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The “J” Curve of Employee Accountability

What to expect when you begin to hold employees accountable

When you begin to hold employees accountable, it is important to remember that morale may go down before it rises to a higher level. We call this riding the “J” curve of workplace excellence. When you start on the accountability trail, some employees may become resentful. If you are a new leader to a team, you know what this feels like. The employee wants to tell you something like this: “I liked my old boss a lot better. My old boss did not bug me and I didn’t bug her. You annoy me, and I would be a whole lot happier if you would just leave me alone.”

When you start to hold employees like this accountable, they, along with every other marginal employee, become disgruntled. Morale declines and starts to move toward the bottom of the “J” curve. The morale and motivation must go down to the starting point on the “J” before it can rise up to the top.

Being a great leader in search of the path that leads to workplace excellence is not for the faint of heart. Holding all employees accountable to clearly defined outcomes is hard work. With really difficult employees, it feels like a fight. Yet holding everyone accountable and holding onto the “J” for the entire ride takes you one step closer to creating workplace excellence.

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