Five Things Every Employee Needs to Know When Being Given an Assignment

If you are like most supervisors and employees, your day-to-day work consists of a series of assignments and tasks to be completed. Both the employee and the supervisor have the same goal in mind: a successful completion to each assignment.

Why then do some relatively simple assignments fail to go as expected?

Here are the five things that must be effectively communicated in order to consistently meet or exceed expectations when assigning work or accepting an assignment:

1. Specifically What is Expected? We’re talking specifics here like quantity and quality. Don’t make people guess at these…details and specifics are needed. Some people will require more information than others, especially if the task or assignment is new or something they have not done in a while. If receiving an assignment, ask questions to make sure you both agree on the specifics. Properly define the deliverables.

2. When is the Assignment Due? It’s important to establish a due date that lets you have some extra wiggle room in the event that something goes wrong or there is an unexpected absence. Check for the reasonableness of the due date as well. Make sure both of you agree on the due date!

3. Why the Assignment is Important? Nobody wants to do meaningless busywork. Effective supervisors make certain that the task or assignment is connected to the bigger picture to show how a successful completion impacts customers, team members, projects, etc. An assignment takes on more importance to both the person performing the work and the one overseeing it when both parties understand the impact it will have.

4. What Specific Resources are Available? Available resources could include a budget, other participants, other departments, information, tools and equipment, etc. Making sure the assignment has been properly resourced – and enlisting the help of others who might need to grant access to the resources – is a critical step for the supervisor to take BEFORE assigning or accepting the task.

5. How and When Progress Will Be Measured. This often is the step that assures the assignment stays on task, on budget, and on time. It is rare that any plan will go flawlessly. Since challenges are likely to arise, both the supervisor and employee need to establish milestone meetings to address the issues and stay on plan. The longer term the assignment, the more disciplined both will need to be in communicating and keeping the assignment on plan.

One additional key for supervisors: whenever you make an assignment, never ask someone if he or she understands. The reflexive response to this question is, “yes,” whether or not he or she actually understands.

Instead, ask questions to assure all people involved have the same level of understanding in these areas. Supervisors bear the responsibility for assuring each staff member ‘gets it’ and is capable of accomplishing the assignment!

By taking these five practical steps whenever assigning work, you will dramatically increase the quality of the result and the feeling of engagement from your staff.

Boyer Management Group works with employers and job seekers alike to help both become more successful. For employers, we offer world-class talent acquisition and onboarding tools, training and programs, including management/leadership development training, as well as programs for new managers and supervisors. For job seekers, we offer the world’s first assessment to measure an individual’s knowledge and awareness of current and emerging career search best practices, along with the educational programs to support higher ed curriculum, career coaches and individual job seekers. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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