Time to press reset
26th August 2021
After 18 months of turmoil, many businesses and employees are tentatively returning to the workplace. Whilst some never left those who did are currently discussing the merits of ‘normal’ versus hybrid working patterns. Life has changed significantly for many during the pandemic and for some, working expectations may have changed. For example, one coaching client I spoke to had been regularly commuting pre-covid on a 4 hour round trip for a 2 hour meeting because previously that was what had been expected. However, with the prevalence of Zoom and Teams meetings during lockdown, this has rendered his commute obsolete allowing meetings to happen effectively without the need to be sat in traffic for 4 hours of his working day. But what now? Is he expected to return to the commute or continue with the new way of working?
This is only one example of the many ways working life has changed expectations for both employee and employers and can be a difficult and confusing time for the manager.
Communicating and agreeing expectations is a vital part of the role of the manager at any time but is particularly important during or after a period of change. It provides an opportunity for expectations to be reviewed and/or aligned to the new situation or environment. To re-set or reinforce expectations for everyone. As teams return to the workplace, where might you need to re-set expectations? Have expectations changed having worked from home for long periods? What might have changed at work that they may need to think about or be aware of? We have noticed that during the pandemic whilst people were working at home the lines between work life and home life became blurred. With nowhere to go during lockdown and technology at our fingertips, people continued to work into the evening or at weekends, quite simply because they had nothing else to do in some cases. The risk is that there is no off button, no down time and we are always ‘on’ to work but is this sustainable going forward? For most of us the answer I suspect would be no and may need to be redressed.
At Contact Consulting we have over 30 years of experience working with managers across the world and, regardless of nationality or sector, we have found that many difficulties with engagement and performance can be traced back to a lack of clarity regarding expectations. Failing to agree and communicate clear expectations upstream can lead to misunderstandings, performance issues and at worst, conflict downstream because assumptions were made or there was a different set of expectations in play. You only have to think about your own relationships with partners or children to appreciate how a disconnect of expectations can lead to misunderstandings or arguments.
As George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” and that even if communication has taken place there is no guarantee that the message has been heard and understood. Making expectations explicit rather than making assumptions that people understand what is expected is more important than ever as people return to the workplace.