How to Set Clear Expectations for Employees: A Guide

I was watching a documentary about Spelling Bee winners, where the winners' parents could be heard saying “we expect them to win, we expect it. They put in their hard work and are excited and expect it.” This made me believe the parents began setting expectations early on in their child's life to gain the skills to succeed. Growing up with these intentions has helped these children understand they CAN do it. Parents are just like leaders in guiding those around you to become a better you. As a leader in the workplace, we can set these expectations to achieve hard work and gain appreciation from others and ourselves.

Make it Realistic

One huge piece of advice, make sure the expectations are realistic. You wouldn’t want to feel overwhelmed or discouraged if you have a slight feeling that you are not able to accomplish a goal. For instance, you may want to set a goal that YOU can expect out of yourself but others might not be able to expect that. Set goals for your team that are challenging but also obtainable, to help build and shape their growth, development, and confidence. Try to imagine having a leader who expected you to do something you weren’t capable of. How does that make you feel? Anxious? Upset? I would feel this way also. You don't want to set the bar too low and risk not motivating your team, but if you set it too high then you'll end up with people who are not satisfied with what they've accomplished. Making expectations realistic allows for higher achievement in the long run.

Workplace support

Consider the same concept of the Spelling Bee winners, in the workplace. As a leader, would you want your team to feel excited and confident about their work? Of course! Choosing to provide support and ground rules gives employees motivation and feelings of success. Meeting these expectations in the workplace gains trust throughout the organization. The more connection and guidance they have, the more trust they build. The more trust you build, the more they’ll become their whole selves and show up with greater innovation. 


As always, communication is key to success. Being able to communicate with your team can make them feel comfortable and want to grow as a person. If someone was to talk down upon you with little to no communication, would you feel inspired to do your best? If you gave support without boundaries, would they be successful? How about the opposite… boundaries with no support? The trick is to find a balance between setting realistic expectations for yourself and your team and being overly optimistic about what you want to achieve.

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