What Don’t You Know About Communicating Expectations?



If you ask your employees to do something, is the outcome ever what you expect? 

Think about it. How many times is the end result not even CLOSE to what you imagined it would be when you initially gave the instructions? Is there a possibility that YOU are responsible just as much as your employees? Was there an error in communicating expectations?

Setting Expectations

When asking employees to complete a task, some managers go into lengthy detail only to find out that what they said didn’t actually make any difference. The result is quite disappointing! On the opposite end of the spectrum, other managers give more generic and vague directives while believing that their employees are more than capable of figuring out how to get the job done on their own. Once the task is complete, these supervisors are often surprised to find that the outcome is much below their expectations.

One way or another, something got lost communication. 

The Result

Take the following scenario into consideration.

How many times have you said, “I need you to do __________. You can get that done, right?”

Only a few of your employees will know exactly what you meant when posing the question above. At times, your star performers will deliver just what you are looking for. Perfect! Unfortunately, more often than not, you’ll be surprised to find out that the task you gave your employees is not done. In fact, you may find that the task is not even STARTED yet! Isn’t it frustrating when you recall that at the time they responded with “sure” and seemed to understand what you wanted? You thought you were clearly communicating expectations for the assignment but as it turns out, your employees did not understand you as well you thought.

What Are They Thinking?

Let’s explore. After hearing your question, here are some of the thoughts that might run through your employees’ minds:

Of course I can, doesn’t she know that by now?”

I will look into it.”

I guess I’ll see when I can fit it in. My schedule is so full already. She must be kidding.”

I will get that done after I finish this crazy project that I’m working on. Who knows when I’m going to be finished with it.”

I will do it before today is over. I know that tomorrow I have this other huge task to complete. This one seems easy to handle before I get to the big one and I don’t want more pressure later.”

It sounds like this task is complicated and that I will need total focus for it. I will quickly finish the job I’m handling now, begin this more involved task, and do nothing else until I complete this.”

What Am I Missing?

Take a moment and consider the way that you are communicating expectations. Ask yourself:

  1. Is the importance and urgency of this task clear to the employees (obviously it must be clear to you)?
  2. Is accomplishing this task a top priority compared to other projects?
  3. Do my employees clearly know whether or not they need to keep me updated regarding the status of the job?
  4. When do I expect that the project will be finished? Did I communicate the deadline?
  5. Is there anything that my employees may be left confused or unclear about?
  6. Have I discussed my assumptions with them?
  7. Am I leaving any doubts in their minds?   

Still Having Problems?

If you’re still having serious problems with your employees, call us at (732)385-1522 to see how our certified business coaches can help.