So how come so very few managers ever sit down and properly discuss the finer details of how they work together for real success?In the real world, the need to “manage expectations” usually becomes blindingly obvious only after a gap has come to light. This gap can arise because assumptions are made “that we’re on the same page when we’re not”; that “someone has briefed me when they haven’t” or when someone thinks “it’s obvious” when it isn’t. As soon as you sense the gap, there’s a feeling that you don’t quite trust the person as much as you used to. Here’s an example: Sarah and Ali worked together well for two years as peers. When Sarah was promoted to line manager, the relationships between them shifted. She had trouble finding the balance of being friendly and being the boss. Affected by tension between them, Ali’s performance fell off noticeably. Sarah moved from being a co-operative peer to being a bossy boss. Each thought the issue lay with the other person. Trust was strained and working together was difficult. Conflict like this arises between individuals who have differing expectations for each other and this can happen whether or not a shift in role is experienced. If “clarity” is not achieved, relationships and performance can be affected long term unless something stops the rot. By sitting down and agreeing “rules of engagement” Sarah and Ali could discuss and agree how to work well together, in the new set up. It’s often not noticed beforehand. When rules of engagement become strained, it shows in the interactions and conversations, which may shift from being friendly and cooperative, to abrupt and defensive.
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It’s not unreasonable that managers have expectations of employees; the job and its requirements will have been discussed in depth at interview. These may change over time in the job.However, the level of specificity is seldom detailed, which leads to gaps in understanding and expectations between both manager and employee. What is unreasonable is, when employees are left to guess, to read the manager’s mind (good luck with that one!) or at worst, to find out by accident or when things go badly wrong. In today’s workplace good people-managers will sit down and personally discuss with every member of their team. The questions below can easily be woven into regular interim review conversations, appraisals and inductions. The focus of the conversation is NOT about job tasks or the job description; rather it is about how you both work together to clarify priorities, to achieve desired levels of performance and what to do when things go wrong. You need to explain what you need and expect from them and why, and what they can expect from you.
Continue reading on the next page for seven tips on how to set up a healthy rules of engagement agreement, and eight assumptions to avoid when working with other’s expectations.
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