Transparent employee expectations

A recent Gallup survey reports that 50% of employees don’t know what their manager expects of them. Question, what percent of managers know what their employees expect of them? Our guess less than 50% resulting in the high percentage of disengaged employees and turnover.

As an employee you can influence this by being transparent about what you need. Why? Your job satisfaction, well-being, and longevity with your current organization depend upon your transparency. . Gallup found that at least 75% of the reasons for voluntary turnover can be influenced by managers.-Don’t leave them in the dark or as one wags commented on public policy; can’t complain if you didn’t vote.

Some thought starter categories for your list of expectations or wants.

  1. Working conditions
  2. Opportunities for growth and development
  3. Work load
  4. Work and personal commitment balance
  5. Information needed
  6. How my work has purpose/adds value
  7. Feedback desired
  8. Autonomy
  9. Recognition
  10. Coaching
  11. Involvement in decision making
  12. Rewards

The specific expectations for each category are dependent on the individual employee. For example a female single parent would have different expectations than a middle aged married man for “Work and personal commitment balance”.

You now have three tasks. First define what your specific expectations are for those categories that are important to you—make a list. Second prioritize the specific expectations as either HV (high value) or D (desirable). Take your time, review and edit your list at least three separate times. Lastly, practice your explanation of what each expectation means and why it is important. Don’t just think about the explanation; say it out loud to a trusted peer, or friend. Ask for feedback on clarity, conciseness, and tone. The explanation is more likely to be heard and discussed if the tone is matter of fact, neutral, not demanding. Adjust your message then practice again and at least one more time.

Once you are comfortable schedule a meeting with your manager. Avoid email, make it a face-to-face request. You are more likely to get a positive response by positioning the reason for the meeting as a win-win opportunity. The short version might sound something like this:

I enjoy my job and this department and want to continue to be a valued employee. To achieve this goal I have spent a lot of time thinking about what are my expectations as a part of this team. I believe that our working relationship will be improved the clearer and more transparent I can be about these expectations–here are my initial thoughts. If you think it would be productive can we schedule a meeting to discuss this list?

Best case scenario your manager appreciates knowing and has agreed to work toward meeting the expectations. Worst case scenario your manager stays in the telling non listening mode and ends without an understanding of your needs. Still a win, the seeds of understanding your unique needs have been planted. My guarantee your list will not be forgotten.

Asking for and questions during a performance discussion with your manager

The facts are that managers are busy and don’t relish performance discussions. Harry Levinson past Professor, Harvard University and Director of the Levinson Institute boldly states: “Coaching and counselling is the most uncomfortable, avoided and mishandled of all managerial responsibilities.”

Gallup found that only half of the employees surveyed strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. If you are not in this half and want more feedback it is your responsibility to ask for a meeting.

It is tempting to dash off a quick email or instant message, don’t this is a good subject to bring up face-to-face. Leave a prepared list of questions you want to discuss during the meeting. Give your manager space to think about this and ask when would be a good time to check back on date and time for this meeting.

Examples of questions for your performance discussion

Not all of these would be discussed, select 2-3 that are most important and leave the rest for future performance discussions. You probably will not get more than 30 minutes for the first meeting, laser focus on a few areas that are most important to you.

What are your expectations/priorities for my job? 

What do you feel I am doing well and what might I have done better?

What additional knowledge or skills would make me more effective in this role?

How could I be more helpful to other people on the team?

How would you rate me: below expectations, meets expectations, or exceeds expectations?

What feedback I need?

One thing I could do to improve my interactions with others (team members, clients, other areas, you).

What do you see as my main strength?

How can I do more of what I do best?

What one thing I need to work on before our next meeting?

Questions you have for me?

How often do you want me to schedule our performance discussions?

You are asking for your manager’s most valuable asset, time. It takes courage to ask, do so with humility and express your desire to have an open dialogue/exchange with your manager. You might be surprised at the receptivity.

Background checks

An annual survey of human resource professionals in the U.S. found that nearly 90% of employers check applicants’ criminal records, 13% check their credit, 24% verify educations, 37% check driving records and 6% check social media. (The HR Research Institute operates as’s research arm)

What is your biggest weakness?

This is a popular interview question and one interviewees are advised to be prepared to answer. Unfortunately the answer is usually given with a positive spin: “I am a perfectionist” or “I am too forgiving of others faults” or “I am a workaholic” etc., etc., etc. None of these get to a real understanding and could paint the interviewee as a phony.

We would suggest an alternative question: “What was your biggest mistake?” Followed up with: “What lessons did you learn for this mistake?” The well prepared interviewee would be advised to think through their answers to these two questions. These questions accomplish three things, first a better understanding of the interviewees weaknesses secondly, a glimpse into their willingness to learn and grow from mistakes lastly, their depth of introspection and humility.

Six Degree of Separation

If there is any doubt about the value of your contacts in identifying and putting you in touch with the hiring person at your targeted organization, consider:

Researchers analyzed 30 billion Microsoft Messenger instant messages sent among 180 million people from around the world. They concluded that any two people are, on average, just 6.6 degrees of separation apart, meaning that they could be linked by a string of seven or fewer acquaintances. The database covered the entire Microsoft Messenger instant-messaging network in June 2006, or roughly half the world’s instant-messaging traffic at that time, researchers said. (Peter Whoriskey, “Messagers Really Are About Six Degrees From Kevin Bacon,” Washington Post, Saturday, August 2, 2008)

Your contacts are the ultimate resource to identify and communicate with potential employers. For the skeptics try this experiment, email all your contacts with the following request:

“I am trying to find the name, email and telephone number of the person responsible for hiring at____ (you fill in the organization). If you can’t help me can you ask your network of acquaintances if they or one of their friends can help?” The results will amaze and reinforce the value of developing and keeping in touch with a wide and varied group of contacts. Don’t wait until you need them, start today, and have the discipline to make this a recurring activity!

Networking: The Other Half

We’re all familiar with networking either through social networking sites like Linkedin or through people we know on a local level. Developing and managing your contacts is best when it is part of a daily routine, not when it is used all at once and must carry the burden of a hurry-up job search. This is a one way; self centered approach and has the possibility of leaving your contacts feeling “used.” The other half, which is all too often ignored, is what have or are you doing for your contacts? Does “giving back” sound familiar?

What does giving back mean, it doesn’t mean superficial gestures, it does mean giving real value. You might suggest articles or books you have read that fit their interests. An update on your progress and an interest in what is new with them keeps you both in the loop. Volunteer to help on a particular project where your contact is involved like a blood drive, or a charity function. If you hear of an opportunity that might interest them, pass it along. An occasional call just to visit and check in shows a real interest. The list is endless and only limited by your imagination.

Your contacts will notice genuine acts of giving that have substance—ideas, information, and resources. Networking is a two-way street.