Expectations Can Be the Key to Any Relationship, Even For Supervisors

Being a supervisor is like being in a long term relationship, especially when you consider the amount of time that co-workers spend together and the wide variety of problems they face together. Keeping any relationship on the straight and narrow can be a lot of work, and plenty of experts will offer you their own advice on what the key is to doing that. Although I am no expert, I will also offer my own advice – the key is expectations.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a class dealing with supervisory issues for command staff and, like most courses, I was lucky enough to learn some new things and validate some others that I have been doing for a long time. One of those validated items was having clear expectations with your employees concerning both what you expect from them and what they expect from you. Although I had never labeled it in this manner, I realized it was a common part of my supervisory toolbox.

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Review expectations with employees to establish a positive relationship.

Like any supervisory tool, expectations can be both good and bad; the real art is determining how to develop ones which are both realistic and achievable. Take for example a first meeting between a new employee and their supervisor; maybe you can even recall one you were involved in. At some point, the supervisor is expected to explain to the employee what is expected of him/her. If, as the supervisor, your answer is “Just do your job and we will get along just fine,” do you think you have laid out realistic and achievable expectations?  I do not think so.

Consider for a moment what “Just do your job” means. Very few positions are so well defined that this simple statement provides any guidance or achievable goals. Now, consider what “we will get along just fine” conveys. Does this mean that you will never disagree with or reprimand the employee?  No, the use of this or similar statements is nothing more than a cop out on the supervisor’s part, usually because they do not know what else to say or simply do not want to take the time to put any thought into the question.

Now, what if you rephrased the statement and responded with “If you show up on time, complete your work to the best of your ability and within department guidelines and SOP I promise you I will support you whenever possible and help you learn when necessary.”?  Can you see how a couple minutes of thought allows you to provide clear expectations which are both realistic and achievable? Can you see how you have also taken the first step in establishing what the employee can expect from you? Wouldn’t you rather be a part of this conversation regardless of which side of the table you found yourself?

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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