The Aug25 New York Times The Daily podcast discussed the rise in workplace surveillance. My first thought: YIKES! My second thought: Why am I surprised. My third thought: How much has accountability eroded in the workplace?

Monitoring isn’t new

I get it. In a Covid-induced-work-from-home environment, companies needed to pivot. To keep business moving, work that could happen remotely … happened – thank you technology! Workers loved the flexibility – so cool that I can be here to lunch with my little one and put them down for a nap – and (at least initially) productivity went up. There was probably cost-savings too: the need for less office space / lower utilities / no more stocking coffee and snack stations / etc.

And … then … came … the buts.

But if people aren’t showing active online … are they really working?

But I get more done in the middle of the night (atypical work hours) when I’m not interrupted by calls and emails … do I really need to attend daytime status meetings that aren’t productive?

But don’t you trust me?!?

Where did the trust go?

Ahhh … the trust thing. I found that trust in business comes from a few things: Doing what you say you’ll do / being consistent / and honest (again consistent) communication about the good, the bad, and the ugly of how the work is progressing. So if I’m responsible for something – as a manager, clearly outlining deliverables … or … as a contributor, executing on those deliverables – why is accountability so difficult?

My “accountability conversation formula” is pretty simple. In the spirit of #3nomorethan5…

  • I give you a task to complete or behavior to work on.
  • If there is no progress, we revisit the task/behavior expectations.
  • If there is an obstacle (missing resources or tools for the task or a dynamic that’s feeding the behavior) … my job is to get that obstacle out of your way or find a different path.
  • If you can’t do it (lacking the skill or ability for the task or external elements impacting behavior) … let’s figure out how to grow your skill / partner you with someone with the skill / transfer the task / or address the implications of no changes in behavior.
  • If you won’t do it … then you have a choice to make:
    • Stay – Make the commitment to stay and keep moving forward.  This signals you  know and accept that results are expected.  Based on those results, there will be good or not-great implications.
    • Go – Agree and accept that maybe this role and the related tasks/behaviors aren’t the best for you and/or the team.  You and the organization can part amicably and set each other up for future success.

Accountability brings choices

The conversation formula works irrespective of your role. No matter which hat you wear – manager or teammate – remember …

  1. To take responsibility for your role in the formula
  2. Be accountable for what you do that places you in the same or a different place in the formula
  3. To make a choice

This all started with a podcast shining a light on perhaps the unintended consequences of technology and remote work. But regardless of whether you work remotely, in an office, are a leader,  or individual contributor; accountability is a key component to a leadership recipe.

Do I have a perfect track record at holding myself or my team accountable? Yeah…no. But having a formula has helped me build consistency over time. (If you’re interested, there are some good snippets on IG so take a peek at #accountability for more.) What’s your formula and where/how has it helped you improve your accountability?  Enquiring minds want to know!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *