How Public Accountability Can Reduce Cultural Ruptures


“We say we work in a professional environment, but I have a peer who seldom follows through on his action items, causing us to miss deadlines.”

“I work in accounting and I’m aware that leadership has misrepresented financial estimates to some of our lenders.”

“I can’t believe in today’s world that my manager continues to make sexists comments in our meetings.”

“We failed to honor warranties to some of our customers by inaccurately claiming that they had failed to service the equipment according properly.”

As revealed in the above comments, Sarah Clayton writing in the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW, reports that one in five employees have experienced a cultural crisis—shoddy quality, discrimination, cheating customers, bad leader behaviors—in the last year or two. 

Lack of accountability appears to be a major reason for these cultural ruptures.  For fear of elevating incidents, too many leaders just look the other way.  And when leaders do hold people accountable, they hide their actions under the cloak of “privacy.”

Effective cultures identify clear expectations and consequences regarding legal, ethical, and moral behaviors. 

To ensure greater accountability, leaders should:  (1) communicate expectations vigorously and repetitively, (2) apply appropriate consequences, and (3) shine the light on consequences by making them public.

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