Expectation Alignment Disorder (EAD) is often at the heart of failed change, internal communication and engagement programmes
Do the expectations of your stakeholders align with your workplace reality?
Expectation Alignment is when an employee’s expectations are congruent with the expectations of the organisation. EAD occurs when these different sets of expectations are too divergent. This divergence can wipe out your Employee Engagement efforts and undercut your Employee Experience (EX) programmes.
Expectation Alignment Disorder (EAD) warning signs include increases in:
- Employee turnover or talk of resignations
- Disengaged colleagues, with no obvious cause
- Customer complaints (reduced Customer Experience – CX)
- Stress and anxiety levels
- Rumours and gossip
- Performance and disciplinary actions
- Poor work quality
We begin forming expectations on our first contact with a brand, even before we become employees. Expectations about the organisation begins as we browse their website, each conversation with a recruiter, and it builds with information we hear over coffee from past employees and future colleagues.
Our expectations continue to form during onboarding and on every day thereafter. The expectation set during the onboarding process can quickly lead to disillusionment if they are incongruent with our experience in the first few weeks. Most expectations are established during our tenure as employees. Without a conscious internal communication programme, regular two-way communication and “temperature checks”, these expectation gaps can grow to the point where they begin to impact performance and engagement.
The top 3 elements that contribute to Expectation Alignment Disorder (EAD):
1. Tacit culture promises
The culture of the organisation can foster certain implied expectations. If, for example, an organisation is known for fast-tracking careers, a new hire might reasonably expect that they will soon be promoted. If this doesn’t happen, EAD sets in leading to disengagement and feelings of broken promises – even though an explicit promise was never made.
2. Poor communication or perceived secrets
When communication is poor we fill in the blanks, often with assumptions and rumour. Sometimes these guesses are accurate, but often they are not. Expectations are still created even though it may be based on assumption. Rumours are particularly dangerous when leadership makes too many “secret” decisions behind closed doors, as this leads to increased EAD. Rumours of lay-offs can be particularly damaging, but so can the instant-money type of rumours such as going public as they can unrealistically increase certain types of expectations.
3. Inconsistency and a lack of clarity
EAD is the result when policies are enforced differently based on vague criteria, or enforced differently for some employees than for others. Misaligned employee expectations are often primarily the result of unclear expectations. It is almost impossible for employees to achieve certain performance expectations when they are unclear. It is almost impossible to hit a target you don’t know exists.
Expectation Alignment Solutions
All is not lost as a consciously designed internal communication and engagement programme will help reduce EAD in your organisation. Your programme should include a regular manager touch-base, surveys, cross-checks (between departments), some cultural pruning (minimising aspects that encourage inaccurate expectations) and the use of plain English language (not corporate speak).
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