Does Your Team Really Understand Your Expectations?

“That’s not my job.”

“That’s not in my job description.”

“How was I supposed to know I should do that?”

Any of those employee responses sound familiar? You, as their manager, have expected them to perform certain tasks or perform tasks in a certain way or to a specific level, and all you have received is pushback, reluctance, or confusion.

Job descriptions are useful tools for outlining key responsibilities of the job, but some expectations are overlooked, such as specifying frequency of the tasks, timeliness of completion, anticipated level of performance, and coordination with other positions.

Clarity is key for achieving the level of performance needed. So, how can you successfully communicate expectations that fall outside of a job description?

Hire with Intention. When assessing candidates, consider the level of critical thinking and decision-making needed for the job. You want to hire team members who are able to connect the dots and who won’t have to be guided through each step of the job responsibilities.  

Review the job description. Is it accurate and up to date? Take a hard look at what you are expecting from the team member and spell out as many tangible and intangible expectations as possible. The catch-all phrase “other responsibilities as assigned” may have worked in the past, but doesn’t suit today’s workforce.

Meet with your team member(s). Have a conversation to understand where the confusion lies. Go through the job description, ask for feedback, and listen to what the team member is saying. Agree upon changes to be made to the job description. Ask your team member how you can improve your communication with them.

Schedule regular communication. Whether it’s in-person or virtual, having a weekly, biweekly, or a monthly check-in, will benefit both you and your team member with regular, scheduled communication. Some team members may need more communication support than others, so plan accordingly.

Host performance conversations regularly. Performance feedback is best provided as an on-going, continuous conversation, not as an annual event.  Holding regular 1:1s as noted above, is critical to ensuring expectations are clear.  During these meetings, it’s important to provide honest, timely performance feedback.  This will enable employees to make adjustments immediately.

Host team meetings. Working with individual team members is fantastic; it is equally important to gauge how your overall team is doing. Often, other team members may be experiencing similar struggles. Design your team meetings with a purpose, a timeframe, and a structure. Doing so will enhance employee buy-in and likely increase their engagement.

Document, document, document. Keep copies of any written or digital communication. Send a follow-up email after each meeting summarizing what was discussed and have the team member(s) acknowledge receipt.

Developing a strategy to communicate and assess expectations will undoubtedly enhance performance, satisfaction, and ultimately, retention. Remember, your strategy will be organic, growing and changing with your organization and your team.