Accountability in the Workplace Two Paths

Accountability in the Workplace Can Be Hard

One of the toughest decisions a leader makes is taking action when an employee isn’t working out. Maybe the reason is due to inadequate performance or it could be a poor cultural fit. In either case, if appropriate steps have been taken to resolve the issue and lots of support has been given, the right thing to do is sever ties. Accountability in the workplace doesn’t always give us the warm and fuzzies, but it is essential for creating strong organizational culture.

It’s not personal

Managers assume that moving someone out of a role or the organization reflects poorly on the person…or them. That could be the case if thorough steps have not been taken to help the person improve. But if the person’s natural approach is completely averse to the needs of the job, you aren’t doing anyone any favors by leaving them in place. Instead, you’re missing a critical moment to practice accountability in the workplace.

Recently, I worked with a woman, Jane, who loved her job as a researcher. Her daily assignments focused on investigating the root causes of customer complaints and she loved to problem-solve. The success of her work landed her a promotion into a supervisory role. She was then responsible for managing a small team and figuring out how to implement new processes to address the issues she had uncovered.

Unfortunately, that required different skill sets and interests than her previous position, ones she never wanted or intended to pursue. Her excitement for the expanded job and her manager’s insistence that she could learn what she didn’t know thrust them both into moving ahead. But in short order, both realized it was not a good fit.

No turning back…or is there?

The problem: neither Jane nor her manager wanted to go back on the decision because, well, accountability in the workplace can be hard. Embarrassment of appearing wrong was enough for them to leave things in place, hoping they would improve by sheer will. Jane, her manager, and the rest of the team landed in a cycle of letting things continue, even though everyone was miserable and the work suffered.

Ultimately, it took an outside perspective. I had the opportunity to work with Jane to identify the key issues, that this was a bad fit and not the reflection of anyone being wrong or incompetent. Jane and her manager worked to get Jane back into a role that she loved and excelled at.

Also importantly, the way this decision was communicated to the entire organization reflected an authentic rationale. The staff both respected and applauded everyone for doing what was best.

Don’t confuse admiration for fit

In recent months, I have faced this very situation with our foster dog, Mayflower. She came to us in March as the pandemic was starting to shut down everything. A timid dog suffering from separation anxiety, we weren’t sure how things would go. But my husband and I were committed to helping this gentle giant in every way we could.

Bringing a 125-lb mastiff into our home was not something we took lightly, especially knowing the quirks of her personality would take time and patience. Yet all of us, including our two cats, quickly became settled into pleasant routines. Morning walks together and sitting outside in the sunshine became staples of our day.

Working with a trainer who specializes in separation anxiety, Mayflower made amazing progress in staying home alone, much more than we ever even anticipated. Her temperament is everything we could have asked for. She is sweet and unassuming (not something you might expect for her size), and it all seemed perfect. Except for one thing.

Drool.Dog with Drool

The drool factor has been hard for us. Maybe we are just too picky and clean; we knew it might be an issue but were willing to give it a go. But after months, we came to the realization that the frequent stream of slimy slobbery goo wasn’t our cup of tea.

It lands on your skin, clothes, furniture, floors, and walls and we’re always trying to avoid it or clean it up. Poor Mayflower; it’s not her fault and she’s not doing anything wrong. Mastiffs drool and while we don’t like it, we love her. Still, that drool just makes it impossible for her to be a good fit in our house.

It was tempting to just grin and bear it – try our best to make it work. But when that goes on for too long, resentment starts to build up and frustrations occur that are unhealthy. We didn’t want Mayflower to feel unwelcome here.

So we contacted the shelter, explained the situation and asked if they would work with us to find another foster home. They have been tremendously supportive and just a few weeks later, another foster family enthusiastically offered to have Mayflower. She will head to another home in early November where drool is perfectly acceptable. And that’s the way it should be. A fit for all parties.

I will miss Mayflower, but it’s better for her to be where she can be totally comfortable. I’m sure she is going to love being surrounded by people who aren’t always trying to wipe her jowls!

Try your best – but don’t avoid action

As with any situation, do your utmost to make it work. Be sure to engage in conversation, ask questions, be curious about what is going wrong, and offer support to work through situations. In the workplace, reliable and valid assessment tools can provide objectivity and a common language for these discussions. Assessments also provide a level of self-awareness that may not already be there.

But if things are difficult or impossible to change, remember that accountability in the workplace is key. Focus on getting everyone into an environment that suits their unique, special, and natural ways. Only then will true happiness and success occur.


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