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3 Ways Leaders Can Employ Accusation Audits®

By |September 18, 2023

Anyone who leads a team or an organization is in a position of authority, meaning it’s only a matter of time before they have to deliver bad news to their subordinates.

When a leader has to deliver bad news, Accusation Audits® (AAs®) are critical for navigating those conversations. In fact, any difficult conversation is made easier when leaders employ the use of Accusation Audits.  The Accusations Audit is a pre-emptive Label used to diminish or mitigate emotions and dynamics.

In this piece, we examine three common scenarios in which Accusation Audits can help leaders soften the blow when telling subordinates things they don’t want to hear.

1. Rejecting Pay Increases

Imagine an employee comes to you asking for a raise. They feel as though they’re underpaid for their contributions and want more money. 

When you can’t oblige their request—maybe your company is tightening purse strings, or the employee is overvaluing their contributions—you will have to deliver news that the employee doesn’t want to hear. If it is truly something they don’t want to hear, they are likely going to become emotional.

The easiest way to navigate these sorts of conversations is by preparing Accusation Audits ahead of time. What are the negative opinions, assumptions, and impressions you should address before delivering the bad news?  If you were them, what would you be thinking about you?  Make a situationally insightful, intelligent guess.

In such a scenario, the Accusation Audit might sound something like this: You will not like what I’m about to tell you. You’ll probably think our organization is trying to pinch pennies or that we’re only interested in compensating the C-suite. You might even think we’re taking your contributions for granted. By drawing attention to the negative sentiments the employee likely harbors, you defuse them. 

After your AA, use an Asking Label™ to uncover information from your subordinate: It seems like you’ve got a vision for where you want to be at the conclusion of the conversation. When the subordinate speaks their mind, hang a Label™ on anything that will support your side and that seems important to them. The message you send is that the conversation isn’t all about you as a leader. Instead, you’re equally focused on how your employee is impacted.

Once they’ve said their piece, you can tell them the pay increase isn’t going to happen and explain the reasoning.

2. Giving Less-Than-Perfect Performance Evaluations

Unless you are giving your employee a flawless performance review—but, let’s face it, even your best employees can improve—kick off the meeting with an AA. 

As is the case with each scenario in this piece, the same logic outlined in the previous section applies. You are delivering bad news, so they will be triggered.

Assuage their concerns by leading with an AA: This is going to sting a bit. You will think I don’t value you as an employee.  You’ll probably feel as though  I’m not even paying attention to the work you’re doing. You may even think that I’m the worst boss you’ve ever had. Once you’ve primed the recipient to think about the worst-case scenario, you can deliver the “bad news” of telling the employee the areas in which they can improve.

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3. Terminating an Employee Due to Downsizing

Nobody wants to let an employee go due to monetary concerns. Unfortunately, leaders will eventually find themselves in a situation in which they have to tell an employee that they’re being laid off. 

When that happens, you can assume several things: The employee has likely heard rumblings about layoffs, they will think it’s unfair, they’ll be worried about how to rebound from this, what they’ll do next, and what it means for their family.

In this scenario, your AA might sound like this: You’re going to hate what I’m about to tell you. You will probably think that we’re being completely unreasonable and are treating you like dirt. You might even think we don’t care about you and your family or what happens to you.  

Giving people time to brace themselves is a secondary purpose of the AA.  It is a dose of Tactical Empathy.  It shows the employee you are tuned into how the “news” is going to impact them. Dissipate the negative emotions and the brain because more accepting of the “news”.   

There’s Never a Bad Time to Use an Accusation Audit® 

For the most part, there’s never a bad time for leaders to use AAs to deliver bad news. 

Whether you need to fire an employee for poor performance, address grievances, or resolve conflicts between multiple employees, Accusation Audits are a great way to demonstrate Tactical Empathy® and soften the blow so that when bad news lands, it doesn’t knock the employee out of their proverbial chair.

Now that you have a better idea of how AAs can help you become a more effective leader, learn about seven characteristics of effective leaders.

Characteristics of Effective Leadership