Page published on 8th December 2022
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Over the past two years, the pandemic has changed many things for many people. This includes the way people work and how they feel and think about workplaces and working arrangements. As such, now is the time to re-evaluate our working relationships. We need to work together and discuss how our expectations of each other in the workplace may have changed. Stella Chandler, director of Focal Point Training, took us through their “Exchanging Expectations” model and how it can help us ensure that everyone on a team is working well together, particularly if they are working at different times and in different locations.
The Exchanging Expectations model focuses on being really clear about our expectations of one another, through regular, planned, face-to-face (or virtual) conversations between colleagues, peers, team members and managers. The Covid-19 lockdowns have given us a unique chance to reset our ways of working and now is a really good time to check in with the people you work with and make sure you understand what they expect, and to lay out your own expectations too. It is important to balance employer and employee needs, and people are happier when they are clear what is expected of them. People also need to understand why they are asked to do things and these conversations offer the opportunity for better understanding all round.
When to exchange expectations
- To start a working relationship: Stella advocates having the first conversation on the first afternoon of employment, to get things off to the right start with everyone really clear on what is expected of them.
- To maintain a working relationship: it is important to remember that expectations shift as time goes on, and so these conversations should be refreshed regularly to maintain a good working relationship.
- To grow: similarly, the model can be used to develop a relationship when somebody changes their role.
- To tackle tricky conversations: the model can even be used to tackle tricky conversations that come up, and if you know that you have been really clear in your expectations throughout a working relationship, you can enter those difficult conversations with confidence.
How to exchange expectations
- Prepare. Identify who you need to exchange expectations with. Explain the process, giving examples. Set a time to allow both parties to prepare. Make sure you have specific examples of the expectations you have. For example, “be supportive” can look very different to different people.
- Discuss. This should be face-to-face, whether that is in-person or virtually, but should not be done by email. The eye contact and body language aspect of this conversation can be very important. There may be some negotiation; people may have unrealistic expectations, but when it is explained why they are unrealistic they will likely accept them.
- Agree. Write down what has been agreed so both parties have something to refer back to.
- Review. Regularly review both parties’ expectations, referring back to the written agreement, as expectations can and will change over time.
How to exchange expectations well
Specifics are really important. If you ask your manager to be supportive, tell them what support looks like to you. It could be written praise, or regular phone calls to check in, or opportunities to step up. Don’t be afraid to ask “silly questions”. There are no silly questions, and perhaps asking what the dress code is, for example, will open the opportunity for useful discussions about client expectations, or asking if it is OK to ring your manager at home will give them the opportunity to say actually it is better to ring in the evening than during the day. Be open to each other’s ideas and feedback, and commit to what is agreed.
So much has changed in the workplace since Covid and now is a really good time to check in with your colleagues. Everyone is happier when they are really clear about what specifically is expected of them, and they have had the opportunity to let colleagues know what they expect in return. The job description may tell you what is expected of you in a role, but it is these conversations that let you know how you are expected to carry it out.
If you’d like to know more about our Inclusivity Unlocked! programme…
…visit this post. You can also access an up-to-date listing of the events and associated resources here, and a compilation of top tips from previous webinars here. In case you missed the live event there’s a recording of “Teamwork, Trust and the post-Covid Tide”, along with Stella Chandler’s slides, here.