The only thing that drives an employee crazier than not knowing what is expected of them is when the expectations keep changing constantly. The employee is trying to hit a moving target. Rarely is the issue one of “poor communication” because after the boss and employee get to know each other, communication should not be an issue. We are usually dealing with an issue of changing expectations.
Three results of inconsistent expectations are:
- The employee will simply check out. Mentally, they will become disengaged. The person will do the best they can and keep a low profile hoping that they will not be “chewed out” by their boss if they don’t do it the way the boss expects at that particular time. In the meantime, the person is living in constant fear of being “chewed out.”
- The other alternative is that they may start going to the boss for every little item to ask for directions on how they want it done to avoid being wrong. If you are a micro-managing boss that’s great but in most cases it puts a burden on you that you do not need. These results are certainly not in the best interest of the organization at a time when the people in the organization are probably being asked to do “more with less.” Instead, you have created a situation where the employee will not willingly take on more for fear that they will not be able to do it right. But this is not the worst case scenario.
- In the worst case scenario, the employee becomes so frustrated they start looking for another job because of the constant uncertainty they face every morning when they show up for work. Sticking around simply is not worth it any longer. When they leave they will be replaced by another employee who will have a grace period where they can’t be expected to know “exactly” what to do. After that grace period, the person will begin to be like the prior person. They will live in fear or become disengaged. Then, they will ultimately leave and create a revolving door for the manager.
As a manager, ask yourself if you find yourself having to clarify with your people why they are not understanding your instructions and are doing things wrong. Chances are they aren’t misunderstanding. Chances are YOU as the manager are changing expectations and creating the misunderstanding.