I was catching up with friends via a conference call recently and our conversation drifted to workplaces.
One of my friends, Pete, seemed to be having a difficult time at his office.
When I asked him the reason, he shrugged and replied, “my boss expects way too much from me.
My goals are almost unattainable. And it’s not even his fault, I don’t know how to say no to him”.
Pete is not alone in this struggle.
Most people find managing expectations of their managers a tricky job.
And yet, it remains the topmost skill for ensuring a stress-free work environment and a smooth career.
In an ideal world, your manager would know everything about your schedule, your vision for your career and your strengths in the workplace.
She would keep these in mind and allocate the right tasks to you.
The reality, however, is starkly different.
What you can do to avoid this situation is simple – set right expectations with your managers by clearly communicating and demonstrating accountability of your work.
Your manager plays the role of a mentor in your career.
Setting the right expectations with her will only help her to consider your goals while deciding upon your tasks and duties.
Your professional life depends on how well you communicate your aspirations and manage expectations to the best of your abilities.
In this article, we explore various ways that can help in setting expectations and communicating with clarity in the workplace.
To help you out, we have prepared a list of actionable tips that can help you set the right manager’s expectations.
Table of Contents
13 Tips to Set Expectations with Your Manager
1 Know your strengths
Self awareness is the first step towards self development.
We all have some inherent characteristics that make us unique and help us perform better at certain tasks.
At the workplace, there are a few tasks and situations that stimulate your energies and motivate you to work better.
These are the aspects of your job that keep you going and help you find satisfaction beyond monetary gains.
Some of us are great at analysis and finding the root cause of any issue while some of us enjoy coordinating with people.
Whatever it is that helps you contribute efficiently to the team goal, you need to find it and communicate it to your manager.
One of the main goals that a manager pursues is finding the right person for the right job.
Nothing will make their job easier than a direct report letting them know about their preferred responsibilities and tasks.
In fact, matching your competencies to the right job will only help them in planning your goals better and setting the right expectations.
Pro Tip: Try to note down every activity that you enjoy and perform better. Discuss these activities with your manager in your next one on one meeting and tell them what motivates you to perform better in tasks and how you can optimize them for your career.
2 Understand your weaknesses
It is human nature to celebrate one’s strength and ignore the weakness like it doesn’t exist.
Especially at a workplace, admitting to one’s weakness may feel intimidating.
But, identifying your weaknesses is as important as finding your strengths. The weaknesses hold back your development and prevent you from exploring your true potential.
In fact, this is an aspect where your manager can become your guide and help you identify the areas where you need to improve.
Ask for his honest opinion and feedback regarding your work in your one on one meetings.
A mutual discussion will help you get a better insight and in understanding your manager’s expectations from you.
Also, it will give them a realistic picture of your competencies and how they can map them in a more judicious and productive manner.
Pro Tip: Do not wait up until the tasks become too tedious or get delayed. It is better to communicate and share your doubts as soon as possible and set the right expectations from the beginning.
3 Set early examples
The beginning of everything tends to make us more enthusiastic and energetic. This is particularly true in case of a new job or a promotion.
You may end up overworking and outdoing yourself during the initial phase.
Some of you may stay till late in the office or take up extra work to create a good impression or just lend a helping hand.
This behaviour is great for the team spirit but may set unrealistic expectations on your behalf.
Thus, it is important that you only set examples that are easier to follow in the longer run. Commit only what you can achieve with ease and efficiency.
So, it is important to watch your steps and set the tone of your work life.
4Learn to say no
The last point of setting realistic examples brings us to this topic. Drawing a line and learning to say no is one of the most valued skills in the corporate world.
When you agree to everything that you’re asked for, you’re going to end up with a pile of unfinished work, sleepless nights and probably, underwhelming performance.
The only thing that you can do to avoid this situation is to say “no” politely.
It seems like an outrageous idea to decline an offer which may put you in the good books of your boss or even fetch you better recognition.
However, what is considered to be bonus work right now may soon become a standard expectation.
In fact, saying “no” appropriately will also indicate your bandwidth and help your manager in setting expectations that you can achieve without putting additional hours and efforts.
Pro Tip: We understand that it is difficult to say no in a workplace, especially to your manager. However, there’re healthy ways to decline a task. You can begin your conversation in the following ways –
- “Thank you for considering me but my existing tasks will take up all my time.
- “That’s a very interesting job but I don’t think I can spend time on it right now because…”
- “Would it be okay if you rescheduled it for some other day or found another resource? I might not be able to give a sufficient amount of time right now”.
5Always keep room for uncertainties
One of the most important principles of accounting is conservatism which states that one should anticipate every loss and ignore any expected profit.
It says that you should consider every possible uncertainty to prepare for all kinds of situations.
This principle is applicable in each aspect of life and is equally important in setting your manager’s expectation in the workplace.
Remember, the future situation may not remain as you expect it to be.
You must always keep room for uncertainties.
Your performance at work is affected by many factors and your commitment must be made only after you’ve reflected upon them.
Hence, always keep a space for the unforeseen situations while setting targets with your manager.
In return, your manager will understand your challenges, your blockers and the assistance you may require for certain tasks.
And let us spill a little management secret for you – setting manager’s expectations becomes easier when your manager knows about everything that affects your performance.
6Have regular one on one meetings
One on one meetings are meant for establishing clarity in communication and understanding each other’s expectations and challenges.
The intimate nature of one on one meetings helps in the free flow of thoughts and leads to a productive discussion with actionable outcomes.
As an employee, this is your ideal chance to discuss your expectations and goals with your managers while understanding your manager’s expectations from you and his plans to utilize your skills.
One on one meetings are your quality time with your manager. You can throw light on the challenges you face and ways to overcome them.
You can have effective one on one meetings with your manager with the help of a one on one meeting template.
Letting your manager have a glimpse of your responsibilities will drive him to set achievable, realistic expectations from you.
Pro tip: Make ‘setting expectations’ a part of your one on one meeting agenda and dedicate time on this discussion.
Effective One on One Meetings
We built a software that automatically schedules, lets you set agenda, take notes, exchange feedback and track actions – all in one place.
7Never delay bad news
In a team, every role and task is interdependent. Your task is a singular block in the larger aim of the organizational goal.
Thus, it becomes important to share your progress or challenges with your manager regularly.
Realistic communication helps in planning the work better. It also keeps your manager in loop about the assistance you may need or any delays that may be caused.
If you’re unable to deliver a task on time, you need to keep your manager informed so that she can execute plan B (or prepare a plan B).
Your timely update will help in finding ways to mitigate the situation.
Knowing the status of your work also helps them in setting the right expectation as per the timeline.
Your failure to communicate the issues at the right time will cause panic and mismanagement in the end.
While providing the right information will help in forming realistic manager’s expectations about the work and its timelines.
8 Don’t hesitate to ask for help
We often feel awkward asking for help at work.
It is not easy to admit that you’re facing difficulty at work you were chosen to do.
Often, you delay asking for help as long as possible because you want to prove your worth or do not want to seem incapable.
However, this only adds up to the complexity of the task and affects your efficiency.
Trying to ace every task will only land you in a messy situation.
Even if you end up completing your task, your manager will have a wrong impression of your comfort level in performing it.
As a result, you will either have a difficult conversation or a set of difficult goals.
Let your peers and managers know that you need their support in completing a particular deliverable.
Your request for assistance will help your manager in designing achievable goals for you in future. It helps them in knowing what drives you and what creates hindrances in your performance.
You can handle your manager’s expectation with ease if you let them know that you will need their help in the process.
Your pro-activeness will keep them involved and informed.
9 Focus on building rapport
You cannot assess your manager’s expectations if you don’t know them well. When you know their working style, their pain points and their larger vision for their team, you can align yourself to meet their expectations.
Setting the right expectations and finding a perfect balance between expectation and reality is a mutual task which requires you and your manager to be on the same page.
Thus, knowing them well and bonding with them will help you in curating the right professional rhythm suitable for both of you.
Pro Tip: Use your one on one meetings to build a connection with your manager. Go beyond your professional topics and try to understand her overall vision. Knowing a person helps them in understanding their behavior and their expectations of people around them.
10 Ask the right questions
Asking questions is the simplest way to both learn and also let people know more about your personality.
One right question can lead you to solving multiple problems at the workplace.
It also helps in decoding your manager’s expectation and what she’s looking out for.
Asking questions also helps in delivering your task better while identifying the challenges.
According to a research, people tend to avoid asking questions or help at work because they either fear no response or a futile suggestion.
As a result, they work on a trial and error method rather than questioning their managers or colleagues.
This attitude puts them in a situation where they’re grappling in the dark without a proper direction.
All they need to do is let go of their hesitation and ask the right questions.
When you ask a question, your manager realizes that you’re taking your task seriously.
Moreover, it also helps your manager in understanding different ways to help you and make things simpler.
Manager’s expectations are always shaped by their direct reports attitude and involvement.
Asking them questions and discussing the task with them will only lead to setting realistic and achievable goals.
11 Always seek clarity of goals
A report suggests that half of the managers don’t set clear goals for their direct reports.
If you don’t have the clarity on what is expected of you, how would you plan your strategy and achieve your targets?
So, it’s important to always ask your managers about their expectations.
Get them to quantify your goals and ask them how your performance would be measured.
Also, make sure that you have clear instructions about who you should be reporting to and who should be reporting to you.
You can ask them questions like these to establish a clear picture of their expectations –
- What are the parameters on which my performance will be measured?
- What part of the tasks am I solely accountable for?
- What kind of support do you think I need?
- How does my task contribute to the overall organizational target?
12 Establish clear lines of autonomy
Autonomy at work refers to the extent of freedom one has at the workplace. Everyone has a preferred style of working.
Some of us like to be guided by a mentor at every step while some prefer working with independence and autonomy.
Your manager and you should have mutual sync on the kind of freedom you will need for a particular task.
If you are someone who likes autonomy but your manager micromanages, you will lose interest in the task and feel frustrated.
And, if you need guidance and your manager seems unapproachable after the delegation of the task, you may feel lost.
Thus, it is very important to discuss this with your manager and set clear lines of autonomy regarding every aspect of your job.
Your clarity on this matter will help in setting the tone of your workplace vibe.
Moreover, discussing autonomy will set your manager’s expectation about their involvement and assistance required in the task.
13 Discuss channels of communication
Some of us like to discuss every update in-person while some of us prefer to hold a conversation over an email.
Ask your manager how they would like to communicate and find a middle ground which is acceptable to you both.
Establishing a communication system will improve the quality of conversation and accelerate the exchange of thoughts.
Discussing communication channels may seem unimportant but it is crucial for establishing and promoting clear communication.
This ease will promote exchange of ideas and help in setting right manager’s expectations.
Managing expectations with your manager will help you navigate your career on your terms and achieve goals within a timely, yet realistic manner.
It will reduce the chances of miscommunication and keep the work environment healthy and friendly.
These are simple steps that you can easily inculcate in your daily work life. However, their impact will help you manage your boss’s expectations and in fact, direct them in your favor.
Remember, your career is your responsibility and setting the right expectation is only a stepping stone to devising a work-life tailored for your abilities and the greater vision for life.
The right balance between your desire and your manager’s expectation can only be found with discussions and mutual understanding.
Clear communication and transparency can help you save many productive hours. In the end, all we need is achievable goals and a happy boss.