Who is Doing What?

“A couple of my employees don’t finish their tasks or miss deadlines fairly frequently. They always have a reason they aren’t to blame. How can I get them to take responsibility for their job?”

Your HR Survival Tip

We have met people who were very good at moving paper around and looking very busy but who were not productive. We have met others who appear relaxed and easy-going but were extremely productive. How productive a person is may vary but you can help by holding people accountable.

Before holding your employees accountable, you must first look at yourself. Are you very clear about what is needed and when? Do you make sure the employee has the tools and skills to complete the work? Can your employees ask you questions without you rolling your eyes or looking impatient? Since every company does things just a bit differently, have you taught the employee your preferred method?

Once you’re sure “it’s them, not you,” you’re ready to make a plan:

  • Make a list of things each employee is responsible for on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. It can be as simple as checklists but is not intended to include the employee’s every movement. This is about their responsibilities for that time period. For example, a receptionist’s daily list might include “distribute mail received that day,” “check the info@company.com email and forward any emails to the appropriate person,” or “distribute any phone messages hourly.”
  • Go over the lists with each employee and discuss the items until you are both in agreement about what each item means.
  • At the bottom of each list, have a place for the employee to sign and date it. Have them turn them in to you each day, week, and month. Actually look at what they turn in and have your own system in place to spot-check things to ensure everything was actually done, not just checked off.

Let everyone know they will be personally accountable for completing their tasks. Your lists have built-in deadlines… the daily list means everything on that list should be done that day, etc. If they have an excuse for not doing something, make sure it was truly out of their control, such as the power going out. If they start to blame others, stop them and tell them it wasn’t the other person’s responsibility… it was their responsibility to ensure it was done.

It has been our experience that, when asked nicely, employees will help each other out with requests. Where it fails is when an employee makes it a demand instead of a request or invokes your name to get things from others. Both are cause for resentment and make them less responsive. Sometimes an employee will be focused on accomplishing their own responsibilities and refuse to help others. If you hear any of this is happening, you’ll need to work with the employees so they understand how to accomplish their work in a way that allows them to remain friendly with their coworkers.

Employees must work together to keep your company on track but you are driving the train. You need to set up your own accountability process to ensure everything is moving smoothly. Otherwise, you’ll spend even more time dealing with employee finger-pointing and an uncomfortable work environment.

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