Setting Boundaries and Expectations as a Manager

All employees need a clear understanding of what’s expected of them at work, according to more than 30 years of Gallup research. But only half of employees surveyed by Gallup say they have clarity on what’s expected of them. No wonder people are stressed!

At its best, managing is about getting organizational results—and that requires setting boundaries.

For example, what time does everyone need to show up for work? How do you want them to respond to customer complaints? What specific results do you expect from employees?

Ideally, a manager’s focus should always be: How do I consistently bring out the best in each person?

Setting clear rules and expectations begins with identifying the actions—or lack thereof—that will cost an employee their job. Put those in writing. Then, identify the expectations they need to meet, and put those in writing, too.

Communicate those often, and don’t assume your employees understand—have them describe everything back to you in their own words to make sure, and review them on a regular schedule.

Once your people understand the parameters of their job security, it’s important to clearly state what level of performance is required. Be specific in promising, and consistent in delivering, consequences—including rewards and recognition.

If someone breaks the rules or fails to meet expectations, implement a series of counseling discussions to help them excel at their job. Otherwise, you’re hoping, not managing—and you’re unwittingly letting your employees hold your vision captive!

That’s not what they signed up for—most people want to do a good job. When performance expectations are clear and specific, people know what they need to do and feel secure in their work—assuming they are meeting those expectations and you’re providing all the resources they need in order to do their job.

When I think about management—setting boundaries and expectations—I am reminded of a Ken Blanchard quote: “A river without banks is just a puddle.”

In a river, think about all the energy that is built by water forcing its way through the walls and banks. If we were to dig away at those banks, the energy in the water would wane and lose power.

As managers, when we establish clear boundaries, we help people focus their energy. And that’s a good thing!

Keith Baldwin is a strengths-based performance coach who produces measurable performance and engagement results for entrepreneurs, teams and individuals. This article is adapted from his book “Light Your Fire: How Leveraging Strengths Will Inspire You and Your Team Members toward Skyrocketing Success.”