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International Automotive Technicians Network
Re: accountability question
Posted to Shop Management Forum on 8/14/2012

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Hi Greg,

I'm going to guess that you're asking this as an "in general" question as there aren't really enough details here to weigh in on anything specific. So...

Back in my instructional design days with Ford and GM when we would do a training needs analysis, we essentially asked three questions to determine if a performance problem was training related or not - those three questions were (and still are):

1) Can he? 2) May he? 3) Will he? (or she as the case may be :o)

The "can he" question relates to skills, knowledge, and tooling. Does the person know what he needs to know? Does he have the skills to do what he needs to do? Does he have the tools necessary to do what he needs to do?

The "may he" question relates to the environment. Management and/or workplace cultures sometimes stand in the way of someone doing the right thing the right way. Most of us have seen examples of this. Peers who ridicule or tease a guy for being careful and 'following the book' when no one else does; or managers who like to throw their weight around and criticize a guy just because.

The "will he" question can be a bit complicated. It might relate to a management or workplace culture concern, pay scale/plan, or personal reasons. In either case, it's the deliberate decision to not do something a certain way even though he knows better and has all the tools to do so.

So, which is it with your SA? And I caution you not to jump to a quick conclusion here. The answer might not be so obvious or even one-dimensional. It's not unusual for two or all three of these to be in play. People are complicated creatures, and relationships are complicated matters.

In any case, it more or less boils down to this... People are people. They make mistakes, they have bad days, and they can be irritable for any number of reasons. No one is perfect, and even the best have their bad moments. So what are you going to do? Fire him? If that's your first instinct, it won't be long before you run out of people to fire. Chew him out? Does that ever really work?

I wish I had a simple answer for you, but again, people are anything but simple. I think patience, calm, and understanding is the key. That doesn't mean, as a boss, that you hide or disguise your feelings, in fact just the opposite, I think if you're disappointed and dissatisfied it's okay to express those feelings, in a calm and rational manner that shows genuine concern for the other person. It's called assertiveness (not to be mistaken as aggressiveness) and speaking the truth, in love.

I don't mean to make anyone uncomfortable with my using the "L" word, but seriously, are employees more likely to want to please and serve a boss that they feel genuinely cares about them (yes, loves them) or one that sees them only as a robot there to do a job?

I've rambled on a lot and maybe I've made some sense and been helpful, maybe not. I hope this is at least somewhat helpful.

In closing I'll just add, talk to the guy. Ask for the details, and listen. Invite his criticisms and ask him how he thinks things should be done in the future. Let him have some measure of control. Empower him, and establish a culture where it's okay to be human and make mistakes.

Yeah, this will take some effort. Yeah, it will require some time. No, it's not likely to be easy. But it's probably the right thing to do.

Best wishes as you move ahead.

Mark Hambaum
MDH Automotive Services
Richville, Michigan, USA