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Set Expectations That Are Clear and Manage People Well

Set ExpectationsGiving negative feedback is hard. Asking for what you want will always be easier.

Set Expectations That Are Clear

We have all worked hard on a project, only to find out that what we created is not what our manager was expecting. When this happens, everyone is frustrated. Managers question whether or not employees listen. Employees wonder why managers who want something specific didn’t just say so when the work was assigned.

Managers would be well served by setting clear expectations at the beginning of working relationships and projects. Tell your employees what a good job looks like. Don’t make them guess.

If you want a weekly status update, tell employees that rather than being frustrated when you don’t know where projects stand. If you want a bulleted summary, tell people that rather than being annoyed when five paragraphs land in your inbox. If you envision a report with tables and charts, tell employees that versus being disappointed when they create a bulleted list.

Most of us assume people will do things the way we do. They won’t. Save time and reduce frustration by being crystal clear when you set expectations at the beginning of anything new.

When people see the title of my book How to Say Anything to Anyone, they think it’s a book about giving feedback and having difficult conversations. It’s not. How to Say Anything to Anyone is about asking more questions, so you know what your direct supervisor, coworkers, and customers need and don’t have to guess. How to Say Anything to Anyone is not about giving people bad news. It is about asking for what you want before challenges occur, and then talking about how you’ll deal with challenges when they arise.

If you work for someone who does not set expectations that are clear, then you, the employee, needs to set those expectations.

Set expectations by asking your manager:

• When do you want to see this, in what format, with how much detail?
• What does a good job look like?
• What’s your expectation of how this should look when it’s complete?
• Where does this fit, as a priority, in relation to other projects?
• How does this project fit into the department’s or organization’s goals?

Asking questions and telling people what you want is always easier than giving negative feedback. Everyone – employees and managers alike – are accountable for ensuring that the set expectations are clear and that work is done right the first time Ask more. Assume less.

Download the five questions managers must ask their employees to set expectations that are clear:ManagingQ


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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