the bond strong between the both of them.

Ways to reduce the gap between reality and expectations

Below are three ways to reduce the gap between reality and expectation and you should follow the same:

1. While making a request, make your expectation explicit - The first thing a leader needs to understand and acknowledge is that his team members and other people cannot read their minds. Therefore, if a leader is not satisfied with what he is getting from them when he assigns some work to them, it could be because they did not have clear instructions from the leader’s side. When a leader fails to clearly mention what exactly he wants from them, he is basically just making a wish, and as we all know a wish may or may not come true. So leaders need to be unambiguous in their instructions and expectations at all times.

2. Help others to be clear about their expectations – A leader should know what others expect from him upfront. If he is making any assumptions it is always better to check them out explicitly. It is always better to ask up front than to be asked later. It may not look nice asking basic expectations upfront but if he does so later on, it will look worse. By answering why his expectations are important and critical, and how they contribute to overall goals and strategy, a leader can set clear employee expectations. This also minimizes confusion, as well as builds leader-employee relationships.

3. Be mindful of the expectation and reality gap in your relationships - There are certain relationships at work where it is little or no gap between expectation and reality, and a leader should take a moment and appreciate his employees where it is possible. In those relationships in which it is a problem, a leader must take extra care of his communication. Other than following the first two steps, as a leader, he also has to understand his worldview of what matters most to them. The employees cannot possibly meet or exceed anyone's expectations until they understand what matters to the leader.

Effective Leaders and Managers Know how to Effectively Communicate their Expectations

You will encourage others to succeed by setting specific expectations and then ensuring everyone follows them. However, closing the expectation and reality gap might be the most significant outcome that will enable you to build trust with your team. Increasing trust will increase your chances of succeeding together. Leaders who have direct relationships with employees are better able to improve employee engagement, which is a byproduct of leadership. Increasing employee engagement requires empowering them at work and ensuring their involvement, even in small matters. The psychological experience of people, which shapes their work process and behavior, is a significant factor in employee engagement.

What can you do next to close the gap and improve your communication?

Understanding employees isn’t an easy task. Each employee has different needs, wants, and expectations. In order to maximize employee potential and motivation level, leaders must always ensure that their expectations are well-managed in each step of the employee experience lifecycle. The three ways to improve communication and understand employees are:


Unmanaged expectations can provoke disturbing emotions like anxiety, depression, confusion, and stress. Most people often ignore their destructive potential and may not realize they have set themselves up for failure. Leaders and managers are not supposed to fail, and hence it is important they learn to quickly close the gap between reality and expectation. When you start doing it, you will not only be happier but in the process, you will help others succeed individually.


Diya Mathur

Diya is a Product Marketing Associate and content writer specializing in Incentive Compensation Automation. Diya has honed her ability to bridge the gap between intricate software functionalities and accessible, reader-friendly content. Her articles are a testament to her dedication to breaking down intricate SaaS solutions into digestible insights that cater to both tech-savvy professionals and those new to the software landscape.


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