You are completely fuming.
A peer in your management group failed to provide you with a promised response to a query made a week ago. Now, you have no way to complete your report, forfeiting desperately needed resources for your department. When you called to see if you could rescue the proposal at the last minute, you learn that the manager is on vacation and taking no calls. His designated interim manager knows nothing about the promised information.
Your request to treat this situation as an emergency is denied.
When the manager you needed a response from returns from vacation you find yourself sitting across from him in a management meeting. He smiles at you and says “hello.” You grunt, certain you hear a sense of smug superiority in his greeting. Your opportunity to turn in the report and request for additional resources has come and gone.
UGH! He promised that information. He knew that without it, seeking additional resources would not be possible. There is no way he couldn’t know the impact of his inaction.
After the meeting, as everyone files out into the hallway you find your opportunity.
You: “I cannot believe you completely screwed me over like that!”
Him: “Excuse me?”
You: “I hope you enjoyed your vacation. You left without providing the capacity information you promised so I could request additional resources. If you think you weren’t getting good response from us before, just wait until you’re in a bind and see how fast we respond now.”
This interaction is going from bad to worse. Let’s put this story on pause and do some reflection.
Accountability always starts with you. It starts with an honest assessment about your role in the ensuing conflict. Here are some questions that came to my mind:
Why did you wait until the last minute to see if you had the report if it was so important?
Why do you wait so long to do your part of the report?
We have to rely on and work with others. You may be right about how wrong your co-worker is however this approach is not effective. (Turning Conflict into Cooperation: Right or Effective?)
Before you go to talk to your peer manager identify things you can do in the future to minimize something like this happening. You will be more calm knowing that you can avoid this in the future and maybe have some empathy going into the interaction realizing you missed some steps yourself.
With a calm demeanor and personal accountability you are now ready to have an effective communication that will build your relationship.
Let’s start again.
When the manager you needed a response from returns from vacation you find yourself sitting across from him in a management meeting. He smiles at you and says “hello.” You say, “I need to talk to you for a few minutes after this meeting so I can clear something up.”
THE ACCOUNTABILITY SHOWDOWN
After the meeting, as everyone files out into the hallway you find the manager.
You: “I don’t know if you realize it but I did not receive that information I requested before you left on your vacation, I was wondering what happened? As a result, I wasn’t able to get my request for additional support in.”
Him: “ “I didn’t send it by email. I gave it to my interim manager two days before I was leaving in an internal envelope to give to you.”
You: “Oh, that’s what happened. What can be done in the future to avoid something like this? I was pretty stressed out. I am wondering if you can help me now with a late request.”
When you have no authority to hold a peer or teammate accountable in a way which results in punitive consequences, it may seem as though peer-to-peer accountability is futile. Do not fear, it isn’t. This is the power of accountability. It is about creating effectiveness and the best possible outcomes. It takes commitment, skill and a dose of self-awareness, but the results are worth it.
This accountability series continues with part two, “Holding Yourself Accountable.”