I’ve always believed that expectations are a self-fulfilling prophecy. The lower the expectations, the lower the performance and the less-satisfying the result. But is this just the typical type-A personality view? Can having high expectations be a burden – an unattainable goal? Does lowering your expectations protect you from disappointment?
South Africa’s unemployment rate of 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021 was in the news again this week. Some of it because of the sensation of misleading reporting (read more), but the truth is, our stats don’t need cooking to be sensational. One just needs some guidance when it comes to their interpretation to ensure you see the real picture, but the real picture is still dire.
Perhaps we can blame Zuma and the Guptas for robbing our state coffers resulting in less money for education, skills development and creating job opportunities. Perhaps we should blame ineffective governing and a general state of laziness, but there are more reasons for the depressing employment figures. An interesting view on why unemployment is such a big challenge, especially under our youth, comes from a Business Day Live article by Doris Viljoen. Mechanisation is nothing new, but technology and robotics are increasingly popular in countries with ageing populations and a smaller young workforce. Such trends spill over to South Africa and the result is that we employ even less people and those we can employ are required to have certain skills – another area in which we are lacking. Double whammy. The ideal solutions for a challenge as big as ours might be somewhere between training and developing the skills of young South Africans and maintaining some old-school employment opportunities. Being unemployed doesn’t mean that you’re out of touch, however, and I wonder how many of today’s youth will be interested in manual labour if that is the option on the table.
But how did I get from expectations to employment? Unemployment is categorised as 1) “people who are capable of working or starting a business but haven’t done so despite actively looking and 2) discouraged job seekers, who are capable of working but have not taken active steps to look for work. This could be because there are no jobs in the area or because they have given up looking for work.” (Read more) And it was this discouraged category, people who have given up, who are not expecting to get anything that made me realise that for some, reality is to not expect much and that perhaps my view of expectation is too simplistic. When you have been disappointed so many times or when you see the trend among your peers, you might just not expect that there is something out there for you. Is that a self-fulfilling prophecy too or is it just the sad reality?
I believe in beating the odds. Being that one who against all expectations… rises up and gets the job, makes a difference. But even when you have a positive disposition, expecting everyone to be able to beat the odds is unrealistic. Regardless. I still think it is our responsibility to have high – be it attainable – expectations. For ourselves and for those around us. But setting the bar is not where it ends. That is the easy part. Now we have to get our hands dirty. Empower people in whatever way necessary to fulfil expectations. We have to be strategic in our planning.
It’s easy to understand why expectation are low and it might be even easier to just get the handout, but I believe most of us would prefer being self-reliant. Most of us already have higher expectations of ourselves, we just need some encouragement and yes, some employment.