Holding Others Accountable

Why are we so hesitant, even reluctant, to hold others accountable? 

I’ve noticed this phenomenon again and again with clients and companies I do business with, but it really hit close to home this week.  Here’s what brought this so clearly to mind. 

A few months ago, a storm damaged the roof of our home.  Since we have insurance in place, the insurance company should replace the roof.   My husband, Mike, is handling this with the adjuster, the insurance company and the roofers, and has been very patient. 

Weeks after filing the claim, we finally received the inspector’s report after several calls and e-mails to the adjuster.  Mike discovered that the inspector had not included the cost to replace the patio cover or shed roof.  Regardless of whether it was intentional or not, it was the inspector’s mistake.  When he emailed the inspector to point out the mistake, Mike apologized for making to the inspector rework the report.  Yes, you read that correctly – Mike apologized to the inspector.  Mike goes out of his way to be courteous and respectful, but why should HE apologize for the inspector’s mistake?  When I asked him, Mike said he did not want to aggravate the inspector who would probably take longer to get the corrected report to the adjuster. 

We then patiently waited several more weeks to get the corrected report from the adjuster, the one she promised to have a week and a half ago.  Her lack of responsiveness is not surprising.  What did surprise me is my husband’s reaction to the never-ending delays.  He said he does not want to call her again because he believes she’ll get annoyed, stick our file at the bottom of her pile of claims, and delay it even more.  Wow!  He’s decided just to wait because he is afraid she’ll retaliate. 

Maybe this fear of retaliation is a common response in our society.  I recently saw a sketch on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory where the main characters were at a restaurant bantering with the server.  One character cautioned another not to aggravate their server for fear of what the she would do to their food.  It was funny in the show, but not so funny in real life. 

Why are we so afraid to expect people to do their jobs, to do what they say they will do?  In the workplace, why do we hesitate to hold our employees accountable?  Why are we reluctant to hold our friends and family members accountable?  What are we afraid of? 

Here are several misguided excuses for not stepping up and holding other people accountable. 

  • We don’t hold ourselves accountable so are willing to allow others to play the same victim game we play.  Don’t spend your life giving and accepting excuses.  Commit to your own high standards; then expect the same from others.  You’ll get better results. 
  • We’re afraid of retaliation.  You might want to be careful not to insult your food server if you think you might find something “special” in your meal, but that doesn’t mean accepting poor or incompetent service.  If you have employees who retaliate when you hold them accountable, it’s time to have a serious conversation about your expectations for their performance. 
  • We are afraid that people won’t like us.  We think that if we’re not “nice,” if we confront people, they won’t like us.  Don’t be willing to sacrifice your self-respect and the respect of others just to be liked.  Quit being a doormat and allowing people to walk all over you.  It’s OK to stand up for what you want. 
  • We are afraid of confrontation and conflict.  Many people don’t know how to express their wishes, opinions, or concerns.  They think that if they confront someone about their behavior and performance, they have to start an argument.  Your communication does not have to be combative or argumentative.  Clearly state what behaviors you want and expect.  Don’t make it personal; make it about the person’s behavior. 
  • We just don’t care.  Indifference is an infectious disease that destroys quality of life.  When we don’t care enough about ourselves or those around us to demand accountability, we cast ourselves in the role of a powerless victim.  It takes more effort to care, but it’s worth it.  You’re worth it. 

Expect the best.  Ask for the best.  Hold others accountable.  You deserve it – and so do they.