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  • Elizabeth Skidmore

The Accountability Discussion: Strategies for Managing Hard Conversations

“We need to do a better job holding people accountable.” How many times have I heard this statement during my career? Every leader understands the important connection between staff accountability and performance, yet too often accountability discussions are ineffective or fail to take place entirely. In fact, a recent study of hundreds of thousands of employees by Culture Amp found that only 45% agreed or strongly agreed with the survey question: “When it is clear that someone is not delivering in their role we do something about it.”

According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, author Melissa Raffoni points out that “a lack of accountability is rarely intentional” and is more often a symptom of other organizational issues such as culture, unclear roles and responsibilities, and unrealistic goals and strategies. This lack of clarity undermines the organization’s expectations of staff which, in turn, serves as a barrier for exemplary employee performance. In other words, without accountability discussions employees may not be aware of their sub-standard work.


One of the most effective strategies for developing and supporting a culture of accountability is ensuring that agency leaders, and supervisors in particular, have the tools they need to hold their staff accountable. This includes supervisory training as well as coaching and mentoring. Without these resources in place, organizations will continue to struggle with holding their employees accountable for performance. Employees that receive regular and frequent feedback about their performance have greater engagement with the organization and ultimately, experience greater success in their respective roles.

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