The answer: expectations.  The question: ‘How do I get people to do their job?’expectations lead to great results

This is the most common question I get at leadership development seminars.

The answer is simple. Set clear job expectations and hold people accountable.

A Gallup article revealed that only about 50% of employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. It seems like that number should be a little higher.

One of the most important responsibilities a manager has is to let their staff know the performance expectations of the job. Managers who don’t take the time to figure out the job expectations and communicate them create a disconnected team.

People will rise to your expectations.

When you communicate performance expectations up front, your job as a manager will be much easier.  Some of the biggest problems crop up in companies because issues aren’t discussed. Without previously stated expectations it can be difficult to address a performance issue which can lead to avoidance which leads to still bigger problems down the road.

A simple example is tardiness. Let’s say you are a stickler for starting work at 8am. If you aren’t clear about that expectation from the start it’s very likely that someone will arrive a few minutes late to work at some point.

Many managers are reluctant to say anything the first time someone is late because they don’t want to come across as too rigid. They let it slide and hope the person will show up on time the next day. The employee comes in late again because the manager didn’t say anything. Assumptions were made. It isn’t any easier to mention it the second time so the manager ignores it again and before long they have an ongoing issue on their hands. That’s when the manager starts asking the question: ‘How do I get people to do their job?’

unspoken expectations

Hope is not a strategy when it comes to expectations. The longer you ignore the situation the worse it becomes and the greater the chance you will lose the respect of others on your team and morale takes a nosedive.

When I got my first management job I thought being a manager was all about bossing people around and giving orders. I found out pretty quickly people don’t respond well to that. I was struggling but luckily my manager sent me to management skills training and I learned something that changed everything. I learned that if you are proactive in giving people clear expectations they will meet or exceed them.

I created a simple document that clearly stated the expectations of the job and shared it with each team member before there was a problem. This method ensured everyone was on the same page from the beginning. Because everyone knew what was expected it was much easier to have coaching conversations if someone wasn’t performing up to standards. There were no surprises.

The job expectations document should include objective performance measures for quality, quantity, and time as well as subjective measures for attititude, team work, initiative, or any other soft skill that is relevant to the job, and a category for attendance if that is a big deal for you.

Ideally, the categories on the job expectations document should match what is on the performance review. This provides consistency for the team member and makes it easier for the manager to track performance.

This document is not intended to cover every task of the job, just the main functions, and it is not the job description.  Go for simplicity.  The purpose is to be clear and concise so you should include no more than 6 categories. Follow the 3, 2, 1 formula:

  • 3 key performance measures
  • 2 subjective areas
  • 1 attendance

There should be a clear connection between the job description, the expectations, and the performance review.  The point is to eliminate any surprises and set people up for success. [Get a copy of Communicate Like a Boss for examples and instructions on how to create a job expectations document.]

This is the clear, fair answer to the question ‘How do I get people to do their job?’

Liz Uram works with leaders to get better results through clear communication. Visit to find out how she can work with your team.

The Answer: Set Expectations
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