Are You Guilty Of Setting Uncommunicated Expectations?

If there’s one area that I’ve seen leaders fail in time and again, it’s in setting clear expectations. The expectations leaders typically have for their teams are uncommunicated.

You know the ones… These are the expectations we set in our minds but never let those we’re leading know about.

Clear expectations are a must in leadership

My Unspoken Expectations

We can have these moments in all areas of my life. One of the areas I’ve done this in is my marriage.

When Pam and I first got married, I loved to fish. And I loved to eat fish.

But there was one thing I hated to do: Cleaning the fish.

I had an uncommunicated expectation for this as well. I would catch the fish. I would bring the fish home. Pam would clean the fish.

It was never explicitly stated, but it’s the scenario that ran through my head.

When I brought the fish home and told Pam it was her job to clean the fish… Well, you can imagine how that went over.

My lack of communicating my expectations led to frustration, on both our parts. It wasn’t good for our marriage.

It also isn’t good for our roles as leaders.

When Leaders Don’t Communicate Expectations

Leaders don’t realize that they’re failing to share their expectations with the team. Most believe they’ve already done so.

They’ve communicated expectations:

In a closed-door meeting

When they on-boarded the employee

Through the organization’s handbook

In their own heads (This one gets all of us in trouble)

The problem with sharing our expectations in these settings is that we rarely do a good job. The expectations we lay out are vague or meaningless.


By failing to lay out clear expectations, our team doesn’t know what to do.

Well, they have a broad sense of what needs to be done. However, they often don’t receive a clearly defined end-goal.

This leads to employees lacking a sense of purpose and meaning in their jobs.

They don’t know what to do, where to go, or how to get the job done. And it frustrates them.

The frustration they feel leads to problems in other areas as well.

That’s the problem when we don’t communicate expectations.

Begin Sharing Clear Expectations

The only way to combat this is to begin clearly communicating your expectations. Not just the thousand-foot view.

There are steps we can take to make our expectations known. You can:

Have job descriptions that are clear and concise: We’ve all seen job descriptions that describe the job and what it entails. Then, we add the phrase: And other duties as needed.

This phrase is vague. It tells the employee nothing except that you are going to continue to add more duties without being clear on what the true job is.

Let’s do away with “Duties as needed.” Let’s begin expecting our employees to do the job that we gave them instead.

State your expectations frequently: To be crystal clear on your expectations, you’re going to have to repeat them… Often.

Your employees are going to say you sound like a broken record when it comes to expectations. That’s good.

This means you’re communicating what’s expected and they’re hearing it. Keep repeating them!

Ask others if you’re being clear: We think a lot of times in our heads. We work through what’s expected and then we verbally share it.

Only we don’t share what we were exactly thinking. We give the condensed version.

We miss crucial portions of what we want out of our team.

Before you share your expectations with the team, go over it with someone else. Have this person critique your expectations and ask for clarification on the areas they’re not sure of.

Doing this will give you feedback and help you craft better expectations.

Question: Do you have trouble setting clear expectations? Why or why not? Let’s talk about this in the comment section below.


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