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  • Do you make your expectations clear to others?
  • Have you ever experienced unspoken expectations?

One word: expectations are the difference between a great organization and a mediocre one. It starts with the onboarding process. On second thought, the disconnect between employer and employee expectations starts during the interview process. Consider this scenario: The hiring officer and candidate connect during the interview. Based on the strength of that connection the hiring officer feels that the new employee needs little if any nuts-and-bolts attention once onboard. The assumption is that they know how to get things done in a new organization. The new employee’s supervisor might not want to appear to be a micro-manager. The new employee is feeling confident also. As a result, neither sees the potential blind spots.

Organizations have culture. The new employee is merging into a well-established culture with many unspoken customs and expectations. Some of them are benign while others could be problematic. For example, I didn’t know that there was a very specific dress code for the women in the department. I found out when one female employee complained about another. I didn’t realize I was the director and fashion police. One month into the job I learned that my predecessor let selected employees leave early the day before certain holidays without using their vacation time. It made the beneficiaries of that benevolent gesture happy, but the position I occupied didn’t have the authority to grant release time because it violated organization policy. 

Those were relatively small unspoken expectations. The much larger one was revealed subtly. I was expected to change the culture of the department. Hearing those words spoken after being on the job for two months, was a bit daunting, but it was easier for me to help change the culture than to fit into the one that existed. I learned how things were done and then sought ways to merge my approach with the customs employees were used to. Once that was clear, I set out to make my expectations known.

My direct reports were used to taking directives from my predecessor rather than participating in decision-making. It took a while for them to get comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. Considering the past mode of operations, I expected them to let me know what worked in the past and be willing to explore new ways of doing business to serve our stakeholders better. My expectations were simple: work hard and have fun. Have a positive attitude, be self-motivated, and work collaboratively. Finally, I let them know that it was okay to disagree, but not to be disrespectful.

What will you do to make your workplace better? To learn more about my coaching practice, visit: