By Alan Graner
The Law of Rising Expectations states that what was once considered beyond the call of duty, when performed repeatedly over time, becomes the new norm. The extraordinary becomes the ordinary. And what were once considered privileges become rights (think drivers’ licenses, healthcare).
To illustrate the Law of Rising Expectations, here are two examples based on true stories. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Dan owned a small high-tech firm with eight employees. Because of the recession, companies were cutting back on their expenses. As it turned out, Dan’s IT system, while not comparable to the Big Boys, was quite decent for the price, and companies who never before considered him now found him to be a reasonable alternative. As a result, business—and profits—took a healthy swing upward.
As Thanksgiving approached, he decided to share the company’s good fortune by giving each employee a 20-pound frozen turkey. As you can imagine, they were very grateful.
The following year business continued to grow, and again at Thanksgiving Dan gave each employee a 20-pound turkey—fresh, not frozen. They were happy.
Then the economy caught up with Dan’s firm. Business slowed and profits declined. As Thanksgiving arrived, Dan informed his employees there would be no turkeys this year. They were not happy. They had come to expect the turkeys as part of their compensation. Disgruntled, they returned to their jobs feeling they had been shafted.
Maureen owned an advertising agency. Her biggest client was a furniture store that ran four-color full-page ads every week in the local newspaper. It normally took her graphics team four days to get the input for an ad, lay out the page, get client approvals, submit the ad and have the newspaper print it.
As time went on, Maureen received the ad input later and later in the week. When she complained the client wasn’t giving her enough time, he replied he had complete faith in her team to get the job done.
Increasingly, Maureen’s team was forced to work late nights and weekends.
Finally, the day came when the client submitted the materials too late. Maureen called and explained because it of prep time, it was physically impossible to print the ad that week.
The client angrily informed her he hired her agency because he expected her to get the job done despite his unreasonable demands. Apparently that was no longer true. She was fired.
You can’t break the Law
The best way to counteract the Law of Rising Expectations is to manage those expectations. In the above situations, for example:
Explain to employees turkeys will only be handed out when profits reach a certain level, then keep them informed of the status of profits. (Who knows, perhaps if profits dip, they will work harder.)
Explain to a client the realities a given situation, e.g., how long it physically takes to print something. Never assume people understand your process.
In short, keep their expectations real. Or you’ll be in real trouble.
What are examples of how you manage rising expectations?
About the author
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA marketing communications firm. For a powerful PR campaign that makes you stand out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at email@example.com. Or visit www.dsprel.com
A version of this post was published July 17, 2013