Lacking New Year’s Resolve at Work?

Provo, Utah, December 19, 2006 – 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 others 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.


About VitalSmarts

An innovator in corporate training and organizational performance, VitalSmarts is home to multiple training offerings, including the award-winning Crucial Conversations®, Crucial Confrontations®, Influencer Training™, and Change Anything Training™. Each course improves key organizational outcomes by focusing on high-leverage skills and strategies. The Company also has four New York Times best-selling books. VitalSmarts has helped 300 of the Fortune 500 and trained more than 800,000 people worldwide.

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.

CONTACT: Brittney Maxfield of VitalSmarts, L.C. +1-801-724-6272

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