Your Performance Expectations Reasonable?- Part One

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There are many reasons why employees are unable to meet performance expectations:

  1. The expectation is not realistic in relation to the employee’s skills, experience or position in the decision-making hierarchy.
  2. The expectations are too vague.
  3. The time limits for the task are unrealistic.
  4. The manager mistakenly assumes that the employee has the necessary knowledge and resources to perform the task.
  5. The manager does not check to see and factor in what the employee is working on at the time and what other deadlines and projects s/he may have.
  6. The manager unrealistically expects the employee to work as long and as hard as the manager does.
  7. The manager expects the job not only to be done, but to be done to an impossible standard.
  8. The manager implicitly knows what performance s/he wants but is not able to explicitly state the expectations in clear and understandable language.
  9. The manager keeps changing his or her performance expectations.
  10. The performance expectations are too subjective, meaning that the manager will “know” acceptable performance when s/he “sees” it.

Managers need to set reasonable and achievable expectations for the work that their employees perform. These performance expectations should be specific, objective, observable, measurable, realistic and time-bound.

There are five strategies that can help managers set expectations that will allow their employees to perform better and reduce their own frustration and stress in the work place. We’ll discuss the first two in this blog and the last three in the next blog.

Strategy #1Know your employees’ capabilities.

It is important to understand the capabilities of your employees so that you do not set your expectations unrealistically high or unnecessarily low. It is perfectly acceptable for you to give a stretch assignment to help an employee develop new skills. However, if you do, you need to lower your expectations in comparison with what you would expect of an employee who already possesses those skills.

Sometimes you will need to build your employee’s sense of comfort and confidence that s/he has the skills and ability to perform the assigned task.

Strategy #2: Establish a performance expectation that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

It helps to use the SMART standard when establishing a performance expectation. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

  • The expectation is specificand stated in clear and unambiguous terms.
  • Performance can be measured objectively according to a pre-determined and applicable measurement.
  • The employee has the resources necessary to attain the performance expectation.
  • The performance expectation is relevant, which means it is consistent with existing policy, precedent and protocol. If it is not consistent, there should be a clear and compelling reason for it.
  • The time it is due is specified.

In reflection,


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