Tips to Help You Navigate Unrealistic Expectations in Your Job

Settling into a new job is often overwhelming. As we navigate the new norms and workplace culture, we have to find our place within the pre-existing formation. On top of that, there is pressure to perform well, make a good impression, and make connections with co-workers too. There’s no wonder it can all feel a bit stressful sometimes.

Chris Holland
May 12, 2022
Kids Ministry Leadership

But what happens when the dust settles and you’re still feeling exhausted? You might be facing unrealistic expectations at work. If you feel like you are constantly running behind, always busy, and never quite reaching your goals it might not be your fault. Keep reading for tips on how to deal with unrealistic expectations at work.

Is it just a challenge?

Man face with challenging work

The first thing to consider is whether or not you are facing unrealistic job expectations or what’s being asked of you is a challenge. If you can complete the task with a little bit of help or guidance, the truth is it’s probably just outside your comfort zone. But if what is expected of you keeps falling outside of your skillset, it’s probably time to raise it as an issue. Try this phrasing to highlight the fact you are happy to do it, just unsure of how well:

“Currently, I don’t feel as though I have the relevant skills to complete this task alone. Is there someone who can train me up on this?”

Asking in this way gives time for your leader to consider the job they have assigned you and choose whether to re-assign it to someone more suited or dedicate the time to training you. It’s a win-win for you, and if they ask you to complete the job alone and it is a disaster, your church leader can’t say you didn’t warn them!

Establishing your workload.

Establishing realistic expectations with your boss

Church workers and volunteers may not receive a clear outline of the duties they need to complete in their role, which can lead to unrealistic expectations from above. Usually, this is unintentional, as your team leader simply doesn’t know what your workload is like and probably has an overflowing to-do list themselves. It can be tough raising concerns when everyone seems too busy to listen, but try this:

“It would be great to sit down and discuss my responsibilities and create a to-do list for me so I can manage my time better.”

The act of sitting down with your church manager and going through your list of responsibilities will bring you a lot of clarity. And, it will help them to see how much you’ve got on your plate. No one wants to be viewed in a bad or lazy light, but it is essential to raise your concerns about the workload if it is taking a toll on the quality of your work.

Setting boundaries at work.

Communicating with your boss

There is a vast array of unrealistic expectations examples, and church leaders and pastors can suffer just as much as anyone else. Setting healthy boundaries ensures that you don’t get stretched too thin, so you thrive rather than survive in your role. Of course, you want to be there for everyone who needs it, but sometimes saying something like this is necessary:

“I understand you are struggling right now, but I have other responsibilities today. Can we schedule a time to talk?”

Assess whether or not a situation is urgent, and take appropriate action. But, saying “no” is necessary sometimes. Otherwise, church leaders may get overwhelmed by the workload and ultimately neglect their mental health or families. God did not intend for pastors and leaders to be drawn too thin to help, so don’t be afraid to put yourself first.

Prioritize vertical communication.

Talking with your boss

When communication is clear and consistent between all levels of the church, unrealistic expectations become less of an issue. Does your church have systems for questions to be asked and problems to be solved? If the answer is no, it’s time to put a system in place that allows every member of the church to feel heard. This could be:

  • A buddy system, so everyone has someone to report to. 
  • Regular meetings between team leaders to bring up all the issues.
  • Check-in sessions for new church volunteers and new church workers.
  • Self-evaluations and anonymous workplace evaluations.
  • Suggestion boxes for people to raise concerns.

Incorporating a few of these into the running of your church is beneficial for all. This will help everyone at every level to feel like a valued member of the team while also shining a light on critical problems. If you have three volunteers saying they feel overworked in one week – it is time to get some more! 

Facing an unmanageable workload every single day is daunting and stressful, but it doesn’t need to be that way. How to deal with unrealistic expectations at work? Make it known. You need to assess if it is the expectation that is unrealistic or whether it is anxiety about what’s required of you. So, to avoid becoming the person that complains about every little job that’s assigned to them, try asking your co-workers if they feel the same way or if they can help you out a little. Either way, communication is crucial when cultivating a healthy church workplace.

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