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Setting Expectations with Employees


Few things are as frustrating when a manager and employee realize, either well into a project or when it is finished, that they didn't have the same thing in mind. Either the manager didn't communicate the details of the project clearly or the employee didn't understand what was expected. Such a miscommunication could have been avoided if the manager had taken the time to set the expectations of the project with the employee.

Setting expectations with employees is an effective management tool. By doing so, productivity will increase because neither the manager nor the employee will have to retrace as many steps or, worse, start over. While taking the time to set expectations with an employee may take some time initially, it is truly a time-saving practice in the end and something that all managers should do. Plus, it saves a lot of frustration for both the manager and employee, thus creating a more positive working environment.


One way to set expectations with employees is to have regular meetings. At the beginning of a project or fiscal year, have one large, staff meeting. Take this time to explain the details and overall goals of the project. Discuss the past year's or project's strengths and weaknesses. Set up a plan for the next year or project as a team and be willing to take input from the group. This will get the employees familiar with the work ahead and will help them get a clear idea of the company's expectations.

After this initial meeting, follow up with regular update meetings (every few months) to keep the staff updated on any changes in plans, numbers, or goals that have taken place. This will keep the employees from following an old set of ideas, which would later require revision. Also, keeping the staff informed of what is expected will make them feel more involved and valued, which will create more enthusiasm and productivity.

On top of the initial, beginning of the year meeting and update meetings, managers should conduct regular meetings with individual employees. This allows the employee to feel more comfortable to ask questions, share ideas, and review their current progress. These meetings especially allow a manager to let an employee know the specific expectations of them as an individual in the company. Again, by solving problems in advance by making expectations clear, neither the employee nor the manager will have to retrace their steps and start over.

Meetings are not the only aspect of setting expectations with employees. Managers need to give constructive feedback and rewards or consequences.

As the employees and manager progress through the project and work at hand, it is important that the manager is giving feedback to the employee, not just at meetings. Keep the project's timeline in mind, the direction, and give the employee adequate direction. This does not mean, however, that a manager should be constantly hovering over their employees' heads. Employees should feel some freedom in what they're doing and be able to give their work their own touch. Managers only need to interfere if things do not seem to meeting certain expectations.

Rewards and consequences are important in setting expectations. It only makes sense that if an employee is doing well and meeting expectations, he/she should be told so. This will only encourage the employee to continue to do well, thus helping the entire team.

On the other hand, if an employee is not meeting the standards set, he/she must be held accountable. Although managers may feel awkward telling someone that their work isn't where it should be, it is necessary so that the employees realize that there are consequences to not doing the job as planned and expected.

By taking the time to set expectations with employees and give adequate feedback, managers save both their employees and themselves undue stress and wasted time. By clearly informing employees what the company expects, managers will find that their staff will be more productive and a lot happier with their work.

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