Setting Manager Expectations of Employees

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "High Output Management" by Andrew S. Grove. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are manager expectations of employees? How should managers set and communicate expectations?

Manager expectations of employees are an important part of your workplace and workflow. You need to have a system for setting expectations and communicating them to employees.

Read more about how to set manager expectations of employees.

Determine Manager Expectations of Employees

Before you can assess performance, you need to determine your expectations so that the review can focus on whether or not your subordinates met them. (Failing to do this is the major problem with most reviews.) 

As you come up with your manager expectations of employees, remember that output is an important marker of performance. Consider the recipient’s actions, not just her results, because:

1. Often, there’s a delay between doing an activity and seeing the output. The output might not accurately reflect the results of the recipient’s activities during the period the review covers.

For example, when Grove was reviewing one of the managers who reported to him, the manager’s output measures were all strong—for example, sales had increased. There were some signs that not all was well—for example, the manager’s organization had higher-than-usual turnover—but Grove prioritized the output measures and gave the manager a good review. 

The next year, the output measures had all declined. Grove looked carefully at the situation and realized that the offset between the manager’s activity and output was about a year. The output measures were only good the first year because they had been set up by previous employees and only come to fruition years later. Therefore, the manager hadn’t deserved the good review because the outputs didn’t reflect his actual performance. Interestingly, the manager’s performance had actually improved since the first year, even though the output measure didn’t reflect this at all: His work just hadn’t come to fruition yet.

2. You need to assess both short- and long-term projects. Long-term projects may not show output for years, so to evaluate them, consider the future gains and what they’re currently worth.

  • (Shortform example: A writer’s short-term work is to prepare articles. Her long-term work is to refine her workflow so she can write future articles faster. Her long-term work takes time away from her short-term work, therefore affecting her performance, but will speed up her work in the future.)

Now that you know how to think about manager expectations of employees, you can think about how to communicate your expectations.

Setting Manager Expectations of Employees

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  • How to increase your managerial output and productivity
  • The 11 activities that offer a higher impact on output
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Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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