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By Darryl Stewart
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Help me understand what you expect, boss!

“I know what is expected of me at work.”

This seems like a simple statement that almost everyone in a workplace should be able to make. As simple as it sounds, though, having a high percentage of your staff say this with certainty is easier said than done.

In surveys of thousands of participants spanning many industries and locations, the Gallup organization concludes that only about half of the employees in a typical workplace say that they know what is expected of them at work.

So what is the big deal if half of your staff doesn’t know what is expected of them? The big deal is that almost every measurable result will improve when your employees know what they need to do. One study, for example, looked at cardiac surgeons who worked in multiple hospitals. This study proved conclusively that rates of fatalities and major complications for a given surgeon differed under different conditions. When the supporting team was new or when the team only came together occasionally, the results were worse than when the surgeon worked with his or her usual team, when everyone knew each other’s roles and what was expected of each person.

Helping our team to understand what is expected of them is not as simple as creating job descriptions. It is our job as leaders to go beyond job descriptions and micro-managing. The key is fostering a detailed understanding in each person of what is expected, and how those expectations change when circumstances change. This requires the leader to set standards and have many conversations with each of their employees about how to handle different challenges, what principles to apply to different situations, what performance is expected, and what results are desired.

At IBEX, we are working hard to improve our results in this area by having each leader meet with each of their team members every six weeks for coaching. In these one-on-one sessions, we discuss wins and failures, and check in on progress towards achieving agreed goals. This alone has been very successful, but in the interest of improving everyone’s understanding of what is expected of them, we are implementing a new system that will make sure that all employees understand the company’s short-term and long-term goals and where they fit into their achievement.  This will be a new addition to the agenda during each one-on-one session and during larger company meetings.

Our hope is that we will be able to have all our staff answer a confident “yes” to the question: “Do I know what is expected of me at work?” This should be every leader’s goal.


IBEX Payroll extends our profound respect and immeasurable gratitude to all the ancestors and keepers of the land on whose traditional territories our work takes place. We acknowledge that we are on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional gathering place of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene people and the traditional homeland of the Métis people. This land is sacred, historical, and significant. 

Every time we acknowledge this truth, we have an invitation and an opportunity to reflect on the wrongs of the past, what we do in the present, and what we can do to continually honour the people whose lands and water we benefit from today. 

This statement only acts as a first step in honouring the land we reside on and its peoples, and must be paired with education, understanding and informed action.