Are Unspoken Expectations Breaking Your Company Culture?

Are Unspoken Expectations Breaking Your Company Culture?

I spoke to a friend last week who went for an interview at a prestigious marketing company. He was offered the job but turned it down. Why? – Because it was clear from the get-go that the expectations of his role between the founder and his line manager were very different. He knew that if he took the role, he would never be able to please anyone. Despite his hard work and achievements, he knew that one person would always be unhappy with the results he provided. 

Expectation, assumptions – however, you want to label it, in many company cultures leaders and managers just ‘assume’ or ‘expect’ things are going to be done a certain way. And when they’re not, they get disappointed with their team. 

But the truth is we rarely talk about our expectations in any area of our lives. For example, before you entered your current romantic relationship, did you both sit down and honestly talk about what you were expecting from that relationship? 

You may sometimes be amazed at the expectations we hold for each other, and our relationships when we say them out loud to one another. 

Just like a relationship, a culture needs to be nurtured. Often where it falls down is in the area of unspoken expectations.

Leaders get frustrated at their teams. Teams constantly feel undervalued or not appreciated. 

Expectation can ruin job roles, company cultures, communication, projects and processes. It can bleed a positive, enthusiastic team dry; transforming once passionate and driven people into frustration and job-seeking. 

It can make that project your team have been tirelessly working on, gain completely different results from what you imagined. 

It turns into a vicious cycle, and all because so much of the time, we’re not open and honest about what we expect – and if those expectations are realistic. 

So how can we turn this around in a company culture? 

Be Open

Leaders have to make their expectations clear to their managers and teams. 

News flash – people are not mind readers. Unless you make it clear and communicate openly and honestly, you will never be able to get feedback from your expectations.

Openness leads to better communication. You may voice your expectations and realise that people are either on the same page, feel they are limiting or too far-reaching. But how do we know where the mark is when it hasn’t been discussed? 

In any company, there should be a culture where expectations are discussed first and foremost, not when a bump in the road occurs. 

Use Your Values

Your values are the guiding actions and behaviours of your company culture. Ultimately, they give people the roadmap to your expectations. How you wish for them to work on behalf of the company. 

You may have these written down, but are they actioned, and are you all living and breathing these values as if it was your religion? 

I see many organisations with jargon-filled values, often too many values to count, and with anyone barely understanding what they mean or why they’re there. 

Don’t just use your values as a tick-box exercise, live by them, act by them, behave by them. 

Talk More Assume Less

We don’t do enough face-to-face talking in our organisations. Yes, many of us do lengthy, and often unnecessary meetings, but are we talking about the points at hand, the things that are ultimately making us happy or frustrated? 

As both leaders and employees, we have a responsibility to talk about what’s expected of us.

Yes, it can be an awkward conversation. But without knowing what’s expected, we’re asking people to shoot in the dark. 

We cannot just continue to assume and hope for the best. Each member of the company needs to understand that expectations should be discussed and talked about.  

To learn more about how you can improve your company culture communication, book our company culture training. 


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    About The Author

    Lizzie Benton is a people and culture specialist who supports organisations in developing a unique company culture and building engaged teams. Lizzie has been recognised as a millennial changing the world of work, and has been featured in the Metro, HuffingtonPost and has spoken across the UK on employee engagement. When not consulting or running a workshop, Lizzie can be found in rural Lincolnshire enjoying afternoon tea and fresh air.