When we rely on our most trusted employees to run the business, there’s a certain level of expectation. When that expectation isn’t met, was it a miscommunication? How can you use that moment to encou-rage instead of RAGE?

The Expectation Miscommunication | Episode 84

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Epic Company Culture podcast where your host, Josh Sweeney, will give you the business leaders, HR professionals and company culture aficionados the knowledge you need to take your company culture to the next level.

Josh Sweeney: Hello, my name is Josh Sweeney and welcome to the Epic Company Culture podcast. Before I get started, I would like to thank Prototype Prime for this amazing podcasting space. This is season three, which is all about retention. I have my co-host here, Crystal Sweeney.

Crystal Sweeney: Hello.

Josh Sweeney: Welcome.

Crystal Sweeney: Thank you.

The Intangibles

Josh Sweeney: Thanks for joining us. The episode today is all about the expectation miscommunication. In talking about company culture, we like to share a bit about the intangibles. A lot of people think of company culture and ping pong tables and atmosphere and things you can buy, but we really wanna step into some of the intangibles around how people feel. What’s the environment like, what are the things that are happening around.

A few of us have been through some maybe miscommunication or mismatch in communications in our lives. Why don’t we kick it over to Crystal. Tell us a little bit about expectation, miscommunication that you’ve experienced.

Crystal Sweeney: Yes. The idea behind this is that a lot of times when you have a good employee, they’re highly talented, sometimes you rely a lot on them. Enough that, luckily, you may be able to step out of the business and take care of outside networking or things like that. So you’re really relying on those good people to maintain your business while you’re away.

The Problem

If that’s not managed properly, though, that can create some negativity towards those good employees. And I experienced that in a previous job that I had. It was a couple of us employees and the owner was out networking, like he should, and left us in charge to take care of the customers, take care of the jobs. We did so. We did so with the best of our knowledge and what we felt was the right thing to do. Occasionally when there was a problem, he would come into the office and we would fill him in on what happened and then what we did to take care of it. It may not have always been the way that he would have, about taking care of the problem.


With that, he would say, “Oh, well, why did you do that?” Or “I would have done this instead.” What that did is it actually created a little bit more doubt and insecurity within our organization. So we wound up, when he was gone and we had another issue arise, then we weren’t so quick to take care of the problem. We were more likely to just talk about it amongst each other and weigh our scenarios. What would the boss do? What would you do? What should I do? And it actually created a huge just insecurity all together in dealing with problems.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah. I mean I think this can happen in any organization, in any department. It could be a manager, it could be an owner, but at some point the team has to have the ability to go lead the initiative. If their learning experience is in there, great. But if there’s a lot of second guessing, then actually people are just going to stop stepping up, right? If they’ve taken care of different items on the department’s behalf and then all the sudden somebody’s second guessing, well, they’re just going to stop doing that. That’s kind of that intangible item around how people communicate and what the expectations are across the board.

Overcoming the Challenge

How do we overcome some of the challenges around the expectation miscommunication when these types of scenarios come up? Well first of all, there’s lots of different ways to handle it. There’s one, not second guessing employees and creating that uncertainty or doubt that’s gonna change the interaction. I like to look at a lot of those things as processor training issues, where if something goes wrong multiple times, it’s not really on a team member.

It’s really on management to understand where did we break down? Where was the communication breakdown? Is there a process? Is there a checklist? Is there something that we’re missing that’s causing this challenge?

I like to go in search some of those different items in there like a process, a checklist. One of my favorite books around that was

The Checklist Manifesto

It goes through how checklists can effect change and make sure that everything’s getting done. Things aren’t getting left behind. Everything’s being taken care of as needed. So that’s one option.

Using Values

Another thing that I’ve experienced is the use of values for decision making. If people have a strong value system in their organization, then the main question is did you solve this problem based on the company values? And if you did, then we’re not gonna second guess that. We may take that as a takeaway later or process we need to enhance, but as long as you followed the values and had the best intentions, then that’s great. We’re not going to come up with some reason why that wasn’t good enough or make you second guess yourself.

So with that I think there’s lots of different ways that we can overcome these expectation or these miscommunication issues. Are there any other things that you’ve seen that help people overcome these miscommunications?

Learning Opportunity

Crystal Sweeney: Yeah, absolutely. I feel in my previous situation, it was the communication that would have made a world of difference in how we dealt with the customers. If we had set down and actually talked about, in detail, maybe the steps we should have taken. Use it more as a learning tool instead of a way of criticizing. That would’ve made us feel a little bit more comfortable and more confident in our decision making.

There was at times where we would have a situation handled and then a management would come in and feel like they wanted to do it different and would take over or would change the course of the way that we, that the project was going. That just would create confusion everywhere. Create confusion with us who were managing the project, with customers. It was almost one of those like let us finish this one and then let’s reevaluate it. Kind of this step in or step out type thing where you’re either going to trust us or you’re not going to trust us. But definitely that communication.


And also if you can … you should be encouraging. ‘Cause these are your good employees. These are the ones you want in the seat taking care of the business while you’re gone. So make sure that they understand that. If there’s a difficult situation, things get heated, then when everything is said and done, say, “You know what, I really appreciate you guys for taking the steps, try to rectify the situation and take care of the customers as best we could.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah. Definitely. Well, if you are having any miscommunications in your organization, think about how those are being handled. Are you handling that in a way that’s proactive and helps people achieve more later or is it a way that makes them second guess the action that they’re gonna take later. Can you use values to reinforce the decision making process or is it in fact a process issue.

We appreciate you joining us for another episode talking about company culture intangibles and retaining employees. Thank you.


Speaker 1: Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode of the Epic Company Culture podcast with Josh Sweeney. If you enjoyed this content, please subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. For additional content and transcripts, visit epicculture.co.

If you have questions or topics you would like us to address or expand on, tweet us @epicculture1 or email at podcast@epicculture.co.