I recently read a post in talent management about dealing with a slacking co-worker. Employee to employee accountability–the ability to have the necessary conversations–is a common concern when it comes to managing the experience or culture. If employees can address anissue, it will get addressed more quickly and it can prevent ongoing negative interactions. But how can employees feel comfortable that their actions will help rather than escalate the problem? Here is what we share with our clients…
While it is important for leaders to own the desired culture of an organization–to celebrate when an employee lives it everyday and to hold employees accountable when they fall short–there is power in providing employees with the structure and means to personally address behaviors that impact them. This can be tricky and requires courage, but when done well, it can address small misalignment with the culture before the behavior needs to be escalated to a “sit down” with a manager. It can feel like mentoring rather than wrist-slapping. When the tools are in place to allow this to happen, it can also increase the consistency of the culture dramatically – there really will be nowhere for negative behaviors to “hide” if everyone is empowered to address them.
When setting up an environment of peer-to-peer accountability, we recommend companies share the following guidelines with their teams:
- Make it about the Experience: Look for opportunities to mention the aspect of the culture that this behavior impacts so it’s about the company, and not just you personally. “We are all committed to teamwork, and I want to address this so we can be the best team possible.”
- Examine your motives: Will addressing the issue benefit the experience of the team and customers? Great. Is having the conversation just an opportunity to point out another person’s shortcomings? Then you may need to take a deep breath and be more accepting.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt: Assume the person is working with the best of intentions and just doesn’t realize the impact of their actions. Even if this ISN’T the case it will help you keep your emotions in check and provide a better outcome.
Here is an example of a simple statement that can work to start a conversation about a previous interaction, “Do you have a minute for me to ask you about something that has been bothering me? I want to get it out in the open to ensure we can keep a positive and productive working relationship.”
Here is an example of a simple statement that can work to remove emotion when a situation is starting to escalate: “From your tone, it sounds to me like you may be frustrated. Is there something I am doing to frustrate you?”
If you want employees to start managing their own culture, providing them these recommendations and conversation starters will help. Additionally, we recommend formally giving permission for these interactions so they will have the backing of leaders. For example, “If you see a behavior that impacts your employee experience or the experience we deliver to customers, we’d love it if you shared those impressions with your fellow employees. Please be respectful, but I’m sure most employees would rather hear about concerns from a peer than to have it escalated to a manager conversation. If you need help or advice on starting the conversation, please feel free to see someone in HR for recommendations.”
Of course, a great way to ensure employees can deal with interpersonal issues quickly and directly is for managers to be well versed in having these necessary conversations in a professional and respectful manner themselves.
While these conversations will require courage, the benefits of a stress-free, collaborative environment are huge – both for the productivity of the business and the employee experience.