In my recent research on accountability, the theme of ‘staying silent’ was dominant. In the book Crucial Accountability, they found that people stay silent, rather than try to hold someone accountable. Moreover, many times people don’t want to address an issue if it’s the first infraction, for fear of being termed a micromanager.
What if, instead of focusing on what we risk by speaking out; we ask ourselves what we risk by staying silent? I’m sure you can all think of a time when a colleague was not held accountable, and how that made you feel. Naturally, there are several risks involved when this occurs.
By staying silent, implied approval becomes the message to the infractor, and all others involved as well. This actually makes it more difficult to say something later.
Inconsistent accountability can also be a problem. If it appears that you hold some accountable, but not all, playing favorites can be one interpretation you risk.
Chances are, without correction, the infraction will occur again and you’ll add it to your list of evidence about their behavior and ability. By that time, your patience may have expired and you’ll blow up.
Instead, it’s probably always better to speak up, unless it really is about a matter of little importance.
For more information on accountability, read my post Leadership and Managing Expectations.