Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News - 18-07-2019
With a competitive demand for jobs and a tough economic climate, working effectively with others is one of the most critical components of success.
When an organisation does not have clear and open communication and employees don’t feel comfortable to discuss issues before they become problematic, there is a negative impact on the organisation and individuals.
A psychologically safe environment in which communication can take place is required to avoid unexpected shifts and the lack of accomplishment.
Helene Vermaak, Business Director at The Human Edge says Although, a breakdown in communication can be assessed and fixed through much needed conversations, these often don’t happen as many co-workers would rather not address the issue.
Vermaak describes psychological safety as when an employee is willing to speak up without fear of negative consequences.
“When we decide not to have these crucial conversations the problem only persists and worsens. Or, if we do decide to speak up, we tend to do so aggressively and critically which can lead to larger issues. “It is during the lag time between the incident and addressing it that employees become frustrated, disinterested and production dwindles, creating a dangerous cycle and ultimately critically impacting the overall effectiveness of the organization.”
Vermaak says Accountability needs to start from the top and filter its way through the organisation.
“It is the willingness and ability to effectively address problems and challenges that separates healthy from unhealthy relationships, vital from dull organisations.”
Vermaak says to ensure accountability in an organisation there needs to be a culture of holding others accountable for their actions.
In recent research conducted by The Human Edge it was found that only 50% of the South African workforce believes their work environment is psychologically safe.
In a previous study done by The Human Edge we found that workplace conversation failures are both rampant and costly. People indicated that on average, they tend to waste seven workdays before addressing a performance challenge.
It is estimated that each failed conversation costs an organisation between R100 000 and R200 000, with 25% of respondents estimating the cost to exceed R500 000.
For accountability to become ingrained in an organisation, Vermaak proposes mastering the following skills:
- When it comes to holding someone accountable, it is not about calling them out, it’s about supporting them socially. When we are faced with unacceptable behaviour, we tend to absorb the event in different ways, and soon tell ourselves one of two stories: the person involved doesn’t care, or they are incapable of meeting our expectations. Our feelings towards the event will either make us say nothing or lash out because we have let it fester for too long. We need to master our stories.
- Your ability to effectively hold others accountable begins with your paradigm. Change how you see matters of accountability and you’ll shift how you discuss them. To master your story, you need to start with “me” and then separate your stories from the facts and reflect on what you really want from the conversation. By approaching the conversation as one offering social support and mastering your stories you will broaden your influence.
- Once you have mustered up the courage to have a conversation, and you have mastered your story, you need to start by conveying positive intent. From the onset you need to establish a mutual purpose – you understand what is important for both yourself as well as for the other person – and mutual respect – that you care and have respect for the other person. By stating your positive intentions immediately, people cannot become defensive about why they think you are saying something. It is important though to be frank and sincere and not to skirt around the topic you want to address.
- Once you have mastered your stories and started with positive intent, it is now time to address how their performance didn’t meet the expectation – you need to describe the gap. How you do this will make all the difference in whether the conversation continues effectively, so stick to the facts. When we stick to the facts we leave no place for stories, assumptions and interpretations of behaviour. Leading with the facts is an essential best practice because it starts with the agreement or expectations. Facts are emotionless and therefore provide an objective and straightforward means of establishing context.
It is often our pre-conceived idea about holding someone accountable that keeps us from having these conversations; however, when people are held accountable they know they are valued and when they feel valued they contribute, engage and speak up themselves. It is how we speak up that is vital and by holding others accountable and engaging in these conversations regularly this behaviour will grow and will ultimately become part of the organisation’s culture.