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What to Tell Your Boss About Job Expectations

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Carving out time at the end of your performance appraisal meeting is ideal for describing your job expectations to your boss. Do it more frequently and you're in better shape for clarifying your immediate job expectations, as well as your future expectations. Frank discussions about your capabilities and aptitude are necessary for you to convey your job expectations. But gauge how much to share and when based on the type of relationship you have with your boss. An openly supportive supervisor or manager will be the type of leader who will welcome your ideas concerning job expectations.

Job Description

From the employer's perspective, there may be few differences between the job description and the job expectations. The company expects you to perform, at a minimum, the duties and responsibilities contained in the job description. At a minimum because there often are duties not specifically listed on your job description that you'll perform. In writing job descriptions, employers reserve their right to flexibility in assigning tasks to employees by purposely not including an all-inclusive list of duties for which you're responsible. This way, a response like, "That's not in my job description," isn't an excuse for not following your supervisor's directives or performing duties that expand the breadth and depth of your expertise and job knowledge.

Supervisor-Employee Communication

The only way to express what you expect to get out of your job is to discuss your expectations with your boss. This conversation should occur at least annually during your performance appraisal, but more often is ideal. It's appropriate for you to initiate the conversation -- doing so demonstrates your initiative and your interest in making real contributions to the organization and its goals. These types of conversations also provide clarity on your own professional development. They needn't be formal, either -- just 15 minutes or so to talk about where you are and where your career is going is enough time to exchange ideas about your job expectations and what your boss expects from you.

Defining Your Professional Development

Whether you're simply interested in maintaining job security or if your goal is to climb the corporate ladder, defining your developmental needs is an important step in talking to your boss about job expectations. For example, if you're interested in sustaining job security, you could say, "I've been with XYZ Company for three years, and I enjoy my position and its responsibilities. I wanted to talk to you about how I can enhance my contributions to XYZ. What would you suggest are ways to offer more of my talent to the company so that I can improve my chances of a long-term career here?"

How to Say You Want More

Training and professional development come in more methods and formats than simply classroom-based leadership instruction or orientation for a new position. Share your professional development goals with your boss by asking for ways to learn more about your current job and opportunities to prepare you for future roles. There's nothing wrong with telling your boss that your job expectations include taking on more responsible duties or learning more about the organization so that you can position yourself on a management track. Naturally, this isn't something you'd say on your first day on the job because, depending on the way you express your plans, your boss could interpret it as you're unhappy with your current position.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images