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How to let workers know what is expected

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Are you clear about what is expected of you on the job? Employees at one company recently started wearing flip-flops, short skirts, and jeans — articles that were simply unsuitable for the clientele they served. While managers no doubt noticed, little time or effort was taken to remind the offending employees of an existing dress code. In fact, no one in management said anything about the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of the improper attire until the situation had escalated to the point of body parts being revealed.{{more}} That’s when management felt compelled to speak up!

The employees’ response was surprise: “We didn’t know we couldn’t wear these things!”

The employees, who were all in their twenties, dressed for comfort and didn’t understand what all the big fuss was about. Management, on the other hand, was much older than the actual workforce, which likely explains why it seemed so obvious to them that certain types of clothing would be unacceptable. Unfortunately, they had not been clear about what they expected as far as workplace attire was concerned, and even though a relevant statement was part of the company policy, when infractions did occur, none of them spoke up until a big problem arose.  


Was management being unrealistic?

This case illustrates that what may be obvious to one worker or manager is not necessarily obvious to someone else. As a result, miscommunication and conflict too often arise. Expectations need to be clearly defined, so everyone can be on the same page.


Be clear.

Whether it’s a new project or trying to clean up an existing problem, be very clear about what you are asking your co-workers or employees to do. Write it down if necessary.


Ask for feedback.

Ensure that all the employees involved have the same understanding, even if you have to ask them what their understanding is. You might be amazed, but 10 people can listen to the same conversation and walk away with 10 different interpretations of its information.


Don’t pull any surprises.

If, for some reason, circumstances change, you must immediately inform the parties involved about the changes and about how expectations have changed as well. If a project deadline is moved up, say so; if more time is needed, speak up. Not saying anything and operating under the old assumptions will cause conflict.

Outline rewards and consequences.

People must be rewarded when they do well and meet expectations; they also should suffer a consequence for not meeting expectations. If such events do not happen, then the expectations have no value. Make expectations known up front, so those involved can measure their success and determine where they need to improve.

Karen Hinds is “The Workplace Success Expert.” For a FREE
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