We all know what it’s like to be promised, “I’ll get back to you on that question,” only to never hear another word. Likewise, we’ve all dealt with colleagues who draft off of others’ achievements, salespeople who don’t stand behind their products when the stuff hits the fan, and bosses who pass the buck far more often than they stop it. Chances are, when you come across these situations in your daily life, you chalk them up to customer service slip-ups, leadership breakdowns, personnel issues, and poor communication.
But according to Julie Miller and Brian Bedford, authors of Culture Without Accountability—WTF? What’s the Fix?, you can actually trace these problems back to something much more granular but no less serious: a lack of accountability.
“When employees behave with a lack of accountability, their actions hurt your bottom line, whether that’s through low personal productivity, negatively affecting morale, alienating coworkers and customers, or something else,” says Miller. “The good news is, if you’re vigilant and proactive, you can catch and handle these accountability issues before they grow into ‘customer service problems,’ ‘leadership breakdowns,’ and so on.
“If you’re a leader, it’s your job to hold your people responsible for what they do and don’t do,” Bedford notes. “That means rewarding behaviors that help your company grow and promptly addressing those actions and habits that have a more negative impact. Don’t wait for something to go majorly wrong to do damage control. Remember, accountability is built or broken in the day-to-day.”
Here, the authors share ten types of accountability-sabotaging employees to watch out for:
The cavalier promise maker. We’ve all dealt with this person. “I’ll make sure I get back to you tomorrow.” “The product will be delivered by Thursday.” “Of course we can handle that order volume.” …Do these comments sound familiar? For the cavalier promise maker, it’s easy to promise someone the moon (especially if that promise makes the speaker look good!), but follow-through is a different story entirely.
“If someone in your organization fails to meet his commitments more than once or twice, he lacks accountability,” says Miller. “Over time, employees who fit this profile will cause your market share to drop, especially if you operate in the fast-moving consumer goods space. Customers who didn’t receive what was promised will take their business elsewhere, or even worse, take to the Internet to spread the word about their bad experience. These are the employees bad Yelp reviews are made of, and their lack of accountability will sink your business.”
The feel-good tagline spouter. “We put the customer first.” “Your best interests are our best interests.” “We’ll go the extra mile for you.” Sure, these assurances sound good, but only if they are supported by your employees’ actions. Watch out for individuals who spout platitudes while leaving customers unsatisfied.
“Employees—and by extension, companies—who put their own convenience before that of the customer will see a rapid migration of their customers to other suppliers,” notes Bedford. “Remember, your company’s stated values and policies aren’t worth much if they don’t match up with your individual employees’ attitudes, priorities, and behaviors. Your organization is accountable to its customers, and it’s crucial for your people to take that obligation personally. That means standing behind the product and taking ownership of any problems that crop up, regardless of inconvenience.”
The expense account swindler. We all know people who have doctored expense account forms for personal gain. (Maybe you’ve done so yourself at one time or another.) These folks are masters at justifying why they shelled out the company’s money for expensive meals, room service, entertainment, upgraded rental cars, and more. Sure, some of those expenditures may have been aimed at wooing a prospective client, but come on…no one really believes that the only vehicle the rental agency had to offer was a fully loaded Cadillac Escalade!