Hold those employees accountable, not me

Why is it employees want consequences placed on others that they wouldn’t place on themselves?

It is very typical that people ask me what my opinion is about certain real-life and hypothetical situations in order to extract my opinion.  The other day I was conducting a business briefing and was asked how I would respond to a real situation that my questioner Mark experienced.

He described to me a situation where a group of employees were not providing the level of passion and commitment the company was looking for.  He said this group was responsible for supporting a very important product line that was only available from his company.  For the company, the customers that purchased this product were some of the most valuable customers in the entire company.  Making sure these customers were served well and had high customer experience levels was very important.  The executive team wanted the employees that were in this service team to be some of the most enthusiastic company loyalists in the organization.  Unfortunately, the were not.

Mark then told me about a co-worker (Edwin) that shared his own advise on what to do to get this group energized and engaged.  Edwin said to Mark that he should provide specific details on the level of performance and actions the company wanted the employees in this group to perform and how they were supposed to behave.  Edwin then said to Mark that he needed to make it very clear what the consequences were to be if things did not change to meet the expectation.

The question Mark posed to me was, “How would you respond to Edwin’s advise?”

After a brief moment to put everything in context I answered Mark’s question.  I said to Mark that I would thank Edwin for his advise, tell him it was a great idea, and that we were gong to start this process with him (Edwin).  I then shared with Mark the irony of human behavior when it comes to punishment and consequences (negative reinforcement).  People want you to give OTHER people consequences, but when you start giving them consequences their position changes.

This starts at an early age too.  If you have kids you know what I am meaning when I say they are not happy unless they are creating conflict.  It seems as though they have to create conflict in order to experience some sort of weird satisfaction for being a sibling.  Retaliation is also very common and the words, “He’s touching me,” rings in my ears at times even when I am alone.

I practice the advice I gave to Mark with my kids on a regular basis.  I suspect the response Mark received from Edwin is probably the same response I get from my kids.  When one of them tells me that I should place the other in time-out for their bad behavior they most often are both guilty of bad behavior.  So my response is “Okay, you get over there first.”  It is amazing to see how much squirming and deflection of responsibility occurs when this happens.

Why is it we want others to be subjected to command and control tactics but do not want to be part of them ourselves?  Why is it that many people in power positions with oversight of many employees are very willing to HOLD people accountable and construct policies, consequences, and punishments but do not want these constraints placed on themselves?

Why does it take so long (sometimes never) for people to realize that the most productive type of reinforcement is positive reinforcement and that command and control is not wanted by anyone?.

One Response to Hold those employees accountable, not me

  • No one ever wants to admit they are at fault and it’s much easier to point the finger of blame elsewhere. I’d argue that a lot of employees don’t even realize they are equally at fault! And when it’s pointed out to them they get defensive and uncomfortable.

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