Hold Employees Accountable for Performance

To me, a leader is someone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes. And so what I think is really important is sustainability”.Brene Brown

We have discussed repeatedly that the success and sustainability of a company is the responsibility of each and every member and within this realm is the fact that even customer service and great products are everyone’s duty. It becomes imperative then to hold employees accountable for performance and customer service duties. Without such accountability there would be no standards of performance, no levels of customer service to maintain and overall there would a free for all work environment. When a company is able to hold employees accountable for performance, it will ensure that the output of work is achieving certain standards and that whatever employees do has value and efficacy for customers, the company and for themselves too. If managers fail in their duty to set standards and hold employees accountable to those standards, none of the company’s goals will be met – all levels would suffer. As a result of non-achievement of goals there would soon be unrest, chaos, conflicts and high levels of stress in the company which would most certainly affect every single aspect of business – customers and products first.

Despite these potentially risky outcomes, many companies repeatedly err by not providing a solid foundation to their employees because there are no clear objectives. Without clear objectives it would be foolish to hold employees accountable for performance – there would be no benchmark against which they should perform. How can any company perform without a clear vision and goals and even if there are goals, how can they be achieved if these are not conveyed and made part of each employees performance appraisal? Not having any standards against which it is possible to hold employees accountable for performance is a fatal flaw in any company’s policies and will most certainly have disastrous consequences. By not setting standards what a company is basically conveying is that they have no expectations, so how can you hold employees accountable? Without setting clear expectations and standards to be achieved, there can be no accountability and so whether they fail to perform or are just average in their work performance, your company would have to be okay with it.

The underlying premise of being able to hold employees accountable for performance is that each one would have received a clearly defined and well-articulated set of goals and accountabilities against which their performance would be measured. For example – a customer service representative should have received guidelines like the phone must be answered in 3 rings, they must use a standard salutation, they must remain courteous and polite and other such standards and failing to meet them would be reason for corrective action. It is a given that when an employee is new they would take time to ‘settle in’ and companies do allow them this time. This is normally the ‘honeymoon period’, post which employees must clearly understand that they would be responsible for their work output and their overall demeanour and consistent failure to meet the job objectives and other team goals could result in severe punitive action.

If a company does not hold employees accountable for performance there is a very real danger of causing disproportion in responsibility and the amount of workload each person carries. While inherently conscientious workers would do their jobs, the ones that are prone to slacking would leave their tasks unattended. Any unfinished tasks would then become the responsibility of each person and these tasks would get divided in the team, thereby adding to the workload of those that completed their assigned tasks. Allowing this kind of behaviour, or not pushing employees to continuously upgrade their skills and knowledge will most certainly depreciate the quality and output of work and cause a slack in customer service. A company is losing in many ways – paying salaries to these slovenly workers, causing discontent in the minds of good workers and risk losing them, run the risk of customers walking out and a serious dent in profit margins. Even in the best of times, no company can afford any of these problems.

So why do companies and managers of teams err and fail to hold employees accountable for performance? This aspect seems to get ‘pushed under the carpet’ because of the many other vital aspects of business being managed, however this makes for very poor business sense. Most of the time businesses believe that such situations and performance lapses ‘will sort get out on their own’ and leave them untouched. However, this is a fallacy since the ‘lazy and lax employees’ are unlikely to improve without supervision especially since their performance was poor even with supervision. Despite their laxity, most companies will still pay bonuses and increments (even if they are small amounts), which is known as “paying for non-performance’ and this can be highly damaging for the motivation of the ‘good workers’.

When managers try to escape their duty to hold employees accountable for performance, they have a tendency to pile the tough, ‘challenging’ and more arduous tasks on their hardest and smartest workers. This is often disguised as ‘opportunities for growth’ but sooner or later this tactic will fizzle out, making the company lose some of their best talent. Irresponsible and lax behaviour on the part of managers and people responsible for teams often results in lowered morale, employee attrition, negligence of customer service, no interest in innovating and creating and high levels of stress and conflicts. When your good workers leave, your workforce will be left with the employees who are lazy and incompetent – imagine the situation of your company, customers, investors and other stakeholders.

The other reason that managers and leaders avoid or fail to hold employees accountable for performance is because it is arduous, scary and can be intimidating. Managers know that without the support of their teams it would be tough to meet goals and hence believe that by pointing out poor performance they may hurt the feelings or even alienate the team members. However, this kind of avoidance management would most certainly anger the good workers of the team and they would view their manager as weak and unsupportive, leading them to look for jobs outside of the company. If the manager shows no sense of responsibility and cannot make tough decisions, how can the company expect teams and employees to do their jobs? In this case the managers need to hold themselves accountable for their non-performance.

Companies need to step up and put in place proper procedures and strict guidelines for work performance. Managers must be equipped with helping their teams to work together seamlessly, sort out their priorities such that they focus their time and efforts in the most pressing jobs and also manage the less urgent ones. The performance appraisal system must strongly promote equal weightage to work performance and upgrading one’s skills and knowledge. The values of the company must also receive due importance and in laying down rules for each aspect, the employees would know that non-compliance would lead to negative consequences. It is extremely crucial for a company to hold employees accountable for performance, behaviour and attitude. This would mean aligning the company’s goals with those of the teams and individuals and laying the responsibility of the achievement of these goals with each team member, so that each person has their fair share of daily work and equal contribution to the success of the company.

When a company is able to hold employees accountable for performance and other aspects, it is also conveying to them that they are important and valuable and that without their contribution it would be tough for anyone to succeed. By adding this sense of self-worth, a company can be sure that employees would be more determined to do their jobs (and more) well and serve the company and its customers to the best of their abilities.

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