What Contributes to Low Self-Esteem? (Part 2)

We started with the first two factors:

#1    Dysfunction Family Upbringing

#2   Unrealized Self-Expectations


This week, we deal with the third factor:

#3   Underperforming Significant Others’ Expectations



Factor #3    Underperforming Significant Others’ Expectations


“Frequent failures will deflate our egos.”

John Ng


Bosses and managers do have expectations for us at work. There are three types of expectations that can affect our self-esteem.


Mismatched expectations

When our managers have a different set of expectations from us and when these expectations are not matched, both will be disappointed.


Rin, the Director of Sales, wanted Kim, the sales executive to provide weekly sales report in PowerPoint bullet points. Rin was very disappointed when she did it in an excel spreadsheet with full details because that was not what she expected.


Hidden Expectations

When our managers have unspoken and uncommunicated expectations, they assume we know what they want. When we don’t deliver what they expect, they are upset with us and our performance.


Tom, the IT senior manager was a rather reserved introverted leader. He seldom communicated with his team. His modus operandi is: Leading by emails and text messages. He was uncomfortable facilitating meetings or interacting with his team members face-to-face.


He expected his team members to keep him informed of their project progress but never specify how or how often. He became very annoyed when some IT project deadlines were missed. He felt the team members were either incompetent or inefficient. In turn, his team members were confused and frustrated with his lack of communication.


Unrealistic Expectations

When our managers set the performance bar too high or unrealistic, they become livid when his team fails to achieve them because they never agreed to his goals in the first place and therefore, are less motivated to achieve them.


They will constantly feel they are under-achievers if these situations persist. Worse still, when they are frequently compared negatively with other teams in the organization.


Soon, their self-esteem takes a severe beating. Frequent failures will deflate our egos.


Raj, the restaurant manager had wanted the staff to ensure that the restaurant is 90% full during lunch and dinner time, every day of the week, every month. They were expected to reach out to customers outside the restaurant, in whatever means.


Many of them have voiced their disagreements. Some felt uncomfortable with the sales approach. But the manager brushed off their objections.


Further, marketing promotions have been lackadaisical. As a result, the occupancy improved only slightly and hovered around 70%. Never up to the mark of the manager.


Even though the staff had continuously raised their challenges and the marketing issue, Raj insisted on keeping the target, which left both parties very frustrated and demotivated. This created a rift between the manager and the restaurant team. Many of the staff subsequently resigned.


If our employees are unable to meet their bosses’ expectations most of the time, they will feel dejected. They feel demoralized. Their spirit dampened. Their self-esteem deflated. Imagine if these experiences are multiplied many folds for many people in the different departments in the organization. Soon the organization will die a natural death and slide into oblivion.


If parents, teachers, friends, and managers make us feel that we are under-performing most of the time, their negative comments and poor attitudes toward us will suffocate us. Our self-esteem plummets because much of our self-worth is tied to our work. Another reason we feel this way about ourselves is that our significant-others (teachers, parents, co-workers) measure our self-worth based on our performance.


We certainly need a better calibration and measurement of our self-worth.


This is a three part series. We will continue to explore What Contributes to Low Self-Esteem? (Part 3) next week.

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