Collective Accountability for Collective Health


October 2022

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Jessica Bensch
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While no one can be responsible for another’s thoughts or actions, organizations must acknowledge there is a collective accountability to ensure everyone is able to speak out.

Often, unhealthy behaviors in an organization prevent collective accountability. How can we break the cycle so we can drive change?

Changing the way upward feedback is given and received

Upward feedback in organizations is often construed negatively, perhaps because leaders feel threatened by it. Traditionally, it involves a process based on written documentation and is often confined to performance management exercises.

Have you ever spent 30 minutes writing an email about a sensitive issue? Have you softened your language, or been so fearful about offending people, you’ve ended up saying nothing? The problem with written feedback is that when you write something down, it changes.

It’s difficult to stand in your truth when you’re committing your beliefs to paper or a screen. In order to really understand where people are coming from, we need to get back to direct conversation; conversation that facilitates deeper relationships.

Meaningful dialogue driving change

With Vanguard Voices, we are proponents of direct upward feedback, knowing that the most effective way to give feedback to leaders is through direct conversations, sometimes in a team setting.

Feedback is generally better received when it is facilitated gently and sensitively. This can come from understand we are not here to make the manager feel threatened. We want to make an impactful difference to the culture of the organization so we can all benefit.

Ensuring culture in leadership

There are many criteria for determining leadership decisions. Beyond hard skills, one way to establish and ensure the forward-moving culture of an organization is to look for soft skills that will support and nurture who and what the company says it is or wants to be.

Experience nurturing psychological safety, growing a positive culture within an organization are experiences that cannot be undervalued. When leadership is hired and promoted and there is clear connection to culture, that sends an incredible message across an organization.

Time for change

As organizations move towards more agile ways of working, upwards feedback and accountability are hot topics for discussion. This is the perfect time to implement change, to collectively come together for the benefit of us all. If we’re going to create a healthy workplace where everyone’s voice can be heard, we need to implement effective systems to make change, together.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Know that you are not alone. By connecting and having the hard conversations, we can start to make change. Share your story here. Let’s raise awareness about these issues together.


- STEVE JOBS, American Entrepreneur

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