Trust, Service

& Accountability

Guide for Managers

Set and clarify expectations

Good performance starts with employees having a clear understanding of goals and expectations. This first critical step establishes the requirements for them to perform their role.

What’s involved

An employee needs to know:

  • their role, required capabilities, responsibilities and contribution within the team and the organisation
  • what they are accountable for and expected to deliver to their team and organisation’s mission and goals
  • expectations around ethics, values and behaviour
  • how their performance will be measured and assessed.

You should discuss these expectations clearly and openly with each employee, making sure that you both have a shared understanding of each other’s responsibilities and accountabilities.

Performance expectations should be based on the capabilities employees need to carry out their role effectively. They should also be derived from the public sector core values and directly relate to your agency’s mission and goals. Performance expectations must describe acceptable behaviours and actions expected and define work outputs required.

You should develop these expectations collaboratively with each employee (except for legislated or mandatory corporate requirements or objectives) to ensure you both understand what is required.

Once you have established expectations, you should continuously monitor your employees’ performance, provide feedback to reinforce their performance and clarify expectations on an ongoing basis.

When to set or clarify expectations

You should set and clarify expectations on an ongoing basis, but particularly when a new employee starts work, an existing employee takes on a new role or their responsibilities change, and when you take on a new team or the team’s responsibilities change. Doing this will help employees clarify their responsibilities and realign their performance.

Failing to set clear standards of performance and behaviour can cause employee confusion or misunderstanding, leaving employees unable to perform their role even if they are capable of doing so.

While it is important to set and clarify expectations for employees individually, it is equally important to do this for the whole team.

Setting expectations for your team

Teams are diverse, with different dynamics, cultures and people. Change – whether within the team or in the environment it operates in – can create uncertainty.

One of the most important steps in building a high-performing team is to set or clarify expectations. This gives the team an opportunity to discuss their expectations before working together.

What’s involved

When setting and clarifying expectations for your team, discuss shared goals and values, and how they relate to those of the organisation and the public sector. Ask your team to consider its role within the organisation and what it is expected to deliver.

It’s important to determine the key roles and responsibilities within the team and how decisions will be made. To ensure good working relationships, establish how team members are expected to behave and conduct themselves at work, and with other team members; and what behaviours will not be accepted, such as bullying or harassment. Lastly, set the performance standards they are expected to meet, and how these will be measured and assessed.

When to set or clarify expectations

You should set, or clarify and discuss expectations with a team when:

  • you start to lead a new team or a new employee joins the team
  • the team’s responsibilities change or team member responsibilities need to be clarified
  • workplace or organisational policies that guide employee conduct and behaviours are introduced or changed.

Setting expectations and regularly clarifying and reinforcing them on an ongoing basis will avoid misunderstandings, conflict and disagreements within the team.