The Human Resource: Obstacles to accountability

Did you know that in many organizations the lack of accountability is something that grows and festers because of pleasantries and cordial interactions with members of your workforce? Another contributing factor is the allocation of tasks, responsibilities, and expectations on an employee that is well beyond their capabilities.

Over time, the employee is not provided the support, tools, or resources from the organization to be successful, and so job performance slips. However, you allow this inappropriate behavior and poor performance to persist because the relationship you have developed with the employee. The employee doesn’t fight back and demand to be treated fairly because they don’t want to upset you or hurt your feelings.

Conversely, you empower the employee to be in non-compliance because the relationship you have developed with them serves as an obstacle to confronting them about their performance or behavior. You fear losing the friendly or positive relationship, so you fail to hold the person accountable.

Eventually, the employee becomes powerful in making up their own rules and performing the job any way they want, failing short of your expectations, especially the ones you never appropriately communicated. In summary, you have lost control, and now you feel it is too late to hold them accountable. If this sounds familiar, read on, there is a solution.

It is never too late to meet with an employee and present clear and precise job performance expectations. Open, honest communication is the starting point. Let go of the personal relationship and remember as a supervisor you are paid to do a job, so do it correctly.

You cannot go back in time and tell the employee all the things they’ve done wrong and attempt to hold them accountable retroactively, that never works, and destroys the relationship. Instead, follow these steps and you will be well on your way to building more engagement with the employee, establishing appropriate and effective goals, measuring performance, and providing critical and constructive feedback in a timely manner.

  1. Meet with the employee and advise them that you have both their best interest at heart and the goals of the organization.
  2. Establish mutual purpose for the meeting, which needs to be honest, transparent, and evident. This mutual purpose should be establishing goals and expectations that will make the employee and the business successful.
  3. Commit yourself to helping the employee be successful. Remember, their failure is your failure, their success will be your success.
  4. Identify, with the employee, what tools, resources, and support they need to achieve the mutually agreed upon goals. Then provide them to the employee.
  5. Establish a realistic timeline, and schedule weekly meetings to communicate and monitor the progress to the goals.
  6. Any deficiencies in performance, or training and coaching needs identified, should be addressed swiftly and appropriate to continue the path to successful performance.
  7. Place employees who are not improving on a performance improvement plan with set goals and timelines.
  8. Issue corrective action to those employees failing to make progress, up to and including termination.
  9. Provide regular honest feedback, both positive and negative, to reinforce expectations and hold the employee accountable for achieving the goals.
  • Recognize goal achievement, and repeat this cycle until it is natural, and simply part of the business culture.

No matter how far along you are in failing to hold your workforce accountable, you can stop this problem today by implementing this process now.

About Warren Cook

Warren is the President and co-founder of SymbianceHR and provides strategic oversight for service delivery, business operations, and technical guidance on consulting engagements. He is a human resources subject matter expert with over 25 years of experience as a strategic human resources business partner, project manager, and people leader across private and public sectors organizations. Warren is responsible for the strategic planning of all client consulting engagements from initial needs assessment and compliance review through delivery of customized strategic solutions that meet the client’s business goals. He has a proven track record of providing executive coaching and guidance to business leaders and human resource professionals at all levels including the C-Suite of Fortune 100 companies. Warren is also the Chief Talent Officer and cofounder of SymbianceHiRe, a Symbiance company dedicated to providing direct placement talent acquisition services and temporary and contract staffing solutions to the business community. Warren holds a B.S. in Human Resource Management, an MBA in Project Management, and a M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Warren is the author of “Applicant Interview Preparation – Practical Coaching for Today.”



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