What To Do When You Fail To Meet Expectations

It’s going to happen. One day you’re going to let someone down.

This letdown may be your coworkers, your boss, your spouse, your parents, or some other important person in your life. The truth of the matter is you’re going to disappoint them at some point.

We all do it. We might as well be open and honest about this truth. Once we’re honest with ourselves, we can create a plan of action for what we can do when we fail to meet expectations.

Whenever we let someone down, there’s the pang of guilt. We know we didn’t uphold our end of the bargain. The ball was dropped. We were a disappointment.

We’ll often scramble to create an excuse as to why we failed to meet the expectations someone had for us. We’ll throw out excuses. We’ll blame others. We’ll clam up.

These negative actions do nothing to make up for what we did. They’re a thin covering that breaks trust.

There are positive actions we can take when we fail to meet expectations. These positive actions will help us to recover quickly from these disappointments.

Apologize quickly: If you set expectations for what you were going to accomplish and you failed to meet those expectations, take action and apologize quickly. Quickly inform the person you let down and let them know you’re sorry for not meeting the expectations that were set.

Doing so will let the others involved know you realize you didn’t do the job you set out to do. They’ll also notice you took the initiative and made the first move.

Take responsibility: When we step forward and take responsibility, we show that we know the buck stops with us. We had a commitment and we didn’t follow through on it, whether it was our fault or not. There’s power in doing so.

People begin to realize you’re not perfect. They also realize you’re not one to blame others. You’re willing to take accept responsibility and learn from the mistakes which were made.

Find a solution: You’ve apologized. You’ve taken responsibility. The next thing you should do is to find a solution.

Expectations weren’t met. There’s still a problem. And you’re still alive.

Look for creative solutions to those failed expectations. Share your possible answers and see if any of those possibilities will meet the expectations that were set.

Don’t let failed expectations derail your life. Know you can recover. You can even thrive.

Take the step to apologize, accept the responsibility, and look for new solutions. When you do, you’ll gain the respect of those you may have let down.

Question: What do you do when you fail to meet the expectations you set? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Great post Joe. When we follow what you have said it turns a failure usually into a win. Humble leaders that admit when they fail and change course are more rare then they should be.

    • And that’s a sad fact Zechariah. Humble leaders are needed more than ever. How do you think we could encourage more humbleness in leadership?

  • Perfect!! Oh yes, this is absolute truth. And really, apologizing, owning it and even stepping up and finishing (if that is still an option) doesn’t always put our standing or relationship back to where it was. It helps! …but sometimes, it takes a very long while for that trust to come back. (Brutal?) Sometimes it never does.

    But it is the way! It builds respect- when those steps you mention are takes- EVEN when our original relationship may remain damaged- AND it helps to heal your OWN self-respect. Many of those tendencies you mentioned, Joe, pulling away, pushing blame, “excuses” (my pet-peve!!) or “reason” (blablabla)… they all hurt US more than fix anything- shit really does happen. To everyone.

    We go over this a LOT with our trainees (as I do with my own smallish humans)- you can’t just “know” you’ve done wrong or let someone down- you really have to talk about it- out loud – with others! First- it’s just a mistake- get over it- you are NOT perfect. Next- you are not hiding from YOUR mistake. Next- it very well may help someone else remember YOUR story and help them NOT make the exact SAME mistake!! (bonus!!) Finally- talking out loud with others helps solidify “it” in our minds- there is no repeat- it really does help us remember what we did wrong if similar situations come again!

    GREAT REMINDER, Joe!! Thank you!

    • Sounds like you’re doing a great job of teaching it to those you interact with and raise. Thanks for teaching a valuable lesson to those who need to learn it!

  • Great post Joe. Especially the apologize quickly. Owning your part even if the other person does not is key

    • That simple step can be the world changer to you. You can only accept your part, you can’t force anyone else.

  • It can be tough to take responsibility for something and admit a failure. Trying to avoid or cover up what needs to be owned is never the best option. However, I’ve found most people to be forgiving when I’ve failed.

    • Thanks for the great observation that most people are forgiving. Many times we forget this truth and think we’re going get smacked hard for mistakes.

  • Fantastic post, Joe. Admitting our personal responsibility is definitely a key which should be quickly followed by an apology.

    • Jon, thanks man! How do you overcome the temptation to avoid accepting responsibility and apologizing?