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Lacking New Year's Resolve at Work?

New Poll Says 69 Percent Avoid Accountability Discussions with Coworkers; Expert Provides Tips for How to Hold Anyone Accountable

PROVO, Utah -- What is it about the office that causes people to clam up at the first sign of authority or bite their tongues when a coworker misses a deadline? According to the 2006 Crucial Conversations Workplace Survey, 69 percent of respondents who avoid confronting coworkers are avoiding issues of accountability, and half say the reason for shying away from these discussions about behavior, expectations or performance is that they are afraid of a negative outcome--like making an enemy, enduring a miserable argument or getting canned.

The top four reasons for avoiding crucial conversations at work:

* 50 percent say they are afraid of a negative outcome.

* 16 percent say they don't know how to start, hold, or finish the conversation.

* 10 percent say they can't ever find a good time to talk.

* 10 percent say the other person won't care about the problem.

What's more, 93 percent said not having these sticky yet crucial discussions has negatively affected the quality of their work life. Rather than hold their bosses or coworkers accountable, most people resort to a host of unproductive tactics such as working around or avoiding the person, talking behind the person's back, or acting out their frustrations in other ways.

Joseph Grenny, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Crucial Conversations, says learning skills for holding these discussions is the quickest way to boost your career.

"Employees looking to jump-start their careers in 2007 must learn how to hold others accountable," says Grenny. "Those who are skilled at holding effective accountability discussions with coworkers, bosses, or direct reports are typically more influential and more valued within the organization."

Grenny provides four tips for successfully holding anyone accountable:

1. Master the "Hazardous Half Minute." Most accountability conversations fail in the first thirty seconds. Survive the "Hazardous Half Minute" by creating safety--when you help people feel psychologically safe with you, they drop their defenses and listen. When you don't, they resist your influence and either blow up or clam up.

2. Stick to the Facts. When someone lets you down, you usually come up with your own explanation as to why he or she failed, such as selfishness, laziness, or incompetence. Avoid false conclusions by starting your crucial conversation with the facts--not judgments or accusations. Describe the gap between your expectations and what you observed.

3. Take Charge of Emotions. When someone lets you down, avoid the tendency to feel disappointed and upset. We tend to escalate our emotions by exaggerating our conclusions and judgments. Try to give the person the benefit of the doubt while you prepare to talk with him or her in a way that helps you draw accurate conclusions.

4. Pick the Issue You Really Care About. Most problems come in large bundles. A single infraction may include anything from a procedural violation to insubordination. Address the most important issue--not the easiest--and resolve the problem that really matters.

Note to Editor: Grenny and co-authors are available for interviews. A hi-res graph depicting survey results and review copies of the book are available.

About VitalSmarts: VitalSmarts is an innovator in corporate training and organizational performance. The company is home to the award-winning Crucial Conversations[R] Training and New York Times bestselling book of the same title, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High (McGraw-Hill). Both training program and book deliver a powerful set of influence tools that builds teams, enriches relationships and improves end results. VitalSmarts has been ranked twice by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in America and has trained more than 500,000 people worldwide.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Dec 19, 2006
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