Business Sense | Managing leadership expectations in the workplace

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Effective communication between management and employees requires a shared understanding of team members’ roles in the bigger picture, as well as shared values ​​and goals. A key function of leadership is to ensure that employees clearly understand expectations, which can eliminate confusion, stress, and reduced productivity and negative morale in the workplace.

Below are key areas of focus for leaders as they work to effectively manage employee expectations. These strategies encourage buy-in from the team, strengthen engagement, and help build the resilience needed to overcome inevitable obstacles.

Clarify >> Poor management of expectations can lead to ambiguity, unnecessary misunderstandings among colleagues, and unnecessary micromanagement of employees. Before addressing unmet issues, revisit and clarify expectations. Are you willing to accept that a pending management error may have caused the current situation rather than an employee violation or lack of compliance? Can you describe your expectations and when those expectations were or were not met? Are your expectations realistic in relation to other people? Could there be a real misunderstanding? These are all important leadership reflections to set your team up for success.

Communicate >> Don’t fall into the leadership trap of believing that everyone else thinks the same way you do. Create an alignment between your intended communication and how employees perceive you by using persuasive and clear language. Pause, ask questions, and be curious. Be deliberate and clear with your words, repeat your focus and make sure there is understanding. Have you been told what to expect? Have employees asked what is expected of them? Do you agree that your expectations are reasonable? Do you understand where workers come from? Be open, honest, and transparent with the staff, which will help you trace unwanted symptoms to the root causes you need to fix.

Connect >> Employees are most empowered and confident when they are given the opportunity to work on shared goals that they are invited to co-create. What ideas do employees have to meet expectations? Look for signs that employees may be working on guesswork rather than facts, and take advantage of opportunities to prevent misinformation or false narratives. Employee engagement deepens when there is a shared understanding of what management expects and how employees benefit individually. This requires leaders to take the time to reflect on the employee’s role within the larger team, ask employees what they can contribute or what they find challenging, and identify the types of support that will help them achieve their goals.

Support >> Leaders who take the time to ask employees what success looks like will be better equipped to align employee perspectives with the bigger picture. Morale and performance improve when team members feel and are part of the organization’s larger vision. This requires leadership to gain an understanding of the type of support employees want and need. When leaders take an enthusiastic and open approach to supporting their teams in these areas, factors such as work styles, strengths, existing systems and interpersonal relationships come together for great results.

Commitment >> Buy-in and involvement lead to employee commitment. Return agreements, resolve any outstanding or emerging questions, and keep the team up to date on possible next steps. And be sure to follow or communicate the reasons for any deviation to prevent guesswork! By ensuring commitment and providing support, leadership fosters an environment of mutual understanding, respect, and cooperation.

Jolene Thrash is the owner of JMT Consulting and provides professional consulting for organization development, human resources and people development. She is a certified HR professional with a master’s degree in professional research on organizational development and change. Jolene can be reached at or visit her website at

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