Should holding people accountable be so difficult?

I remember working as a teenager, helping with some light construction – actually digging ditches, or painting, or lugging equipment around.  There was never any question as to what my job function was, and what the consequences would be if I failed to do it.  Imagine a situation where your foreman gives you and two coworkers shovels, and tells you all to start digging a trench.  He knows full well that 3 people working diligently can excavate a trench that is 30 linear feet by one foot wide and one foot deep in less than 3 hours.  He tells you to get started at 9 am, and he’ll be back at noon to check progress and break you for lunch.

At noon when he arrives, the trench is only 50% complete.  One of us says we forgot how long the trench was supposed to be and assumed we were done.  The second laborer says “my hands hurt, so I stopped”.  The third explains quite logically that digging a trench is work that he is overqualified for, and therefore he has a new suggestion for the foreman as to how to best utilize his talents.  What do you think would happen at noon that day?


All three of us are run off, of course.  Fired on the spot, as we should be.  The expectations were clear, the tools were provided, and we each came up with excuses not to perform the task, both singularly and as a team.  Why is this so hard to translate to the business world?  Why are we so much more lenient on “white collar workers”? 

Perhaps it’s simply that we have accepted excuses for far too long when it comes to this kind of work.  I am not suggesting an authoritarian approach per se, nor am I advocating a “drill sergeant” mentality to management.  Setting expectations and being willing to hire and train replacements will go a long way towards outfitting your company with the right people.  You will have to roll up your sleeves and do the work, or hire someone from outside the company if you need a change of culture.  Do not be afraid to make changes, however, if you are not hitting your goals due to employee apathy or a lack of compliance with company policies.  Once this becomes commonplace, you will have a systemic problem on your hands; one that will undermine everything you are trying to accomplish.  When managers are unwilling to do the follow up and training necessary to affect positive change, they cede control to those who may not have the company’s best interests in mind.

Setting the proper expectations, providing the tools, and training the staff will make your business:

1.       More fun to work in.

2.       Less stressful to manage.

3.       More profitable to own.

If you’d like to hear more information regarding changing your corporate culture, please contact us today.

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