The Key to Managing Your Employee's Expectations

Managers should not underestimate the power of managing expectations.  In fact, the reality of managing expectations revolves around three simple principles:

  1. Managers communicate their expectations verbally and nonverbally to their staff

  2. People consciously and unconsciously understand their manager's expectations.

  3. People perform in ways that are consistent with their manager's expectations. 

More often times than not, people excel in response to their manager's performance message.  Conversely, it can undermine someone's performance when a manager does not articulate their expectations in a clear and concise manner.  Although sometimes a manager's expectations are often subtle, their staff picks up on these expectations both consciously and unconsciously.  It could be as simple as a manager who fails to praise one employee's performance.  Other times, it could be a manager talking less to a particular person or not sharing ideas or personal items with that person.  

Less Skilled Managers Will Reduce An Employee's Self-Esteem And Performance Level

That's right.  However, if a manager is skilled and has high expectations for an employee, the employee's self-confidence grows, their skills develop faster and their performance moves in a more positive direction.  

Imagine For A Moment If You Were Able To Communicate Your Exact Expectations To Everyone You Manage

If you have high expectations of the people you manage, and you communicate those expectations to them, you will find that your staff will begin to make more positive contributions and live up to your expectations.

Setting up your employee's expectations is a critical element in managing people; however, do not stop there. Follow-up with your employees on a regular basis to ensure that they are meeting your expectations.  

Example: Let’s say that you are managing a sales team and you have set a “sales quota” for everyone.  You also know each sales person needs to make a certain number of “prospect cold-calls” to make their quota.  If you are not managing their level of “cold-calls” each week, there is a very good chance some people will not perform to your expectations.  On the other hand, if you do manage their phone time by setting specific dates, times, and the number of cold-calls they need to do each week, you will soon see their sales increase.

This means that managers need to spend time getting to know their employees in order to understand how they are driven internally or externally.  Then, managers can adjust their communication and follow-up accordingly.


Managers do not have to verbally communicate their expectations in order for them to be set.  Non-verbal cues and lack of verbal cues alone can set the tone for how managers expect their employees to perform.  This is why it is important for managers to be clear and direct about what they expect from their employees.  Also, following up in order to ensure that expectations are clear is another way to make sure that employees understand their responsibilities.


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