22 January 2024 |

What to expect when no one tells you what’s expected:

By Hebba Youssef

^^ live footage of your employees when they don’t know what’s expected of them. 

Question for you: can your employees be expected to meet performance goals if they don’t know what’s expected of them?

Def not.

Reality check: only about 50% of employees report knowing what’s expected of them at work. 

OOF. 

Knowing what’s expected of you at work has an impact on quite a few things at work like:

  • Performance
  • Work focus 
  • Communication 
  • Satisfaction 
  • Engagement 
  • Accountability 
  • Career Development
  • Employee stress 
  • Collaboration 

And I’m sure that’s not a fully exhaustive list! 

So, we agree setting expectations is very important and the average employee doesn’t know what’s expected of them at work. 

I guarantee if your organization gets better at setting expectations you will see improvements in performance. 

Don’t know where to get started? My workshop is an excellent place to get started! 

If you can’t join me, below you’ll get a primer on how to set expectations across a organization as:

  • Leaders
  • Managers
  • Employees
  • An HR team

Spoiler alert: each of these groups plays a somewhat different role in setting expectations based on their responsibilities and perspectives! 

Leaders:

Ahh leaders. So much power and so much responsibility. 

Truthfully, they have the hardest job when it comes to setting expectations. 

Why?

They are responsible for setting expectations around the vision and direction for an organization. 

And sometimes those things can rapidly change, especially at startups

Leader’s expectations are usually broader and related to:

  • Goals 
  • Values 
  • Strategic objectives 

Leaders can set expectations in many different situations but here are 3 of the most impactful situations leaders can double down on expectations:

  1. During strategic planning: during this time leaders can set a broad vision of what the organization will accomplish and other leaders can align their work correctly. 
  2. During onboarding/orientation: new employees joining an organization is one of the best times to set expectations regarding roles, goals, values and even culture. Those new employees will thank you. 
  3. During company wide announcements: a weekly all hands or email is a great time to set expectations around company performance, any shifts in strategy or even market conditions. 

Two key factors to consider for leaders setting expectations:

  1. Communication is key! Leaders need to inspire and constantly communicate the bigger picture. 
  2. Flexibility needs to be possible. Things can change and therefore setting broader expectations will allow for changing circumstances. 

Now onto another role who plays a crucial part in setting expectations: managers. 

Managers:

I know I said leaders have the hardest job when it comes to setting expectations but that doesn’t mean managers get off easily… 

When it comes to expectations, managers are your translators. 

They take the high-level expectations leaders set and translate them to: 

  1. Specific goals 
  2. Tasks
  3. Metrics for their team

I see the biggest gap between managers and employees knowing what success looks like. 

It’s one thing to define goals and tasks, but managers need to take it one step further and also discuss what success looks like when it comes to those goals and tasks. 

Managers should be setting expectations constantly but 3 situation to double down on expectations:

  1. During onboarding: there is so much opportunity during onboarding that is missed! Onboarding is a fresh start where managers can clearly state their expectations and definition of success. 
  2. 1 on 1 meetings: Pivoting in real time is super impactful, during 1:1s when work and progress is being discussed managers can redirect employees and reset expectations as easy as saying: let’s align on what i’m expecting… 
  3. Feedback meetings: managers MUST give regular feedback if they care about the growth and development of their team. During feedback managers can recognize contributions and share constructive feedback about what is missing. 

Two factors to consider for managers setting expectations: 

  1. Setting expectations doesn’t come naturally to most folks. Managers need to be trained on how to set expectations and how to redirect behavior. 
  2. Managers need clear expectations to set clear expectations. Before assuming the manager isn’t doing something, explore what expectations they’ve been given! Because they might not know things like strategy, vision or strategic goals! 

Now, let’s take a look at how individual employees may handle expectations.  

Individuals:

Employees have to understand the expectation from their company and their manager so that they can execute their work. 

If managers are your translators, employees are your executors. 

They need clarity on:

  1. Role
  2. Responsibilities 
  3. Projects / tasks 

The biggest gap I see between employees and knowing what’s expected of them is communication.

Employees need to be pros at effective communication so that they can better understand from their managers and leaders what is expected of them. 

The problem is that most folks don’t know how to effectively communicate, it can be scary for employees to admit they don’t know something or that they need clarification and that’s a lot of pressure on employees! 

Pro-tip: train your managers and hold them accountable for setting expectations so that all the work doesn’t fall to employees! 

3 situations employees can dig into expectations: 

  1. The interview process: if/when you’re interviewing for a new role this is the perfect time to dig into expectations. Ask about the first 30,60,90 days or what does success look like? 
  2. 1 on 1 meetings: have an agenda and come with questions to get feedback on specific work being done. Be sure to ask things like: does this meet your expectations, is there anything I could have done differently? 
  3. Goal setting: employees should always have clarity on how they’re going to achieve their goals. That means knowing desired outcomes and how success will be measured. 

Two key factors to consider for employees setting expectations:

  1. It might not all happen in one convo. Setting expectations is an iterative process! You or your manager might get more info that would shift the expectations. Don’t be afraid to consistently ask: am I meeting your expectations? 
  2. You should never be in the dark about expectations. If you’re not getting what you need from your manager, potentially your peers or skip-level manager could provide some insight. 

Employees deserve to work somewhere that they know what is expected of them. 

And if they don’t, they can always talk to their HR team! 

HR teams: 

In HR it can feel like our lives revolve around expectation setting because we play a key role in creating, communicating and reinforcing certain expectations within an organization.  

But one of the struggles of setting expectations as an HR team is sometimes what the business expects and what the employees expect can be in conflict with one another. 

This topic deserves an entire newsletter… 

SO I’LL GIVE THAT TO YOU NEXT WEEK!!!!

TO BE CONTINUED… 

In the meantime: if you read this edition and realized your organization is massively struggling with expectation setting, you need to scoop your spot in my workshop

I built this workshop because I’ve seen so many organizations struggle with expectation setting and watched it impact everything from performance to culture. 

The bottom line: The ramifications of poor expectation setting are massive. 

❤️ So let me help you. ❤️
Bonus: you can scoop a spot in the workshop AND membership in the Safe Space community.