Vector logo concept of a book club with people reading. Illustration can use for landing page, web, mobile app, banner, poster, flyer, background

From any manager's perspective, an unending challenge is balancing how to hold employees accountable without coming across as overbearing or overly-critical. As employee retention continues to be a critical issue for frontline cleaning crews across the industry, approaching a conflict with an employee incorrectly can have significant consequences not just with one quality member of the team, but beyond that if a poor reputation is established. 

To help frontline cleaning managers and distributors effectively maneuver this obstacle, the latest CleanLink Book Club installment is on Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior. Written by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler, this book — published by McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing — offers valuable insight into how to approach employees in a prepared, but constructive manner when issues arise. With additional insight from Shortform, three key concepts rise to the forefront when it comes to accountability conversations: preparing beforehand, knowing when to pick battles, and approaching conflicts from the perspective of the person in-question. 

Conversation Prep: The first step toward having a constructive accountability discussion sis to pinpoint exactly what the root of the problem is. Typically, it isn’t just one incident that prompts the need to talk, but a series of events that continues build tension. When dissected, however, it’s quite common for all of these incidents to fall under the same umbrella. For example, perhaps a custodian forgot to time-out after a shift, didn’t place equipment back correctly, or ask fellow custodians if they needed any help prior to leaving a facility. All of these discussions could trace back to a failure to study the initial handbook they were given during training. By mapping out the examples beforehand and tracing it back to a base issue, it can help steer the conversation in the right direction. Otherwise, failure to plan can lead to the conversation getting off track, frustrating the person who was sought to talk. 

Picking Your Battles: Every accountability conversation needs to trace back to seeking improvement from the person. If the person in-question does a series of things that are bothersome, the prompter needs to determine whether having a conversation to state your concerns is actually for the betterment of the person — and not just so they can curtail their behavior to fit your personal preferences. An example could be the order in which a custodian completes tasks on a shift. While the manager may prefer the employee disinfect touchpoint first before handling floor cleaning as it’s personally deemed a higher priority, it probably isn’t worth confronting them on as long as both tasks are completed in an appropriate amount of time and the job is done correctly. Doing so runs the risk of coming across as micromanaging, and not letting a dedicated employee have some individual agency in their job. 

Consider the Other Side’s Perspective: When an issue is approached only from the person who feels slighted, it can lead to entering a conversation with a lot of preconceived notions toward the other side. Patterson and the other authors discuss the theory that when someone makes a mistake, they tend to make more excuses or justifications for themselves — yet when someone else does, those same justifications aren’t as likely to be extended. Prior to initiating the conversation, it’s crucial to keep this mind, and if needed, check the ego at the door to unnecessary conflict with the person in question. 

For additional in-conversation tips and additional expertise on how to establish better accountability going forward, click here to check out the book for yourself! For another recent Book Club installment, check out this coverage on Design to Grow: How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale and Agility written by David Butler and Linda Tischler.