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Accountability means having to answer for one’s actions. In the workplace, employees need to behave knowing in advance they will have to explain themselves and their actions will have either rewards or consequences.

It may sound tough or even confrontational, but it doesn’t have to be. By and large, employees want to feel like they’re being held accountable for their performance. Accountability leads to responsibility – and from responsibility stems such intrinsic motivators as purpose, significance and accomplishment. Ultimately, the end result is better engagement.

The Cost of Poor Accountability

Disengaged employees cost U.S. companies between $450 billion and $550 billion a year in lost productivity.

  • If you ignore poor performance, the employee may feel discouraged or devalued. This could even lead them to quit as a result.
  • The rest of your team could come to resent their low-performing peer – and you – because they have to pick up the slack in order to compensate. Or, others may perceive your failure to address an accountability issue as favoritism or simply weakness. This is demotivating to everyone involved.

Tackle the Issue Head On

As you build and reinforce employee accountability, concentrate on what’s right, not who’s right. Use these tips to make sure everyone is consistently accountable and to maintain your open, innovative culture:

  • Have a conversation with your employee without making it confrontational. Focus on the performance, not the person. Assume they want to do a good job; they aren’t being difficult on purpose.
  • Seek first to understand. Common reasons for underperformance include failure on the part of a manager to give clear direction, inadequate training and personal issues that may be spilling over into the workplace.
  • Ask the right questions. You may start out with something like, “Mary, I’ve noticed that XYZ has been happening more frequently lately. What’s your take on what’s going wrong here?” As information is revealed, dig deeper and learn why certain actions were taken. You might ask, “Can you walk me through the entire process?” or “Did you experience a technical issue that we need to fix?”
  • Be clear about expectations going forward. Make sure you reach a mutual understanding on why and how things need to change as a result of your discussion. It may help to include written goals and instructions, depending on the individual and their reaction.
  • Set SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. SMART goals help to ensure clear communication between an employee and a manager.
  • Follow through and follow up. You don’t have to report every single issue to HR, but it may help to email the employee and yourself and outline the problem that was addressed, the mutually agreed-upon resolution, and future expectations. This provides further clarification for everyone and gives you a paper trail in the event additional action is needed.
  • Praise your employee when you find them doing things right. Follow up with them the day after your meeting to see if they have any additional questions. Then, continue to follow up on a regular basis. In some cases, you may need to make further adjustments to reach your goals. When things are back on track, nothing is better for encouraging continued positive behavior than acknowledgement and recognition.

Contact the workforce development experts at PrideStaff Modesto for additional guidance on fostering accountability, engagement and productivity in all your employees. We have the solutions you need to build and retain your industry-leading team.

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