$schemamarkup = get_post_meta(get_the_ID(), 'Schema', true); if(!empty($Schema)) { echo $ Schema ; } How to Navigate Unclear Expectations and Fuzzy Norms at Work

Karin And David’s Leadership Articles

If it feels like you never received your company-issued secret decoder ring, you’re likely dealing with unclear expectations.

Often, people have unspoken values or expectations, and there isn’t one “right” way to do things. Maybe your manager never clarified an important process. Or the team hasn’t agreed on norms, so you’ve found yourself in a conflict cocktail of vague and unclear expectations and strong points of view.

Here’s an example that many remote and hybrid teams experience: should you have your cameras on during a meeting?

Your coworker, Rachel, may feel like it’s completely unnecessary. It drains her energy. Most of the time, no one asks her opinion anyway, and her surroundings aren’t chic, so why turn on the camera? For her, a camera-off policy is as comfortable as wearing pajamas during a work call – no one knows, but it feels just right.

For Zach, however, the lack of face time is disrespectful and frustrating as he presents his project and seeks feedback. “Cameras should always be on,” he insists, “unless you’ve got to step away or sneeze or something.” He views a camera-on policy like a firm handshake – a sign of respect and engagement.

“No,” interjects your colleague, Pat, “that’s wasteful and unnecessary. We only need to be on camera for clients or for a real discussion.” Pat prefers a pragmatic approach, seeing camera use as a tool, not a rule, like using an umbrella only when it rains.

This is a classic case of unclear expectations creating ‘camera drama,’ where a lack of established norms creates conflict. None of these people is “right” as there is no objectively “right or wrong” answer for cameras. It’s more about preference than policy, like choosing between coffee or tea for your morning boost.

Finding Clarity When Rules Are Fuzzy

In every organization, there will be activity that isn’t covered by a corporate policy. As norms shift, technology changes, and social standards develop, you and your team can resolve these ambiguous norms and unclear expectations with a conversation. If there’s no company policy, it can either become a conflict—or an opportunity to use some Powerful Phrases and build a team agreement, much like deciding on the office’s unofficial dress code.

This is one of those workplace conflicts that takes some investigation and intentional conversation to understand what’s happening. It’s so easy to get caught up in an argument without realizing that it’s really a lack of clarity, like arguing over who finished the milk without checking the fridge first. As you see a conflict building, start with Powerful Phrases that “put the fish on the table,” and help people understand what’s happening.

Note: This article contains 12 vital “clarity habits” for better collaboration.

Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Unclear Norms and Expectations

“It is very simple, but hard to do. Set expectations and follow through.”
-Male, 65, Israel, The World Workplace Conflict and Collaboration Survey

“It seems that we see this differently…”

Summarize the situation and call attention to the fact that people have different perspectives. This might feel like stating the obvious, but it helps everyone rise above their position to see the situation more objectively, like taking a step back to see the whole elephant, not just its trunk.

“Here’s the challenge we face…”

Now you describe the consequences if the lack of clarity continues. For example: “There’s no rule about this, so it’s up to us to figure out. The challenge we face if we don’t agree on how we use cameras is that we’ll all feel resentful, disrespected, and exhausted.”

“I know that’s not what we want… I’m confident we can…”

As you describe the negative consequences, you can then call everyone to their best intentions with this Powerful Phrase. It assumes good intent. For example:

“I know we don’t want to exhaust each other. And I know we all want to feel supported, seen, respected, and valued as we do our work. I’m confident we can come up with an agreement that will work for all of us.”

“Let’s decide how to decide.”

At this point in your conversation, the team might realize that it’s someone’s job to make a call. If so, invite them to the discussion or make an appointment to talk with them. Use the same Powerful Phrases from Chapter 12—Navigating Competing Goals to have a conversation with the decision-maker and get clarity.

But, when there’s no assigned decision-maker, it’s helpful to agree first on how the group will decide. Usually, this is going to be a vote or consensus. In a vote, the majority rules. In consensus, everyone can live with a choice, even if it wasn’t their first option. For example:

“Okay, this one’s our call. Is everyone comfortable with a vote? Or do we want to go for consensus?”

(And yes, that’s an example of a quick consensus decision about whether to use a vote or consensus. So meta, right?)

In conclusion, navigating the murky waters of workplace norms and unclear expectations can be like trying to assemble furniture without instructions – frustrating, but not impossible. By using Powerful Phrases, teams can not only build bridges over these gaps of misunderstanding but also strengthen their collaborative spirit. Remember, the goal isn’t to win the argument but to find a solution that works for everyone, like choosing a movie everyone can enjoy on movie night. So next time you’re in a camera-on or camera-off debate, remember, it’s not just about seeing faces; it’s about seeing eye to eye.

Your turn. What’s one powerful phrase you like to use to clarify unclear expectations?

Interested in more Powerful Phrases for Dealing With Workplace Conflict? Click on the image below to download FREE sample chapters.

Click here for FREE Sample Chapters


Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other Related Articles

Karin Hurt And David Dye author photo

Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

Be More Daring


Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

Be More Daring


Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

Leadership Training Programs