How to Have an Accountability Discussion

Declare Your Intent

Explain that you are holding the meeting to discuss the individual's performance and the need for improvement. Take time to let the employee know that your intent is to help solve any issues together and not to punish or just lay blame.

Be Direct & Objective

Explain specifically and in detail the expectations and how achievement of these expectations has been measured. Show gaps between actual performance and the expectations for performance. Be direct! Don't sandwich your feedback about a performance gap between two compliments. Your employee will respect your honesty as long as you are being objective and demonstrating an authentic desire to help.

Listen for Obstacles

Once you've described the situation, ask the employee for his/her response to the gap you described. If needed, ASK and PROBE for barriers to meeting expectations. Summarize what you've heard from the employee to ensure you understand his/her perspective completely.

Remain objective even if you are presented with an emotional response, however, acknowledging the response by reflecting the observe emotion back to the individual can help the individual most past the emotion. Remember, an emotional response is normal, but you can help by listening, reflecting, and asserting your desire to help problem-solve.

Problem-Solve Collaboratively

Brainstorm together a list of possible solutions to remove any identified obstacles or solve the problem. If you both agree that removing barriers will solve the problem, then create a plan of action to address the barriers and then follow-up to ensure the solution worked. If you do not believe that removal of barriers will fully address the performance gap, or if the employee does not agree there is a problem to be solved, then continue the discussion.

Identify Impacts

Explain the impact of not meeting these expectations; employees need and deserve to know the impact of not meeting expectations. Understanding the impact can help understand the performance gape and help motivate them to improve. Be prepared to relay your answers to the questions below and ask for agreement to work on the issue after each set of impacts is described. Stop describing the impacts if the employee agrees there is a problem. At that point, move to brainstorming a possible set of solutions.

  • How does it impact the quality of work produced by your department?
  • Describe the impact on those negatively affected by this performance issue:
    • others on the team
    • customers (internal and external)
    • students
    • other stakeholders
  • How does not meeting the expectations reduce your department's effectiveness, credibility, or efficiency?
  • Describe how not meeting the expectations hurts your own credibility and ability to do your job effectively.

If the individual has not shown sufficient motivation to improve, discuss the possible imposed consequences to him/her. Not meeting expectations could lead to the utilization of the Progressive Discipline process.

Summarize and Follow-Up

In conclusion, ask the employee if there are any areas needing clarification. Ask if there are any other reasons why the issue might not be resolved. Doing so will help ensure commitment to the solution and may help identify other roadblocks not previously considered.

Then tell the employee what to expect in terms of the next measurement for meeting expectations. Advise the employee of helpful resources or solutions. Encourage the employee to meet the expectations and to dialogue with you openly and honestly when encountering any difficulties in meeting performance objectives.

Document your conversation and if helpful, send a short summarization of the discussion including the identified action steps to the employee via email. Reiterate your support for the employee and that your intent is for the employee to be successful. Ask for any final comments and questions about the plan. This will allow the employee time to think about the conversation and make any additional suggestions or provide additional information that may be useful.