Click on an item below to learn more about the Gallup Q12 survey process, access supplemental resources, and gain insights about employee engagement best practices.


Q01: I know what is expected of me at work.

Clarity of expectation - perhaps the most basic of employee needs in the workplace - is critical to performance. Yet approximately half of American workers are unclear about what they are supposed to do at work.

Because so much of a company's efficiency depends on the seamless combination of personal responsibilities, the first element of great managing is job clarity.

When Gallup researchers went in search of questions most predictive of performance, one of the most straightforward turned out to be one of the most powerful: "I know what is expected of me at work." Groups that have high scores on this item are more productive, more profitable, even more creative. Substantial gains on the first element alone often correlate with productivity gains of 5-10%, thousands more happy customers, and 10-20% fewer on-the-job accidents.

For a manager trying to achieve positive answers from her team, the first element is the easiest of the 12 - but it's still not that easy. On average, nearly six out of 10 of the employees in Gallup's database "strongly agree" with the statement.

The numbers are not impressively high even in stereotypically well-defined roles such as security personnel, sales, truck drivers, registered nurses, or production staff, where the figure ranges from just over half to almost two-thirds.

The number drops to four in 10 for those in scientific, technical, and computer-related jobs. And it's amazingly common to find individuals making large salaries who will confide, "I really don't know what I'm supposed to be doing here."

The greatest pitfall of this element is that managers assume the simplicity of the statement means the issue requires only a basic solution: "If people don't know what's expected, I'll just tell them."

"Knowing what's expected" is more than a job description. It's a detailed understanding of how what one person is supposed to do fits in with what everyone else is supposed to do, and how those expectations change when circumstances change. A good team, some say, is a lot like a great jazz band in which each player listens to the other instruments as he plays his own. The better they pay attention to the rest of the band and work their way into the music, the better the result.

When thinking about Q01, managers should routinely ask themselves:

  • Are my team members always clear about what to do and when to do it?
  • What do I hope for beyond the basics?
  • How do I measure my team members' basic expectations?
  • How often do I sit down with my team members to discuss their progress?

Read more about this element of great managing here.

For insights and instructions about how to improve this element of engagement, consider purchasing the Managing for Engagement Resource Kit.