Examples of Defining Expectations in the Workplace

Avoid being aggressive when communicating your expectations.
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“It seems like everything I do is wrong,” an employee vents to her peer, taking a swig of her coffee before placing the disposable cup back on the break room table. “I never know what the heck she wants!” she adds, waving her hands in exasperation. If you are a leader in your business and you fail to communicate your expectations to your workers, you run the risk of producing a similarly frustrated employee. Instead of leaving your workers at a loss - and slowing down the work flow process - effectively communicate your expectations to your workers.

Outcome Focused

    When you communicate your expectations to your employees, you should focus more on the desired outcomes than the steps, suggests human resources company, The People Group (See Reference 2 – First three paragraphs of second page). If you focus on the steps, you may inadvertently reduce employees’ eagerness to innovate by communicating that what you expect is for them to mindlessly follow the steps you have laid out. When communicating your expectations, always state the end goal and allow the employees to find the path to reach it. Guiding them as they map out their plans is reasonable, but providing them with a fixed map is not.

Regular, Informal Discussions

    If you only discuss expectations with your employees come performance review time, you are doing it wrong, warns Jamie Walters, author of “Big Vision, Small Business,” in an article for Inc. You do your employees a disservice by allowing too much time to pass between expectation-related discussions, Walters comments (See Reference 1). By not discussing your expectations regularly, you allow what could be an easily fixable problem to build up, likely increasing the ramifications to your company. Speak to employees regularly about how they are doing, praising them if they have met your expectations and reiterating your expectations if they have not.

Employee Specific Expectations

    While some broad expectations will be the same for all workers, you should also customize your expectations to individual employees as well. Study employee performance reviews and identify areas in which individual employees need to improve (See Reference 3 – Page 5 – Section, Background Materials, second box over). Reference these reviews when speaking to these workers, showing them first that you have actually read the usually oppressively long documents and second that you are invested in their individual successes. Write down these employee-specific expectations so you don’t forget them the minute the conversation is over.

Pliable Expectations

    While some expectations - like don’t steal and don’t bully - are pretty set in stone, others can be quite flexible. If you see that employees are not going to be able to meet an expectation, despite putting quite a bit of effort into it, modify your desired end result. By giving employees more time or changing an expectation in another manner to make it less rigorous, you can increase employee satisfaction and show them that you understand the rigors of their job and are a kind and caring boss, willing to work with them as they strive to meet your sometimes lofty goals. (See Reference 1)

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