Saturday, June 23, 2018

Accounting for accountability

Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby

I have noticed that you moderns are constantly having to defend yourselves. It appears to happen in many workplaces -- even within the admirable teaching profession. But you don't use the word "defence". You use the word "accountability". Employers demand that their workers are held to account for their time and actions. Accountability means being held to account. When a worker is in the process of being held to account, he or she is essentially defending his or her activity and use of time.

It seems to me that I shouldn't need to defend myself unless I am under attack or being accused of something. Therefore, implicit in modern accountability is accusation or attack. I am no stranger to this. My life ended after I failed to defend myself adequately to a jury of 501 citizens. They held me to account for my actions in Athens and found me guilty.

When I hear employed people talking about accountability in their workplace, I wonder about the nature of the accusation or attack that they must defend themselves against. Often it appears to relate to their use of time and the decisions they make. These poor workers are instructed to collect evidence to justify their activities because modern workplaces are built upon accountability. An implicit accusation exists against workers. Your workplaces seem to be based on low trust and suspicion.

P1. (premise) If we worked in high trust environments we wouldn't have to gather evidence to cover ourselves against implicit accusations against us.

P2. (premise) We do need to gather evidence to cover ourselves against implicit accusations against us.

C. (conclusion) We work in low trust environments

The more time I spend with you moderns, the more questions occur to me. I wonder whether basing work environments on accountability leads to happy workers who are willing to take risks, accept responsibility, and love their jobs; or whether it leads to nervous workers who play it safe and dislike their jobs. What traits do employers desire in their workers? As an unknowledgeable man, I am eager to learn more.

-- Socrates