The Accountability Conversation

26 Oct
by Bridget DiCello

The Accountability conversation is one of the most difficult and this is why it does not occur routinely in many companies.  This conversation is the one that comes before the disciplinary situation where you’d like to fire the person.  It comes during the normal course of doing business and should be an ongoing conversation.  It should not be a surprise if you have set the expectation that it is coming.

With that said, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is the specific unacceptable behavior that is causing the problem with performance?  Define the specific behavior and avoid accusatory adjectives like “grumpy, bad attitude, lacks initiative, lazy, etc.”
  • Does the employee know what the expectation is?  When have you told them and did they get it?
  • Has the current performance been acceptable in the past?  Still needs to be addressed, but this must be acknowledged.

Accountability works best when both the manager and the employee know it is coming, there is a set routine for doing it, and both people are involved.  These are the steps that are most important.

  1.  Be sure to clearly explain what is expected.  More detail may be required for some front line employees, where higher level employees may have more freedom in how to do the job and the expectation will be more about results.
  2. “Test” understanding.  Not by asking them to repeat what you said, but by asking a question that requires they speak about what they will do first, what they expect to be most difficult etc.
  3. Set a time and date for follow up.  And make sure they realize what they will have been expected to accomplish by that time.  This may be a specific result, progress they will have been expected to make or a task that should be finished.
  4. Stick with the time and date you establish.  At that time, ask them to report on their progress, without you having to prod with a million questions.
  5. Keep the accountability going by setting the next expectation and the next accountability date.  Have these types of conversations all the time, taking just a moment or setting a sit-down meeting.
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