I’m coaching a supervisor through a tough thing right now. He observed one of his team out fishing when he was supposed to be home sick. He didn’t say anything to the person, but came to me with his anger and frustration.
He’s angry because he trusted the guy. He’s frustrated because a missing team member affects the whole team.
I’m coaching him again about the basics of work relationships: honest communication, and accountability.
He needs first to talk it all out with his team member. He needs to tell him what he saw, how he came to see it, and how it was different that expected. He needs to be fair but explicit about how this person’s behavior affected the team, and how it makes it hard to trust. And then he needs to listen just as long as he talked, to give his team member a chance to explain, respond and, hopefully, agree to responsibility.
But here’s the hard part: after all that, if possible, he needs to motivate his team member to hold himself accountable. Accountability that comes from the boss will only be effective as long as the boss is watching. True accountability comes from a person’s own sense of how their behavior affects things they care about, things like their friends or their career. That kind of accountability comes from seeing clearly the consequences of losing trust.
If successful, my supervisor will end up with a team member who no longer wants to play hookie because he understands it isn’t worth the potential bad outcomes.