Navigating the Murky Waters of Workplace Expectations

By Anton Rius

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We spend most of our work lives managing other peoples’ expectations. Yet, half of employees say they don’t know what’s expected of them at work, according to Gallup research.

Sadly, we don’t have to look far to find stories of how this unfolds in the workplace.

Consider performance management, for example. Peggy Parskey recently shared several colleagues’ experiences with annual performance reviews:

“My manager indicated I’d be promoted if I accomplished specific goals. At the annual review, she agreed I had met or exceeded all of them. Then she told me that she had received feedback that my interpersonal skills were poor, so my promotion would be delayed. I have worked for this manager for two years. This was the first time she raised this issue.”

“We set goals in January and didn’t look at them again for a year. By then, my job had changed so much that the goals didn’t make any sense.”

“I thought I was doing a great job and I’d be rated highly. My manager thought my work was sub-par. He told me for the first time at the annual review.”

Professional development programs provide another example of how expectations are violated. Here are several worker quotes from TINYpulse’s 2017 Employee Engagement Report:

“I’m not quite sure what promotions, if any, are or are not available to me or my colleagues at our level. There seems to be a high rate of turnover that may be, in part, due to a lack of clarity on how to grow within the business.”

“It has never been explained to me what each role entails and what I need to achieve in order to progress.”

“While I feel like there is a lot of future opportunity in the organization, I have no idea how to get promoted. My manager has never discussed development or promotion opportunities with me.”

TINYpulse’s research found that 42% of managers feel that management is transparent, but only 25% of employees agree. Clearly, there’s a disconnect.

Something’s wrong with the way most companies create, manage, and communicate expectations. Although leaders assume that expectations are clear, there are many other personal beliefs and assumptions at play under the surface, which only muddy the waters.

Psychological Contracts Explained

When an organization hires an employee, they enter into a psychological contract of expectations. The employer expects a certain level of performance from the employee, and the employee expects to be treated with fairness and respect in return.

When workplace expectations aren’t met, this psychological contract is breached, potentially causing significant damage to employee engagement, retention, and the overall level of trust in the workplace.

Researchers Elizabeth Wolfe and Sandra Morrison found two primary causes of psychological contract violations, explained in two separate studies published in 1997 and 2000.

1. Reneging. Reneging happens when a company is either unwilling or unable to fulfill its obligations to an employee. Poor company performance or unforeseen changes may occur, and the company is unable to deliver on its promises to the employee. Or, if the employee is performing Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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