Responsibility Avoiders

Responsibility Avoiders


Have you ever had a conversation with a subordinate or team member where you were trying to coach them and correct a problem and throughout the conversation they continued to turn the conversation away from their actions to the actions of others or to other perceived issues outside themselves?

It is so frustrating when talking to a person about their actions, and how what they do affects the team, and they don’t listen to the coaching, or take responsibility for their actions, and want to continually focus their attention on others.

So how do we deal with these people and get them to focus on their actions instead of avoiding responsibility and side-tracking the conversation?

The first thing you need to do is make sure that when you have a conversation with these people you do it in private without any interruptions or distractions. These people will look for any way to get out of a conversation that concerns performance issues related to themselves.

Make sure that you have your facts written out and be very specific about the particular issues you need to address with them. Dates, times, particulars of each situation are very important. The more facts you have, that you can directly point to, the harder it will be for this person to deflect responsibility and change the subject.

Before you have this conversation make sure you are in the right state of mind. You do not want to allow yourself to become agitated or frustrated. Prepare yourself mentally for the fact that they will obfuscate and try to distract you from the facts at hand. You need to make sure you are in control of your own emotions because these people will no doubt make your blood boil and push you to the point of losing your cool which plays right into their hands. They want you to get emotional because it will keep you off-balance and allow them to take the conversation off topic.

When you begin your conversation tell them very clearly what the issue is, present your facts, and let them know in no uncertain terms what the expected changes are that need to occur to resolve the deficiency in performance. Make sure to let them know that you will be monitoring the situation and schedule checkups with them to ensure that the changes are being made and that their performance is changing to conform to expectations.

Throughout the conversation they will try to blame others for their performance issues and try to steer the conversation away from themselves. No matter how often they do this, or how frustrating it becomes, keep your cool, do not let them rattle your cage.

Every time they try to change the subject bring it back to their performance and their actions. When they want to discuss a coworker tell them, “I am not going to discuss so-and-so at this time. We are here to discuss your performance and actions and how you need to work on improving what you are doing.” Help them to understand how their performance or actions are affecting the team and keep them focused on their actions.

If they try to distract by bringing up inconsequential items of their job that they claim are causing their performance issues deal with it right away. Find a solution that will remove these perceived obstacles from the conversation. If they claim they do not have a proper tool for doing their job, or that the tools they have are in need of repair or replacement, make the commitment to address these items but then steer the conversation back to their performance. The conversation might go something like this:

“I understand that the tools you have may not be ideal, I will look to see what we can do to address your concerns, but you are being asked to use the same tools as everybody else and your performance continues to be below the rest of the team. So what can you do to meet expectations with the tools you have available to you?”

Never allow the individual you are talking with to distract from the real problem. If they have legitimate concerns or points, then listen. Write them down and follow through on any legitimate concerns. But do not let these concerns derail the conversation. Always stay focused on the actions of the individual and always keep them focused on what their performance issues are and on what they need to do to improve performance.

When dealing with problematic individuals you always need to keep them focused on the fact that the only things that they ultimately have control over are their own thoughts and actions – they do not have control of anything else. Keep them focused on what they are doing and how it is affecting their work. If they have legitimate concerns address them to maintain your own integrity. But once you have removed the roadblocks you must put the focus back on the individual’s accountability and actions.

For other suggestions and ideas for dealing with problematic personalities check out the other posts in this series: The Many Faces of Difficulty, The Complainer, and The Sour Attitude.

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