Accountability In The Workplace | 10 mins read

Understanding Accountability in the Workplace

understanding accountability in the workplace
Mary Kate Morrow

By Mary Kate Morrow


91% of employees rank accountability in the workplace near the top of their business development needs. However, 82% of employees feel they have little to no ability to hold others accountable in the workplace.

What is Accountability in the Workplace?

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Accountability in the workplace is a crucial business best practice strategy. There are benefits to both company culture and employee engagement when employees possess both personal accountability and trust in their team member accountability abilities.

Unfortunately, holding people accountable is often perceived as a stressful or negative process. Workplace accountability should not focus on negative consequences or micromanaging but instead on positivity.
So what is employee accountability in the workplace? Workplace accountability occurs when every employee is held responsible for their actions and overall performance. An accountable workplace is one that possesses a company culture of trust and teamwork.

When employees are not held responsible for their commitments your entire company culture and employee engagement rates will be negatively affected. Employees who lack accountability are less likely to complete task objectives or participate in goal setting exercises.

On the other hand, high performing employees who have high personal accountability standards. Workplace accountability creates a company culture based on employee accountability that increases employee engagement and job satisfaction levels.

The Importance of Accountability in the Workplace

Workplace accountability is an important best practice for any successful business. There are many benefits to employee accountability in the workplace including-

1. Trust building- Encourage a company culture where every team member is held responsible for their responsibilities and can depend on one another. Have each team member work together towards the goal set and make sure to recognize each complete task to increase teambuilding.

Make sure every manager employee not only encourages accountability best practice but reflects these best practice techniques in their own work. A manager employee who does not demonstrate personal accountability in an effective way is not one that people feel comfortable trusting.

Make sure that each employee knows they can reach out to their accountable manager and other team member employees for assistance or information if needed. Encourage a safe space to achieve goal milestones and complete task objectives.

2. Personal accountability increase- A great first step for increasing employee accountability is establishing the clear expectation that every employee is held responsible for each goal set personally. Each employee should take full responsibility for personal accountability and expect the same from their team members.

Where goal setting is commonplace and people feel encouraged to find a creative way to complete task requirements, personal accountability will boost. Not only is accountability important but it is essential to retaining high performing team member employees.

3. Better performance- When a business puts efforts into fostering culture accountability in the workplace they will see better performance results. Make sure to provide a clear expectation for what accountable work looks like.

An accountable manager will always make sure to provide a clear expectation for individual employee roles and responsibilities. When each team member understands who is responsible for what tasks, they will save time and energy.

A feedback system is an accountability help mechanism that cannot be overlooked. Make sure every employee manager gives actionable feedback to correct unideal work and recognizes high performing employees.

Providing employees with feedback opportunities will help each employee feel validated and heard. By combining a clear expectation for every goal set and properly providing feedback for complete task results, your employee manager can boost employee engagement and overall performance.

How to Develop a Culture of Accountability

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Many workplaces lack accountability and are unsure of what the first step to creating workplace accountability is. A workplace whose employees lack accountability may experience-

  • Low employee engagement rates
  • Difficulties with goal setting
  • Struggling to complete task and achieve goal objectives
  • Issues between each team member
  • Lack of high performing employees
  • Underlying issues in personal accountability
  • Negative company culture
  • An employee manager that struggles to keep each employee held accountable

The two main reasons that workplace accountability fails are that people feel uncomfortable holding others accountable or an employee manager forgets to do it. Below are company culture best practice techniques to increase workplace accountability including-

1. Always leading by example- An effective way to demonstrate personal accountability as an accountability manager is to complete task objectives in a timely manner.

Another effective way to achieve goal accountability is to make people feel respected and valued. When scheduling goal setting meetings make sure to consider the schedule of every team member and respect their time by showing up when you promise.

Remember, the first step to creating workplace accountability is leading through personal accountability before encouraging any other team member to do so. Be an employee manager people feel comfortable with and trust to lead your team and business towards success.

2. Provide actionable feedback opportunities- A workplace accountability best practice is timely feedback. An accountable manager should hold each employee responsible but never procrastinate on doing so. Not timely acknowledging issues with an employee's personal accountability levels may develop into significant company culture consequences.

Both one-on-one conversations and goal setting meetings can help employees take ownership of their personal accountability best practice in the workplace. Every employee manager must make sure to ask clear and concise questions, for example-

  • How can an employee manager provide you with better feedback about your work?
  • Do you feel your employee manager has high levels of personal accountability and is held responsible for their tasks?
  • Do you see any effective way to increase workplace accountability either short or long term?
  • Do you feel comfortable to hold accountable every other team member if necessary?

Direct requests for feedback will help every employee feel heard and valued. Employee feedback is also an effective way to understand where your business may lack accountability and help keep each employee responsible for company culture contributions.

Make sure people feel not only listened to but that your employee manager does follow up in an actionable way on the feedback given. If an employee manager promises to increase feedback opportunities, request that they schedule in concrete times to do so in the near future.

3. Always providing clear expectation guidelines- You cannot hold people accountable who do not understand what they are accountable for. Shockingly 50% of employees report that do not know what is expected of them at their workplace.

When holding accountable individual employees make sure they were provided with a clear expectation for what they did not perform or what they inadequately performed. Punitive conversations when no clear expectations were articulated will have vast employee engagement and company culture consequences.

A high performing employee and team member is one who has a clear expectation of what is expected of them. Personal accountability and team member accountability will increase when every employee manager finds an effective way to communicate a clear expectation for each employee responsibility.

How to Improve Accountability

Make sure to find an effective way to hold each team accountable for their tasks in order to improve accountability. Below are tips to improve workplace accountability including-

1. Best practice goal setting techniques- A great first step is to make sure that goal setting follows the SMART model. SMART goals are-
S Specific
M Measurable
A Attainable
R Relevant
T Timely
SMART goals provide a clear expectation and understanding of what the complete task will look like. For each goal set make sure that your team members follow the SMART framework to avoid personal accountability issues.

2. Clear communication- Effective communication is an accountability best practice technique. Make sure that each team member knows to not only follow through but to also follow up.

An effective way to encourage this is by writing down or documenting important information. After an important conversation a team member can craft an email that summarizes what was said, problems addressed, and solutions that were mutually agreed on.

Emails should include any expectations or promises made and provide a clear expectation and actionable timeline for every employee involved in the communication. If an employee consistently has a problem with personal accountability these communications can be invaluable in future feedback.

Each employee manager should make sure to check in regularly with individual employees and teams. Checking in with each employee and team member does not need to be a formal or time consuming event.

An employee manager can stop by an employee's door and ask them how their role is going. Make sure to provide them an opportunity to express any concerns to help people feel valued and apart of a larger team.

Make sure to check in with both high performing employees and those who need improvement. Another approach is to ask employees to check in with you. If you do take that approach provide employees with a clear expectation of the dates or times you expect to hear from them by to avoid lapses in communication.

These conversations and check ins provide every team member with the opportunity to make midstream adjustments or request for assistance if need be. When holding accountable each employee, make sure that you not only stress how important accountability is to your company culture but find an effective way to praise high performing employees in order to keep morale high.

3. Create a company culture of positivity- Too often an employee manager will not effectively communicate a clear expectation and then get upset at an employee for their lack of personal accountability in the workplace. Make sure that you not only provide a clear expectation but you also take ownership for your own responsibilities.

Creating a company culture of workplace accountability requires frequent positive feedback for both high performing employees and those who can improve. When you make people feel recognized and encouraged to share their emotions, your company culture will be more collaborative and positive.

Always make sure to consider employees feelings in the workplace. Instead of assuming that an employee is not taking personal accountability because they are lazy, approach conversations curiously and kindly.

For example, if an employee is consistently late to work, perhaps he must find childcare arrangements. This is not a personal accountability flaw but perhaps an opportunity to find a creative remote work solution. When you hold accountable employees in a responsible, kind, and respectful way, you will have not only more high performing employees but an overall company culture of accountability.

Ways to Promote Workplace Accountability

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Many employers wrongly assume the most effective way to promote workplace accountability is through a top down approach. In actuality, the most effective way to promote workplace accountability is through cultivating and maintaining a company culture of accountability.

People feel intrinsically motivated to complete task objectives and any goal set for a range of reasons. Being required to perform is not one of these reasons, at least not sustainably. The top down approach will not only make sure your employees feel distrusted and stressed but may even destroy employee engagement on a company wide level.

When you set a clear expectation for what employee accountability looks like, goal setting and reaching becomes much more realistic. When every employee manager demonstrates personal accountability they will lead by example.

Measurable and attainable goal setting is essential for helping produce and maintain high performing employees. Checking in regularly will not only make people feel valued but will encourage them to take ownership for their responsibilities.

Research shows that millennials rank the opportunity to grow and learn at their position above all other employment requirements. Always make sure to provide ample feedback opportunities and look for ways to help hold your team accountable productively.

An accountable manager will focus on employee development and help employees find an effective way to reach each goal set long term. Make sure that every employee manager focuses on praising great work, as this is the most motivating type of feedback you can provide.