The Super Secret Art of Holding People Accountable

07.07.22 12:30 AM

Have you ever trained a dog (or really, any pet) before?  Even if you weren't directly involved with the training, odds are, if you owned a pet, you've had to work on the concepts of pattern recognition and cause-and-effect with them so that they learn behaviors that you want (although I hear goldfish are notoriously stubborn and refuse to listen!).  An obvious example, perhaps, would be teaching your dog Bow-Wow not to utilize the inside of the house as a bathroom, and that he is to wait until you are on your walks, or in the backyard.  Expanding this concept a bit further, the same training applies to children, albeit in a bit of a different execution.  The core principles remain, however, and the children slowly learn what actions are and are not acceptable based on the consequences associated with each.


Believe it or not, employees are the same way.  There is something to be said for old habits that carry over to a new job or work environment, but generally speaking, an employee will operate within the bounds that you set.  Then, slowly but surely, the employee will begin to test those bounds.  To steal the imagery from Jurassic Park, the raptor will begin testing the cage for weaknesses.  As they test, poke, and prod, they begin to learn what of the original rules and boundaries set you actually intend to enforce, and which are flimsy, and ignorable.  Are you serious that people are not to be late to work, or can they get away with coming in ten-past their start without reprimand?  Are all the tasks that they are assigned required to be completed, or can they get away with not doing some of them and never be confronted about it?  Are you serious about the number of breaks they are allotted in a day, or can they take smoke breaks, elongated lunch breaks, and "wander-the-shop-and-converse-with-their-peers" breaks as often as they so choose?

The need to set boundaries with your staff, and then actually enforce those boundaries is an entire topic unto itself.  Instead of focusing on the concept in general, highlighting the most insidious of these offenses is more worthwhile.  That offense is that of shirking job responsibility, or worse, reverse-delegating work.  It doesn't matter if the strategy employed is conscious or not, nor whether the strategy is born of ill-intent (such as laziness).  The strategies typically employed usually manifest in one of two ways: either the employee actively fails to complete the task, or the passively fails to complete the task.  An active fail might look like the employee constantly asking the boss or coworkers for help, and not being resourceful in their attempts to complete the job. A passive fail might present itself as the employee just ignoring the task altogether.  They are testing the boundary to see if they can get away with only doing part of their job.

Hold team accountable

Whichever the case, your obligation as a manager is to provide them with the tools, training, and resources to accomplish the expectations you set forth.  Your obligation, however, is not to do the job itself; that is, after all, why you hired this employee.  If they are reverse-delegating it to you by asking for your help, and then effectively leaving you to accomplish it all, or forcing you to take care of the task because they are simply not doing it, they are pushing the boundaries.  If you have not clarified what the expectation is, such that the employee cannot be held accountable to ignoring it, or not provided the tools, training, or resources such that they can actually complete the task, the only one to blame is you.  Once those obligations have been met, however, your sole responsibility is to hold the employee accountable to the tasks' completion.  If you fail to do so, just like the cages of the velociraptors, eventually the boundary will break down entirely, and disaster will follow.  Reinforce the boundary with the super secret art of holding your employees accountable to what you expect them to do, and watch their productivity soar.  Of course, if your hands are too full with the other day-to-day operations of your business, BMI's HR department is there to support you.

- Your BMI family