Managing Expectations in the Workplace

by Hannah Azlan

Managing expectations (and your stress levels) is the single most important skill you’ll learn in the workplace. “Back to the drawing board” and “I thought you had this covered” are two phrases you don’t want to hear from your boss, and they’ll inevitably affect your performance review, bonuses and the like. All of this causes stress, leading to emotional and physical stressors which will affect your performance at work.

Having trouble? Take these three easy steps to navigate expectations.


Understand what is expected of you. Assuming that you and your boss are on the same page will be a huge mistake. It’s in your best interests to take responsibility for understanding – in detail – what your priorities are and what will be considered a success. Here are a few key points:

  • What specific objectives are you expected to accomplish?
  • In what timeframe(s)?
  • Are they realistic?
  • How will your progress and performance be judged or measured?
  • What are the priorities?

If you’re coming from a management role, share these expectations with your team, and filter the actions downstream accordingly. Giving others a realistic milestone of what success looks like for the team will give them the confidence to move forward.


Maintain your performance with continuous communication  to gauge progress, assess risks, and adjust actions. Keeping your boss in the loop ensures they’re aware of your progress, and lets them marshal additional resources or expertise to overcome any finicky obstacles. Here are some tips:

  • What method does your manager prefer for communications?
  • Do they prefer the summarized version, or hear the supporting evidence?
  • Does your manager reward people who solve problems on their own, or those who ask for advice and collaborate on solutions early on?
  • How will you inform them of potential issues or barriers to achieving the objectives?

If you’re a manager yourself, help your staff by letting them know your communication preferences. No one’s a mind reader – so don’t become obstacles to your own success.


Confidence is a double-edged sword. It is crucial you speak up when expectations are unrealistic, or if your project is in jeopardy.. Forging forward in silence when there are significant risks will not end up reflecting well on you, or your manager. While the the initial discussion may feel uncomfortable, the outcome of being honest is that everything is more successful for everyone involved. Here are some key points for an honest conversation:

  • Are there areas where the expectations set for you are unrealistic?
  • What concerns do you have about being able to achieve your goals?
  • Do you need to ask for adjustments in your annual objectives, or modify timeframes?
  • How and when will you bring up concerns to be addressed?

From a management perspective, make sure that you foster an environment where your team feels comfortable sharing concerns and raising issues. Work through challenging situations with them to build trust, because that’s important for creating a cohesive team.

The expectations that go unspoken between colleagues and employers can have a huge impact on the health of an office. Without proper communication for expectations, frustration and negative emotional labor can pile up in the workplace. Take heed of these consequences today, and manage your workplace environment better by openly speaking with each other.


Want to learn more about how to change your workplace culture for the better? Positive X is a people development firm that equips talents with design, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking and skills. You can know more about us at

Hannah is our resident copywriter and social media savant. Check out more of her on Twitter at @hannahcyanide.

Edited by Ben Chong.


Design Thinking To Manage Workplace Stress

by Yong Vin Kit

Taking up my first full time job was a real eye-opener. Thought that all those years of stressing yourself out from studying was the worst time of your life? Well think again! But that’s another story for another day.

So what is the best way to manage stress in the workplace? Well, a quick Google search gives you tons of ideas from exercising to tapping into your senses to even faking a smile (whaaat?).

But another great way of managing stress could be Design Thinking. Originally created by the Architecture School at Stanford, it’s a five step process that helps you understand what the people you want to help need before you create a solution.

So how can a process meant for architects help you overcome stress in the workplace?

Here’s how!!!

Step 1: Stop and think about your problem

Sometimes problems are problems because we tend to overcomplicate things, which is no surprise since you may have a dozen or more things coming at you in the office at once. Give yourself a second to really think about the problem and ask yourself: “Is the problem really as urgent as I think it is?”, “What is the most important problem I’m facing right now?”, and “Will this problem affect my other problems?”

Step 2: Write down your problems in one sentence

Once you’ve have a clearer picture of the problem, try writing it down to one sentence. For example, if you have a project that’s due next week, you can write “A project due next week is still short on data”.

Note: Do not create a to-do list now as it can reduce the number of ideas in the next step.

Step 3: Brainstorm for ideas

Stay open for ideas. Brainstorming all by yourself can be hard since there’s no one else to bounce ideas out of. So try getting a friend or colleague to help. As with all brainstorming sessions, keep an open mind and consider ideas no matter how whacky they seem at first.

Step 4: Use the simplest idea

Once you have a list of ideas you can chew on, choose the simplest. Now you can come up with a to do list or plan how you would like to use your idea in solving your problem.

Step 5: Start it small

As the saying goes, big things come in small packages. Start small when you’re using your idea. For example, you may want to schedule enough rest time for yourself to destress yourself. If it works, think about going bigger. If it doesn’t, maybe try something else on the list.

In a nutshell

There may not be one best way of managing stress for everyone, but Design Thinking can definitely play a part in helping you overcome problems that are stressing you out. So try it, and see if it fits your style of managing stress.

Positive X is a people development firm that equips talents with design, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking and skills. You can know more about is at

This article was written by Yong Vin Kit, our resident 2018 intern at Positive X.

Want to know more about internship opportunities at Positive X? Send us your resume now at to find out more!

Edited by Hannah Azlan and Ben Chong.


Solving Problems With Empathy

By Hannah Azlan


As we all know, Design Thinking (or DT as we like to call it) is a unique approach to solving problems.

DT solves problems with people in mind, which means we try to empathise the problems people we’re trying to help are facing before we try tinkering a solution.

Another way of putting it is that we need to understand what our stakeholders need before we actually try to help them.

Knowing Your Stakeholders

Take Uber for example. Before the age of ride-hailing apps, taking a cab can be daunting experience, if there’s one where and when you need it to start with.

That was what their founders famously found out, and realising that it’s what all cab users would face, they decided to do something about it.

Uber got around all those problems by creating an app that allows users to book their own cabs anytime they want it via a push of a button.

In short, the guys at Uber found their customers’ pain points, problem solvers can create solutions that have long-lasting impact on users and society as a whole.

Understanding the problems faced by the people you’re trying to help, whether it’s through listening to them or putting yourself in their shoes, helps you shape your own solution to their problem.

Shifting Paradigms

Besides bringing you closer to other people, empathy can change the way you see a problem.

We often forget “What’s the real issue here? Why am I trying to here to find a solution?” before diving in to find that solution. And we often end up wasting time and resources proposing ideas that do little to solve the issues of people who need help.

While in Nepal, Stanford University student Linus Liang was trying to understand why premature birth was a real serious problem.

His team thought of creating a cheaper incubator for hospitals – until he realised that many hospitals were well equipped… but empty.

To their surprise, the team realised that the problem wasn’t because Nepal didn’t have enough incubators, but that the distance between homes and hospitals was too far.

This was a paradigm shift that led to the development of the Embrace Baby Warmer – a device that would keep a newborn warm until he gets to an incubator.

Empathy helps to frame the problem from a users’ perspective. Just imagine how much time it would have taken the Stanford team, policymakers and health experts to overcome Nepal’s high newborn mortality rate if they continued framing the problem the same way?

“Humanising” the Problem

Empathy reminds us that there’s just one bottom-line on why they’re looking to solve a problem – helping people.

Malaria kills nearly 500,000 people each year in Africa. Yet, due to a lack of understanding of the issues faced by locals, Unicef-distributed mosquito nets found their way to being used as fishing nets as the need for gathering food was more urgently needed.

Unicef in Africa needed a solution, and fast. In response, it started the U-Report, a two-way messaging platform communicates life-saving info with local communities and solicits feedback.

Since then, the program has helped to reduce misuse of mosquito nets in communities where they are being distributed.

Getting users involved in the problem solving process helps reduce miscommunication and misunderstandings. The first step towards realizing the need for it is, of course, empathy.

Bottom-line: Putting People First

In a rapidly changing world, problems that are constantly evolving need solutions that can re-adapt themselves all the time.

That’s why problem solvers (and design thinkers) need to remind themselves what’s the bottom line – helping the people who need it; and empathy opens the door to understanding that need.

Positive X is a people development firm that equips talents with design, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking and skills. You can know more about is at

This article was written by Hannah Azlan,our our resident copywriter and social media savant. Check out more of her on Twitter at @hannahcyanide.

Edited by Ben Chong.