Both worker and boss are well-defined

Make sure expectations for both worker and boss are well-defined
By Linda J. Lerner (Source: Globe Newspaper)
Q. I am a supervisor in the customer service department at a large corporation. There are 17 employees who work for me and they handle customer-related issues over three shifts. Most of the employees in the department understand their jobs but there are a few who perform below expectations. Because we have put time into training these employees, the assistant supervisor and I do not want to let them go and start all over again. I also think these employees are trying but do not seem to understand some of our expectations or the standards that our company needs them to meet. I have been in this company for less then a year and I would appreciate any suggestions for improving the situation with these employees.
A. Most of us believe we are very clear in our communications. In reality, some people are much better at it than others and the better ones, either naturally or through training, know some key things about expectations and how they are communicated.

The key word here is expectations -- the expectations we have for others, and reciprocally, the expectations they have of us.

It's helpful first to understand that there are different types of expectations and that this is true both at work and in our personal relationships.

Explicit: These are out in the open and generally known. They are stated by being expressed verbally or written in one or in multiple forms. They may be given to employees in printed hard copy or by e-mail or posted in prominent locations. These expectations are often measurable and can be shared openly with others. Their distribution may be scheduled or repeated periodically. Expectations are most effective when stated before a relationship is agreed to, such as before a job offer is accepted.

Implicit or assumed: This is where most relationship problems occur. Whether personal or work-related, we experience disappointment and resentment frequently due to this category of expectation. Here the expectation is clearly in one person's mind but not fully expressed or not expressed at all. We will often find ourselves saying that it was 'understood' when exclaiming our frustration with an unfulfilled expectation. The implicit expectations are filled with assumptions that are unsaid. They are known in our minds, reviewed frequently in our internal dialogue but, for whatever reason, we keep them private and assume they are somehow understood by others. They are so real to us that we may exhibit shock when learning that others were not aware of them. Employees can hold these assumed expectations of us, just as we might have them for employees or for our boss.

In the workplace, I have seen differing expectations at various levels cause misunderstandings and even damage careers. We therefore need to challenge ourselves to articulate those expectations we have of employees that may be assumed. In addition, ask employees about their expectations.
Here is a simple example:
A receptionist/phone operator in a busy bank was told she had to improve the quality of her customer service. Knowing that she often let the phone ring too long before answering it, she decided to impress her boss by answering all calls by the second ring. She ran to the phone whenever it rang and she even interrupted customers to pick up the phone. When she was called in by her boss a few weeks later she was certain that praise for her improved service was forthcoming. Instead she received a final warning for poor customer service because she failed to greet the customers in front of her with a smile and her full attention to their questions.
In performance issues, words like improve or increase productivity can be dangerous because we leave to the person's imagination and personal frame of reference what that actually means. In other words, we create an assumed expectation while believing we have been clear. At work, only explicit, defined, and stated expectations will give us any chance at getting the results we want. Even when we are confident we have been thorough in our explanation, I recommend that you ask the other person to summarize their understanding of the expectations. If you restate them it will not assure the clarity needed by those directly responsible for fulfilling the expectations.
With this background on the role expectations play in the effectiveness of communications and relationships, I think you and the assistant supervisor should revisit all the performance-related expectations you have for the few employees who are not meeting your standards and work directly with them on those areas that are lacking.
If, after that effort, termination of one or more of these underperforming employees becomes necessary, the termination process will be much smoother because expectations have been put on the table and openly discussed by all parties.
Firm better off without employee manual for now
Q. My husband and I own a small store at a Boston-area mall. Four employees work in our store with us, two of whom are part time. Our employees have recently asked for an employee policy manual but we do not have one. A new employee previously worked for a large high-tech company and she has suggested that we use the one from her last employer. Are we required to have an employee policy manual? Is it a good idea to make use of this one from another company as the model for ours? Are we required to have all policies in writing?
A. It would be a mistake to copy an employee policy manual from another company, especially a large one, for two reasons. The first is that many state and federal laws simply do not apply to an employer as small as you. Large companies on the other hand must be in compliance with many labor and employment related laws. These companies have policies written to comply with these laws, some of which are required of employers with a minimum of 50 or 100 employees.The second reason is that a very small company does not need the number of policies that a complete policy manual contains.
Therefore, you may be better off considering not having an employee manual at this time and there isn't any requirement that the policies you do have be in writing.
Employee manuals provide information to employees about their employer-provided benefits and company procedures. Most of these manuals or handbooks are comprehensive and document policies that have been developed over time. These policies are usually written to express the style, the history or the culture of that particular business.

Copying a large company's manual, especially one from a different industry could potentially lead you to a level of benefits and policies that exceed your current needs and resources.
In addition, it is helpful for you to keep in mind that putting a policy in writing may limit the flexibility that you now have. It can result in fewer options in the future to add, eliminate, or modify your approach to policies as you grow and change.
If you want to bring more clarity and comfort to employees about certain practices or policies that you now have or want to institute, you can do this:

Outline these policies in a simple and straightforward manner and distribute them in memo form on a few pages or through an internal e-mail. If any of these policies relate to a law, be sure to check with a lawyer to insure the correct or required wording.
The key to its success is to practice these guidelines consistently. Consistency is essential because it will reduce employee relations problems, help to set expectations and encourage fairness. When putting these policies in writing, consider the following: Who is eligible to be covered? Only full-time employees? How many hours does one need to work to be considered a full-time employee? The range is usually somewhere between 35 and 40 hours per week. Will part timers get any benefits and if so which ones will they receive?
Will you pay an employee for days not worked due to illness? If so, how much sick time will be allowed in a calendar year? Can unused time be carried over into the next year? How many vacation days or weeks will employees get and how long a waiting period is required before they will earn it? After what period of time can these days be used by the employee?

How many holidays will be granted, if any? Will you close the store on these days? Which ones? Will employees be paid? The part timers, too? Will employees be offered group health insurance? At what cost to them? These and other topics can be addressed now and then when your company grows you can continue the process of adding and evaluating additional policies as needed.



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Cambodia Jobs: Both worker and boss are well-defined
Both worker and boss are well-defined
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