Managing Employee Expectations in Today's Workplace

Mitchell_managing employee expectations October 17, 2022 By: Barbara Mitchell

Employees have new expectations for their managers and their organizations. By listening and leading with empathy and trust, managers can show their staff they support and respect them.

Q: With all the changes in how and where we work now, I’m having trouble managing employee expectations. Do you have any suggestions to share to help me meet our business objectives while dealing with what my staff expects from me and our organization?

A: Let’s just acknowledge that being a manager in our current world is challenging. You’ve raised something that many of us are dealing with daily—how to maximize productivity while working in unchartered territory. Please know you aren’t alone and that we’re all learning on the fly. And kudos to you for acknowledging that your employees have new expectations.

To start, I’d work on your listening skills. You will miss what is important to your staff if you make assumptions about what you think they expect. Odds are, if you aren’t listening carefully, you will not get it right, so take the time to listen well and often.

Your employees need to know you are there to support them
Here is some of what I am hearing that employees currently expect from their managers and their organizations. Remember, this list may not be exactly what your staff is looking for, but it might be a place to start:

Frequent feedback. No matter where your people are working, they want to hear how they are doing. They want to know what is going well and what they can do to improve. Feedback is a key to having a well-functioning organization.

Respect. Your staff wants to feel that they are respected for the work they do and the skills they bring. Let them know how much you value them as human beings—not just as employees.

Less micromanaging and more trust. Hire talented people and set clear expectations of what you want them to do. Then, get out of their way and let them do their jobs. However, you must hold them accountable if they are not meeting your expectations.

Empathy. Your employees need to know you understand their issues and are there to support them.

More control over when they work. Research is showing that when people work is now more important than where they work. Whenever possible, be fair when scheduling meetings and deadlines so that your employees can work at times when they are most productive.

Ultimately, with a lot of listening and a lot of empathy, I think you and your team will be all right.

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR, The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook, The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book, and her latest The Decisive Manager. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer? Send it to