May 6th, 2022

TJ Kastning

Why is setting expectations so important to making employees successful?

How many times have you heard someone say that a job wasn’t what they expected? Who does that reflect on? Both them and the employer, no? They failed to ask enough questions to discover what the job really was and the employer failed to disclose enough about the role. Transparent information flow is necessary for understanding and mutual commitment.

Setting expectations is key for great employees and terrible ones. You can set expectations about what your interview process consists of, always what the next step will be (and follow up!), what onboarding looks like, how they will be trained, who they will report to and work with, what they will be responsible for accomplishing (in detail) and how to do execute (in detail), what their KPIs are, what remedial coaching is, what your core values are, what your long term plan for the business is, how people grow in the organization, what sacrifices they may be asked to make, or what kind of growth opportunity waits for those willing to push hard.

There are four stages to setting expectations for employees.

  1. Interview
  2. Offer
  3. Onboarding
  4. Review

Expansive expectation setting is establishing your parameters of control so the candidate can evaluate how much they can commit to your management style. It is not reasonable to conceal your management style and expectations from interviewees and expect their flexibility in the thick of problems.


Your interview process should be mostly defined. I say ‘mostly’ because this is a human process and you should be ready to thoughtfully intelligently divert relative to circumstances. Thoughtful creative interviewing trumps legalistic rule-following. Understand the philosophy of the interview doctrine and stay within that, while you go outside the rules. Different people can require different measures to understand them. However, remember you cannot reasonably explore outside the box until you understand what is inside the box. Process first, creativity second.

Since your interview process is mostly defined, you can set realistic expectations for the candidate. This will communicate your professionalism, organization, and seriousness about hiring properly. Building respect is critical through the interview process. Never hire someone who does not respect you. You cannot demand respect, you can only accrue it.


Offer documents should include responsibilities and expectations, reiterating what has already been shared in the interviews. Remedial coaching for underperforming employees should be defined. This will communicate that the organization takes individual accountability seriously.


First impressions are important, for employees integrating with the team and the team accepting and respecting the new hire. KPIs should scale predictably as they understand the company’s operations and develop their niche. Don’t expect a new employee to operate at 100% but have a clearly communicated plan to get them there.

Assign them a mentor with the authority necessary to make them feel welcomed and taken care of.


Regular reviews, formal or informal, are absolutely critical! Reviewing the employees successes and failures gives you invaluable insight to strengths to build on and weaknesses to support. Your reviews should allow the employee to self-manage first, identifying their own growth initiatives and giving you visibility into their thought process. Spending time with subordinates to flesh out their success will also foster collaboration and trust as they see your interest in their unique version of success.

Business and management is complex and hard, but it is a solved problem. There is concrete knowledge and emotional intelligence that makes businesses successful. If something bad is happening in your business, reevaluate your principles and read up on new perspectives.

As my father often said “I don’t care how many mistakes you make, I care if you repeat them.”