Surprised by the Expected


In the course of my first job out of college, the company was struggling.  I had been there almost three years and there had been at least three rounds of layoffs.  The future was not looking good.  On a Friday in the Fall, it was my turn to be part of another round of layoffs.  To be honest, it was a relief.  The environment was miserable and it was clear that a positive future was unlikely.  And I got a reasonable severance package that funded my job search.

One thing I still find very interesting about that day was the number of surprised colleagues.  Bright people were laid off that day and were genuinely shocked it was them.  As if they never considered it to even be a possibility.  That there had been recent layoffs and that more layoffs were expected seems to have been ignored.  Completely.

Since that day, I’ve come to realize that people have perspectives that can be very filtered from a reality that is going on around them.

Some call it denial.  Or stupidity.  Or carefree.  Or happy-go-lucky.

Whatever it is called, it is a strong barrier to effective communication and understanding.  And that barrier is not only for the individual that creates this distortion but also for all others that wish to engage or work with this person.

The expected and the predictable are not necessarily always certain, but they are worthy of consideration.

In coaching and tutoring through the years, I have often found students that failed to put in the work necessary to learn the material or improve their skills.  A huge obstacle to success is found in the students that fail to make these efforts and are still surprised they fail to succeed.

Of course, if they choose to believe that failure is not their fault (“the teacher didn’t like me, the material didn’t suit me, etc.”), then they can believe that there is nothing they can do to improve their grade.  It is seen as circumstances beyond their control or expectations.  I even see entire businesses take the same approach.

Being surprised by the expected and the predictable is a sign that little thought has been given to the future and the possibilities of that future.  This type of thinking, and the subsequent reaction to “surprising” events, can destroy your credibility, hinder good relationships and stifle effective communication.


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.