Although Matthew was a horrible boss, in regards to lacking charm and manners, the one thing you never were confused about was what he expected! In some regards it made working for him a little bit more bearable given his distinct lack of kindness and manners. Whenever we chatted about work and Matthew, you could guarantee someone would say, “At least there’s no mistaking what he wants.”

Employees want to be told how they are doing and what is expected of them.

In productivity coaching and workshops, a common question that is asked is: “I wish I knew what my boss wanted from me?”

And a common question that Senior Leaders and Executives ask is: “Why don’t my managers or employees just do what’s expected?”

The answer is that it’s most likely because expectations have not been articulated or articulated clearly! Why? It may be because:

  • Assumptions that people know or should know
  • Not caring
  • Don’t know how to get the team to achieve the outcomes
  • Don’t know how to do the job
  • Don’t listen

When communicating or clarifying expectations it’s important to present them in their simplest form. When communicating, remember that you’re communicating to be understood by someone else: what makes sense for you may not make sense to others. Keeping expectations clear and simple helps reduce misunderstandings and therefore risk of error, productivity loss, or worse, injury or job loss. 

Richard thought his shift supervisors were clear about the requirements for a big project they had just won. Only days into the project there was staff turnover, low staff morale, and resource wastage because there were assumptions at play from Richard’s side that left key team leaders needing to take some initiative which ended out being inaccurate. Unfortunately the situation spiralled further down with injury claims and the organisation’s reputation being demanded.

Richard is not entirely at fault here: everyone needed to speak up and ask for clarity.

To address employee’s frustration of, “I wish I know what my boss wanted from me?”

Employees might consider:

  • Quite simply, ask! If the boss is not forthcoming with clear expectations then ask what they are. Be polite, of course, but ask!
  • Do some organisational research; take responsibility for seeking out clarity and being proactive. Bosses may not always be openly appreciative of it but they are grateful for the proactive initiative taker.
  • Observe what’s happening within and beyond the team; take some time to look at the whole organisation and what direction it is taking and how that is impacting on the roles within the team, this should provide some direction and hence an idea of what the organisation expects.

To address the senior leaders and executives concern of, “Why don’t my managers or employees just do what’s expected?”

Managers might consider:

  • Check understanding, that is, being sure the managers understand the expectations the way they are intended.
  • Is the concern that is experienced due to outcome or process?
  • … If it’s process, how important is it that the managers achieve the outcomes in a certain way {‘it’s my or the highway’}?
  • … If it’s outcome, how clearly defined are the outcomes, such as, are the outcomes specific and measurable? Do the managers know what resources are available/accessible, etc?
  • Know the workload of the managers and their current priorities. It’s important to not keep loading managers with more and more expectations and required outcomes without checking current priorities?

While employees may not like what is expected of them, at least when an expectation has been clearly articulated and understood the margin for error can be greatly reduced, the organisation has been, to some degree, protected.

No matter your role:

Unclear is costly.