First with Drew McLellan on marketing, and now with Shirley Poertner on leadership, the free breakfast series is off to a fast start.  Shirley spoke yesterday about accountability in the workplace.  A concept that is frequently missing in many organizations.

Shirley says we have fallen into a "blame" society. 

  • If you spill hot coffee in your lap while driving . . . sue McDonald’s.
  • If you invest money in a high risk portfolio and lose . . sue your broker.
  • If your accountant misses the "S" Election . . . blame the lawyer. (Shirley really didn’t say this one I just needed to poke fun at Joe one more time). 

This notion of blaming others permeates the workplace.  "It’s not my fault" becomes the rallying cry of employees and supervisors alike. 

So how do we hold others accountable in the workplace according to Shirley? 

  1. Set clear expectations.  You may think you have set clear expectations but would your employees say the same thing?  You might be surprised by the answers.
  2. Consider Both Motivation and Ability.  Your initial thought may be that your employees are lazy or just want to make your life miserable.  Have you thought about other factors that may be influencing behavior?  What about whether the employees have the skill and knowledge to complete the task?  Is there a bureaucracy in your organization preventing work from getting done?    
  3. To Hold Others Accountable:  Skillfully Handle the Hazardous Half Minute
    • Describe the gap.  Make a statement about what you expected and what occurred.  Ex.  You made a commitment to get the project done by Friday.  It’s the following Wednesday and the project is not completed.
    • End with a question.  What happened?
    • Then listen.  What’s going on?  Is it about motivation or ability or both?

These strategies for accountability in the workplace will not only provide you happier employees and greater productivity but it may also help you reduce workplace litigation.  Treating employees with respect and effective communication are two of the cornerstones on how to avoid lawsuits from employees.