Work avoidance has fatal consequences

A few years ago, I was working with a construction company that was having an issue with projects not getting completed on time. There was general frustration among the workers because one of the foremen, who was the owner’s son, would be sleeping in his truck during working hours. 

As a result, supplies weren’t being picked up on time, safety meetings were missed and there was a lack of communication about what needed to be done. So other employees felt they could take extended breaks and did so. The owner’s son wouldn’t accept any blame for the projects’ slow delivery and was placing the blame on the carpenters and laborers on the site. 

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The problem of projects and jobs not being completed on time, or at all, is a problem that is facing many business owners right now. Changes in work environments, working from home and a lack of business has taken work avoidance to a new level for some employees. However the issue of work avoidance is not a new one. There are indications that staff members who are not performing now probably had challenges in the past. The fact is that their failure may not be theirs alone, but one of leadership. 

There is nothing as frustrating for some leaders as when tasks don’t get done and it seems like the employees don’t care. This frustration can be heard in conversations such as: “If I don’t do it myself, it never gets done;” “I don’t know how many times I have to remind James that he has to do his job;” “Perhaps we need to move the desks to the water cooler to get any work done around here;” or “Another project that we failed to complete on time or on budget.”

As leaders when we fail to hold people accountable for doing their jobs we are failing in our responsibility. According to the Table Group, a survey of 12,000 companies found that 65 per cent of respondents said that a lack of accountability was an issue in their organization. A lack of accountability leads to a lack of production and profitability, a loss of morale, and a high staff turnover. I have experienced it in my businesses and observed it in many others. 

There are many reasons why we don’t hold people accountable for doing their jobs. We sometimes think that the person will quit if we confront them about doing the work they signed up for. Many of us fear conflict and think that approaching the subject will cause a huge argument. Sometimes we worry that the person is going through personal problems and we shouldn’t burden them by asking them to do their job. The elephant in the room doesn’t leave, it just goes on to consume more resources until there is no space to breathe and good employees leave in frustration or in some cases, the situation blows up. 

However, building accountability in an organization might not be as difficult as it seems. The best method of accountability is when peers start holding each other accountable for results. There are a number of ways to do this. However, one of the easiest ways is by having weekly meetings where there is reporting about what was completed in the last week and what will be completed in the coming week. 

When we start holding people accountable to do their jobs, one of two things usually happens. The jobs start getting done or the person in question feels the pressure and moves on to another job where they can succeed or continue to cover up their lack of willingness to work. Lack of accountability is the downfall of many a leader and when we can overcome this issue, we move on from being mediocre back towards the road to greatness. 

- Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Comments about this article? Email

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