Are you uncertain about what your boss expects of you? Are you unsure whether you’re focusing on what your boss thinks is most important? I’ll share some tips on how to find out what your boss expects of you.
I previously wrote an article geared toward managers to help them make sure their employees know what is expected of them. That article was from the boss or manager’s perspective. Given the power-distance difference between a boss asking a question of their employee and an employee asking a question of their boss, this article provides tips on how to ask.
Find Out by Being Specific and Providing Context
As you may have read in “What Is Your Best Advice for Me?” it is important to be specific. You should also be kind and reduce the mental effort needed to respond. Part of doing that is explaining what you understand your role to be (i.e., their expectation). That gives them a statement to respond to, which makes it easier than starting from scratch.
Finding Out Doesn’t Have to Be a Formal Process
You don’t have to make it real formal. If you have regular one-on-one meetings (whether in-person or virtual), ask about it in that meeting. Be sure to ask near the beginning rather than near the end. Otherwise, you run the risk of not giving your manager enough time to respond. Even if you ask at the beginning, your manager may not have time or be prepared to address it in the meeting. You want to make sure they know they don’t have to answer in that moment.
Examples of How You Can Find Out What Your Boss Expects of You
This doesn’t have to be in-person, but a one-on-one meeting can be a great time to ask.
As the meeting is beginning, you can simply say, “I had a thought that I wanted to check with you about my role to make sure I’m clear. Is that okay?
(Assuming your manager says yes…)
I believe I know what you expect of me in my role, but I want to make sure. From my understanding what you expect from me is… [list what you are primarily accountable for and any pertinent particulars in how you accomplish those points]. How does that match with your expectation?”
After they share their perspective, a great bonus follow-up question is, “What could I do differently that would make a big difference for you or the company?”
The nice part about asking for clarification via email is it allows you to then have a written record of your boss’s response to your question. Here is an example email that you can use.
My Understanding of My Role and Responsibilities
Hi [Supervisor Name],
I was thinking about my role and wanted to make sure that my understanding of what you expect from me matches your understanding. Would you be willing to confirm or let me know?
From my understanding, what you expect from me is… [list what you are primarily accountable for and any pertinent particulars in how you accomplish those points]. How does that match with your expectation?
Depending on their response, as with the one-on-one meeting, you could send a follow-up email with this question: “What could I do differently that would make a big difference for you or the company?” Of course, be sure to thank them for taking a moment to clarify.
Whether you ask in-person or via email what your boss expects of you, the additional clarity can be extremely empowering and significantly reduce the stress of being uncertain where to focus your time and efforts.