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Employee Success Depends on Clear Expectations from Leaders

Employee Success Depends on Clear Expectations from Leaders
Credit: Zsirosistvan/Shutterstock

Most workers are looking for a little more direction from their employers, new research shows: A study from Gallup discovered that half of all U.S. employees don't know what's expected of them at work.

The study's authors believe that when employees do not have a clear understanding of what's required of them, they are less engaged at work. Previous research has shown that just one-third of U.S. employees are engaged at work.

While there are 12 elements of employee engagement, the study's authors suggested that setting clear expectations could be the most "foundational" one.

"Expectations, or a lack thereof, have the power to make or break worker engagement," the study's authors wrote. "Even if employees feel energized and motivated, those who lack clear expectations and spend too much time working on the wrong things can't advance key initiatives to create value for an organization."

The research revealed that employees of all ages want clear expectations. Across all generations, workers who strongly agree that their boss works with them to set performance goals are nearly eight times more likely to be engaged than those whose bosses don't help define what their objectives are, the study found. [See Related Story: Greater Job Satisfaction Doesn't Always Equate to Increased Engagement]

"All workers, regardless of age or stage in their career, want to know what's expected of them in the workplace," the study's authors wrote. "And the lack of clear expectations can cause anxiety and confusion in workers."

Gallup offered several tips for setting expectations for your employees:

  1. Work together. It is important for managers to get input and agreement on expectations from employees. The researchers believe this will lead workers to be more invested in their expectations, which will ultimately result in more success.
  2. Be clear. Employees shouldn't have to guess what their boss is expecting of them. Managers need to fully and clearly explain what they require of their workers.
  3. Set the bar high. Most employees aren't interested in doing only the minimum amount of work to succeed. Managers can get the most out of their staff by basing expectations on what top performers do.
  4. Personalize it. Set expectations that center around each employee's strengths. Getting workers focused on using their strongest talents will increase both performance and engagement, according to the researchers.

Previous research has shown that when employees are focused on tasks that best suit their strengths, sales, profit, employee engagement and customer engagement increase, and turnover decreases.

"After zeroing in on the right targets with clear expectations, managers can unleash employees' greatest performance by focusing on their strengths," the study's authors wrote.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.