Here's a letter to help frame expectations for employees in the New Year:

Dear Employee:

You've been hired to handle some pressing needs. If we could have gotten by without hiring you, we would have. But we've determined that we needed someone with your skills and experience and that you were the best person to help us. We have offered you the position and you've accepted. Thanks!

Throughout your employment, you will be asked to do many things. You will have many chances to excel and to confirm that we made a good choice in hiring you. However, there is one responsibility that may never be specifically requested of you, but that you need to always keep in mind through the duration of your employment. This is what we call The Ultimate Expectation:

Always Do What Needs to Be Done Without Waiting to Be Asked

If we never say this again, don't think it's no longer important or that we've changed our priorities. We are likely to get caught up in the daily press of business, the never-ending changes of the operation, and the rush of activities. This may make it look as if this principle no longer applies. Don't be deceived.

Make this expectation a guiding principle in your employment with us, a philosophy that is always with you, constantly driving your thoughts and actions.

As long as you are employed with us, you have our permission to act in our mutual best interests. If at any time you do not feel we are doing the right thing, please say so. You have our permission to speak up, to make a suggestion, or to question an action or decision. This doesn't mean we will always agree with you, or that we will necessarily change what we are doing. But we always want to hear what you most believe would help us better achieve our goals and purpose and create a mutually successful experience in the process.

Discuss what is presented here with others and me in the organization so that we might all get better at applying The Ultimate Expectation.
Your Manager

P.S.: Like much sound advice, the Ultimate Expectation seems like common sense. But don't confuse what sounds simple with what is easy to do.

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego, and best-selling author of Please Don't Just Do What I Tell You! Do What Needs to Be Done, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, and Managing For Dummies. For more information, visit, call (800) 575-5521, or e-mail