The Atlas

I know what is expected of me at work

Do you know what is expected of you at work?

It is no accident that this is the very first of Gallup's list of 12 Elements of Employee Engagement. This is often the single biggest stumbling block. But without this being clearly understood, nothing else that follows stands a chance.

What is most interesting to me about this question is how much we all take it for granted. Bosses assume that it's a given. Even employees who legitimately aren't sure are often loathe to ask because they think they should know, and asking is going to make them look dumb.

So it never gets discussed. And then nothing improves. No one is clear. Everyone is disappointed.

This problem is especially hard to pin down in big organizational transitions -- new leadership, mergers and/or acquisitions, layoffs, etc. These types of things almost always change the day-to-day responsibilities of employees who may have once been clear about what was expected of them, but are now unsure.

But in my experience, the hardest and most benign way this manifests itself is getting a new boss.

Over the course of my career, I have rarely survived having someone new brought in over my head. More often than not, I took a job to work for a specific person, and when they leave (for whatever reason), having a new boss handed to me is almost never something I warm up to. Only once in two decades of corporate life did I manage to ride it out, find some common ground with my new boss, to then be able to forge a really great working relationship. Every other time,I packed up and found a new job.

I watch this all the time with my clients now.

A new boss is a massively disruptive and often upsetting thing for someone to adjust to. And, truth be told, I rarely see it handled well. Time and time again, I work with people who are struggling to adjust to a new boss, and nearly every single time the heart of the problem is that they suddenly feel like they have new expectations being placed on them, but they are either unclear or ill-fitting.

The flip side of this equation, of course, is that expectations are a two-way street. You are also allowed to have expectations of your boss.

I was recently talking to a woman with a new boss who was nearly two decades her junior and new to management. Her fear was that he was already showing signs of micromanagement, which was a massive concern for her. So one of the adjustment struggles she had was that he was also expecting her to be ok with a management style that she found suffocating. Her priority ultimately became starting a dialogue with her new boss about what she needed from him, as well as what hewas expecting of her.

Like any relationship, the one between you and your boss is personal and unique. What you each need from each other can and will evolve over time -- as the company grows, as the team changes and as you get to know each other better. But it requires effort on both parts. And while I will always strongly advocate that it is the responsibility of a good leader to initiate this discussion, if they don't, then the ball is in your court.

So, do you really know what is expected of you at work? And are you being clear with your staff about what you expect of them? If not, how can you start this conversation and make sure no one is in the dark?

Have a fantastic week, and remember: trying to be a mind reader is rarely a worth while effort. When in doubt, ask. It's usually the shortest path to clarity.

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