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Creating an Atmosphere of Accountability

Posted by Randy Anderson on April 3, 2018 at 8:03 PM

The Talk

It is known that accountability is an important trait in business, but there is often a certain reluctance in terms of holding an employee or coworker accountable. It might be that the supervisors are too busy with their own schedule, that they have adopted a mentality where they are not willing to address their employees unless it is absolutely necessary, etc. Be that as it may, the accountability talk is often delayed, sometimes ad infinitum.

To ease the inherent pressure involved with having the talk, timing is of crucial importance. For example, immediately reacting to a mistake made by a coworker or employee could be detrimental to how the input is received. Emotions may run high, easily resulting in further conflict or hostility. It may be more beneficial for the supervisor to wait for the “teachable moment,” or the instance when the person being corrected will be the most receptive. Consistency is also integral with regards to communicating accountability.

WHERE the accountability discussion occurs is as equally important as WHEN it occurs. Participants in the conversation should avoid embarrassing or intimidating each other. Therefore, it would be most desirable for the discussion to take place in an unremarkable space or a neutral office. 

The AEIOU(Y) method

If the person who wants to have the accountability talk does not know how to initiate the conversation, there is an acronym centered around the vowels that may serve as a guide:

Actual behavior: What did the employee actually do?

Expected behavior: What should the employee have done?

Inquiring about his/her mindset: Does the employee understand the mistake? How did he/she react to it?

Outcomes (or Overstating outcomes): Deliberately overstate the effects of the employee’s mistake.

Uncovering new information and reaching a new understanding: What is the employee’s reason for committing the mistake? Is there another approach to addressing the issue based on the employee’s reasoning?

You are important to the company: Emphasize that the employee is valuable to the company.

Some people may still not be receptive to criticism after the conversation takes place. If the accountability issue remains, supervisors should be more direct in terms of communicating the consequences as soon as possible.