Managing expectations is one of the business terms that is effectively a trendy way of saying something in an indirect manner.
I thought of the term today when the general manager the team with the longest consecutive streak of losing seasons in professional sports history, the Pittsburgh Pirates, talked about how the trade value for the best relief pitcher isn’t as great now as it would have been during the season. They didn’t use the term managing expectations, but the mighty Buccos seem to have been saying: Sure, we’re going to try to trade Joel Hanrahan (the pitcher in question), but don’t expect much.
In other words, they were managing expectations.
The term is used regularly in the business world, when results might not match expected results. (We need to manage customer expectations.) It might also be used by managers when dealing with workers. (We need to manage employee expectations about raises this year.)
This Dilbert cartoon exemplifies the term as well as anything: