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Progress comes from the intelligent use of experience. Elbert Hubbard

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Create a culture of accountability

Create a culture of accountability

Our defensive reflexes cause us to hold onto old habits, and thus obstruct change. How can we address issues in a more constructive and responsible manner?


All organizations suffer from dysfunctional behavior. Latent conflicts, hidden agendas, political game-playing and passive resistance are more often the norm than the exception. Whether an integral part of the company culture or deplored by the majority, these dysfunctions are generally considered to be unavoidable.

In fact, we are at a loss when confronted with defensive behaviors. Deep-down, everyone would like things to go differently, but they also commonly share the belief that there is no point in trying to change these behaviors. “It’s always the same thing,” people say in the hallways. “They never listen. They refuse to consider other people’s constraints. They selfishly protect their own interests at the expense of the common good.”

We tend to say this sort of thing when we feel trapped by an unpleasant situation with no apparent solution. We shrug our shoulders and learn to live with unsatisfactory, but ubiquitous, behavioral standards.  Worse, we jump on the bandwagon, reasoning that we would be crazy not to act in a purely self-serving manner when everyone else seems to be doing it, but without realizing that this contributes to turning these behaviors into a shared standard.

There is some good news, however. Research by organizational psychologists shows that this trend can be reversed. Taking the first step to instill a culture of accountability is a realistic and productive individual decision. Admittedly, one person alone cannot change an entire company culture.  However, the impact of an individual who takes the risk to adopt a constructive attitude is rapidly beneficial and often contagious. First, on a personal level, doing something positive to change a bad situation is energizing. Second, setting the example often has a domino effect. Indeed, people generally want to work in a constructive environment and thus are often eager to follow suit.

To launch this constructive momentum, however, the first step is to become aware of the defensive reflexes that lead to counter-productive behavior.  It is then important to set the example in order to promote a new behavioral model more conducive to constructive confrontation, open discussion of problems and active learning.



Synopsis n.210b