"Say I hire someone to muck out stalls. He goes in there and picks apples, but what I really wanted was all the stalls stripped. At his last employer, he was told not to strip stalls because it wastes a lot of good bedding, so that's what he did in his new job. Can I fire him for not doing the job the way I wanted? No. I didn't tell him how I wanted it done."
That's a good point.
Let's add a few dynamics to the same sort of scenario. Say an employee is hired to do two different things, and after a few days, became pretty solid in both. One task is one the employee has a lot of experience in and finds the last person doing the task was not experienced at all, and it's a major mess. There is a lot of experience in the other task, but not in the particular style. At first, the new employee's product isn't perfect, but it was getting there. The employee was enthusiastic, willing to learn, takes material home to read to learn, and was flexible enough to roll with just about anything.
Those two things keep this employee pretty busy for 40 hours a week, so there are no lulls. The "hiring boss" takes a week off, and no sooner is she gone than this new employee was pulled from the two tasks by "big boss" and put on other things that made it impossible to do those original tasks at all. There is no time. And surprise, the employee turns out to be pretty dern good at the new tasks too. The hiring boss returns to wonder why original tasks weren't done, but says nothing.
Now, the wrinkle comes from the "little boss" who sits in the middle and adds in a few jabs of her own. She says 'don't do this until you are told to' but tells the other bosses she doesn't know why it isn't getting done. She also pulls the employee away from doing work assigned by the other two bosses, the employee can't complete the work by the "big boss'" unspoken, unknown deadline and is then chastised by big boss for working too slow.
The hiring boss takes more days off, only this time, she comes back to find the new employee gone from the office to work from home because the employee was too slow to do everything and can then "do your research on your own time." One employee, three bosses. But, the employee isn't fired, at least that's what was communicated. Instead, the employee is supposed to "freelance" to get paid per project instead of by the hour. The hiring boss doesn't know about this either.
What was expected wasn't communicated. Nothing was said to the employee about deadlines, timelines, expectations or even job title. When asked what the "freelance" position would pay, the answer was "oh, we'll work that out." It appears that there is little communication between the bosses either.
It sounds surreal, like a no-win situation. Perhaps the new employee was too enthusiastic? Or, was it that the employee was too flexible?
Whether hiring an experienced stable hand or hiring a person with no direct experience in mucking out stalls, what is expected has to be spoken out loud. It may even take several times. A person new to barn work may also be new to horses and will have to learn a lot more than just how much horse shit to take out of a stall.
But, that the person accepted the offer of employment and showed enthusiasm to learn says a lot. If the enthusiasm isn't killed by unfair criticism, the employer would have a trusted, loyal employee who is far more valuable than an experienced hand that changes jobs on a whim.
I wish colleges, even high schools, taught courses in mind reading.