By Jill Morris and Steve Morris

When you drive a car, sail a boat, or fly an airplane, you are constantly making small adjustments in the steering to deal with shifts in wind, current, other traffic and road conditions. You must do the same when small changes occur in your environment that impact expectations. You are accountable for driving that clarity whether you are a manager or not.

There are both implicit and explicit accountabilities that we must manage. We tend to have a casual approach to implicit accountabilities, particularly around implied or unstated expectations, like you will come to work wearing clothing and some much less obvious.

There are many situations when expectations shift but the changes are not clearly stated and clarified. These situations may include when: 

  • A new employee is hired.
  • A new person joins a team.
  • A new person becomes a peer.
  • Someone’s job changes. It can be a person you work with, rely on or someone who relied on you.
  • You have a new boss.
  • You get moved to a different job.
  • New team leaders appear or move to other teams.
  • You or others are assigned different work, projects or initiatives than you have done in the past.
  • People take a leave or resign.

A small change can have a domino effect, cascading other shifts in focus, responsibilities and structures. Proactive realignment may be necessary.

If you are a manager and one of these or similar events occur, it is your job to think about and clarify any new or changed expectations you have of the people you lead. You cannot assume that they will think what you are thinking. If you are not a manager and your supervisor does not proactively share new expectations when one of these events occur, it is your job to ask for clarification of how the changes will impact your role and responsibilities. Make no assumptions.

Expectations are statements of what is wanted. As we have shared many times, seventy percent of all the challenges we observe in organizations and between people occur because the wants are miscommunicated, changed, get lost in complexity, are not heard or are not understood. 

This blog was reprinted with permission from Jill and Steve Morris. To learn more about Jill and Steve Morris and their work, visit

Header image by Maor Attias of Pexels.