Don’t Let Unreasonable Expectations Doom Your Workplace Like It Almost Did to WandaVision

It’s official. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has successfully expanded to television.  While Marvel has had previous forays into this medium (including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and various shows on Netflix), WandaVision was Marvel’s first television show explicitly interconnected with the happenings of the MCU, which previously was only portrayed in feature films. And while the actual viewership on streaming platforms cannot be entirely pinned down, you don’t have to be a comic book fan or a veteran of the MCU to know that Disney+’s WandaVision appears to be a critical and commercial success.

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Part of the appeal for WandaVision seems to be the strategy of deploying episodes on a more traditional week-to-week basis rather than making all episodes available at once and enabling viewers to binge the entire season.

Doing so created weekly anticipation and heightened the discourse (albeit mainly online) of speculation on what might happen next. Was Mephisto going to be revealed as the big baddy? Could the “engineer” who was alluded to be Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four? Was the appearance of a different Pietro evidence of a soon-to-be multiverse crossover involving the X-Men? Did Dave just out himself to his readers as a giant geek?

Unfortunately, the anticipation generated by this discourse created expectations that simply could not be met. While the season as a whole was generally well-received, when the season finale aired, many were somewhat disappointed due to the various loose ends that still remained and the frustration that some of the more popular fan theories had not come to fruition.

As such, WandaVision somewhat suffered under the burden of expectations (some reasonable and some unreasonable) that have plagued other similar watercooler-type shows, including, but not limited to, Lost and Game of Thrones.

This same issue can often cause problems for employers, particularly when employees are not provided proper expectations in the workplace. Unreasonable, or unfounded, expectations create disgruntled employees, who therefore feel they are not being treated fairly or compensated properly, are not doing the work they were told they would be doing, or any host of other issues.

This usually does not end well, and it often results in the employee being terminated for poor performance or other related problems and the employee fighting back by stating such adverse action was unlawful. Or, the employee may create further issues while still employed, putting the employer in the difficult position of dealing with a disgruntled employee while running its operations. 

For these reasons, it is increasingly important for employers to set forth proper expectations in the workplace, particularly upon hire or at the inception of employment. Prepare job descriptions that employees are provided and acknowledge in writing so there is no confusion about their duties and so employers have something to refer to when determining what types of reasonable accommodations are appropriate. Emphasize objectives, and if possible, do so in a way that is well-defined so employees know if they are meeting these objectives or if their performance is lacking.

Employers should, of course, establish relevant policies and procedures but also make sure to consistently follow them and hold employees (and managers) accountable for violations. One of the most common fact patterns in employment litigation is the employee who was given a “free pass” on company violations by one manager and, when a new manager came in and enforced those policies more strictly, alleged he or she was being singled out, often in a discriminatory manner.

Train your managers and supervisors on the proper way to give performance evaluations and to provide (and document) honest and meaningful feedback and constructive criticism. It can be difficult for employers to substantiate that an employee was terminated for poor performance if his or her past five performance evaluations all have an above-average rating. 

These are just some examples of steps employers can take. The overarching theme is that by creating appropriate expectations in the workplace, employers can avoid the proliferation of disgruntled employees, as well as identify employees who are underperforming early on. Doing so vastly diminishes the prospects of an untenable working relationship or the potential for subsequent legal action. While rampant speculation and unfounded theories and expectations may be good for television viewing, they are the antithesis of what an employer wants to deal with when running a business.

So go take a look at how you can best create appropriate expectations among your workforce. In the interim, I’m gonna check online to see how my fellow geeks wildly theorize about the meaning of WandaVision’s post-credit scene and what may happen next.

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