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Using Articulated Expectations to Influence Unit Culture

Articulated Expectations is a tool leader/managers use to influence the culture of the unit. They should be expressed in a 1 to group setting. The more people who hear the expectations together, the better is the tool. As stated, the term was coined and the tool created to replace the techniques used in an authoritarian culture, where people do or don’t do things because the ‘boss said so’.

Leadership is not laissez-faire. When authoritarian control is no longer used, an alternative way to develop a culture is needed. Articulated expectations allow leaders to express values, beliefs, and visions about the functions for which they are responsible without using authoritarian control to achieve desired behaviors. The four criteria (realistic, relevant, achievable and acceptable) are ways to insure that the expectations can and will be met.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the power of this leadership tool to change a culture is entirely based on it being used in a 1:group setting. When used in this way, it enrolls the support of the ‘good guys’ ….or the values of people who want to be healthy at work to help implement the expectations. When used correctly, and based on the inspirational/visionary role of the leader, it sets the direction of practice development. It helps leadership be an active process….not wholly dependent on the current status of culture and staff to determine the future.

Facetiously…..these are some examples I always use to help clarify the power of the process:

Effective immediately (always start with that…it always gets a laugh). I expect 100% of the staff to have a healthy relationship with 100% of the staff. (This after we have defined the three criteria, open communication, functional trust and mutual respect) If any one is having a problem with anyone else, I expect you to solve that problem. If you are unable to do so, come to me and I will find an appropriate resource to help you to do so.

Effective immediately, it is never appropriate for a nurse to accept verbal abuse from a physician, even when she or he has made a mistake.”


1. Michelle Webb - January 11, 2010

I have used this tool( perhaps not as effectively as I had hoped) and experienced the potential it has to influence the culture of a unit. Not sure what you mean by 1: group. I have specifically used the “Commitment to my Co-Workers” document and found it to be helpful in building a healthy, mature team of professional nurses and nurse partners by creating the kind of environment that promotes healthy working relationships.

mariemanthey - January 16, 2010

1:group means this tool works best when the nurse manager presents it to the staff as a whole. It is designed to be used as a way to improve interpersonal relationships among a staff, and hence the morale of a unit. It is not intended to be used as a disciplinary tool….Your use of it is entirely appropriate. Keep referring to it. At each staff meeting , check out how one of the elements is working. Ask for positive examples….it will facilitate positive reinforcement.

2. Rosalie Jahn - March 5, 2011

I recently attended & thoroughly enjoyed your video conference for Trinity Health 3/2/11. You touched on 2 staff types, the perfectionists & the intimidators who affect a unit culture but did not have time to elaborate. Given the recent attention to bullies at work; am wondering if you could discuss this in your blog?

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