Recently, I messed up.
I often use humor to defuse tension when facilitating, and I made a self-deprecating joke that made someone feel like I was making fun of them. While that was definitely not my intention, it was the impact of my behavior.
So what did I do? I approached the person to check in because I could tell something was off. They shared how my joke landed for them. I apologized and asked if there was anything else I could do to make amends. The person shared that the apology was enough. I made a commitment to myself to be more mindful of using humor with people I don’t know well.
So why am I telling you all this? Because it’s an example of how I practice accountability. When we redesign our businesses to operate in liberatory ways, we are designing ways of working together that are counter to traditional business practices. As I shared in my article, https://hbr.org/2022/12/how-to-infuse-liberatory-practices-into-work-practices,, society conditions us that our businesses must be extractive to be successful. Extraction requires practices like domination, control, coercion, intimidation and division, to name a few. These practices are the source of inequity and exclusion in our workplaces. If we want to create our workplaces where everyone can thrive, we need to embrace liberatory principles of self-determination, shared power, solidarity, and care.
When we embody these principles, we are asking ourselves to behave counter-culturally, which is like swimming upstream. And just like if we were to swim upstream, sometimes we will backslide into the cultural current and use the extractive practices that cause harm. When we do cause harm, it’s important to practice accountability and repair the harm.
Truth and reconciliation practices around the globe have taught us that restoration requires:
Acknowledge: Name the harm that has happened
Accountability: Take responsibility for your role in what happened
Amends: Work with the people harmed to identity what is needed to repair the harm
Action: Take actions to repair the harm in alignment with what the people who were harmed have requested
While this list may seem simple, I’ve witnessed how hard it is for people to see the process through when harm happens in our workplaces. We are social creatures, and we avoid any actions we believe may lead to social isolation. This has conditioned many of us to deflect blame, which keeps us from taking accountable actions. Being in right relationships with the people we work with means we are willing to be vulnerable to take accountable actions and to be open to the accountable actions from each other. (https://www.yesmagazine.org/opinion/2022/07/25/love-accountability-adrienne-maree-brown)
Want to learn how to manage in ways that are accountable and foster right relationships with your team? Check out our Manager Series beginning April 28: https://bit.ly/MGRAPRIL23