How to set expectations with employees - 5 simple tips

By Robert Half on 22 January 2019

Knowing how to set expectations with employees can be the difference between a cohesive and united team, versus a dysfunctional, unresponsive group of individuals.

You’re only as good as the staff who work for you, so make sure the employees you have, and those you hire, have these five character traits in spades.

1. Be true to their word

One of the most important characteristics that successful people value is the ability of employees to be honest and trustworthy – in every way.

When they accept a task, they should be honest about how long it will take, never overcommitting, always giving realistic predictions about outcomes and expectations. If they hedge their bets with “I’ll try” or “maybe”, you’ll always be uncertain as to the outcome of the project or task at hand.

Expect your people to follow through on every promise and make their word carry real weight.

2. Provide solutions, not problems

Problems arise in all work environments, but you don’t want your staff bringing you problems and expecting you to solve them.

Nothing is more irritating or time-consuming than listening to others complain about issues they’re unwilling to help fix. Make sure your employees know they can absolutely bring problems or challenges to you, but they must also come with a proposed solution. And at the very least, they must be ready to accept your advice if their solution is unsuitable.

3. Plan, organise and prioritise work

There is a deep and never-ending sea of work in most office environments. What makes great employees stand out from the rest is their ability to take on the work, plan the time frame, organise the work’s structure and prioritise when the work builds up to excessive levels.

When your staff can do this without coming to you every day, you’ve hit the jackpot. And although you don’t expect to hear about every single item of work and the hurdles that come with it, you do want regular updates in order to be across the crucial elements.

So put in place a system for this to happen. Whether it’s a weekly WIP or daily bullet-point emails, make this a priority.

4. Work in a team

Despite the need for senior workers to be people managers, their job is not to be an adjudicator.

The ability of your staff to work in a team is an integral part of being successful in your own role, especially for those who are keen to learn how to set expectations with employees.

It’s a good day when your staff members have allocated appropriate tasks among themselves, successfully solved problems and worked together to create positive outcomes for you and the business.

5. Be a mind reader

No, you shouldn’t hire fortune tellers, but you should try to find people with the insight and foresight to predict what you need and when.

Some of this comes with your staff getting to know you and how you work, but a good portion of this is finding people who are willing to let go of their own desires and who can see the benefit of helping you in every way possible.

Employees who come to meetings with all the fine details at hand, who can answer tricky questions with diplomacy and know what you need ahead of time will serve you and themselves well in future endeavours.

How to set expectations with employees

If you're thinking about how to set expectations with employees that reflect the team, productivity and output you're hoping to achieve, start with these five tips to put your team on the right track to working cohesively and preparing thoroughly for all tasks and projects.

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