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Managing Expectations: from bursting bubbles to sculpting success

You know that feeling of always staying after office hours, never leaving before your boss, working weekends to finish that urgent document, always putting in that extra effort—only, arghhh, why does the boss never seem to notice?!

Who’s Managing Whose Expectations?

Not only is this situation frustrating, but it can seriously dampen your career progress. This is completely avoidable, though—it’s all a matter of managing expectations. First, an honesty check: you are working overtime because YOU want to be successful, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, it’s important to realize that your expectations while performing overtime work do not always correspond with the manager’s expectations of you as an employee. But you can change that. What most of us don’t realize is that we ourselves are actually in control of shaping our managers’ expectations.

To get that recognition/success/promotion you are pining for, you need to manage expectations in a way that is credible, effective and beneficial. Using these three guiding keywords, let’s take a look at how you can make sure you’re doing the “extra” work that actually pays off for you.

Beneficially Credible Effectiveness

  1. Be Credible: Try not to exaggerate how much extra work you’re doing, because smart managers will soon realize you’re sucking up, and, honestly, who likes that? Show willingness and a concern for the clinical trial or project you are working on as well as the success of the company as a whole; don’t prioritize your own success above all else. You are hired to be part of a company, not to become the next CEO within six months. So don’t work at an unsustainable pace. When you always give more than you are actually capable of, you will create a bubble of unrealistic expectations from your manager. And as all bubbles do, this one will eventually burst.
  1. Be Effective: Overtime often does not translate into more effective work. Going home late, feeling stressed and burned out is one of the main causes of a decreasing work productivity. We often speak to high fliers in the pharma & biotech industry who have had accelerated career growth, but are now looking for a career step that will give let them rest and have some quiet as they have burned out most of the energy they were so well known for. When you have an important deadline to meet, of course it’s normal to stay after office hours to make sure that the clinical trial milestone is met. This is fine, it’s good even. However, overstaying on a frequent basis can shift expectations in the sense that your manager might continue to expect you to overstay. He/she may internalize this as a norm, as something that is inherent in you as an employee, and therefore might not show you the appreciation you seek.

3. Be Beneficial: Scrutinize why you are constantly working outside the agreed-upon work schedule. You might want your boss to notice your effort because you are looking to get promoted. Your boss will probably assume this. And, yes, your boss will expect certain or extra things from you before considering that promotion. But ask yourself critically how you can best meet these expectations. Is staying late every day more efficient than taking an evening management course, in terms of you getting promoted?

You will impress your boss more by focusing on results and being crystal clear on the next step you want to progress your career in the pharmaceutical & biotechnology industry!

Getting results is really what your employers expect of you, so don’t lose focus on that. Think of the best ways to achieve the result that you want and, ultimately, what your team needs. It’s important to communicate frequently with your team to make sure that expectations are aligned as much as possible. But don’t be afraid to have open discussions with your manager about these tough expectations questions. Once you and your managers have a workable plan in place, work hard and earn the outcomes you deserve. Without burning out or sacrificing other aspects of your life.


Written by Pauline Thijssen, Pharma and Biotech Recruitment Consultant for Seuss Recruitment. Learn more about Pauline here.