Tips to Ensure Employee Accountability at Work


Accountability in the workplace boosts performance not only at an individual and team level but your entire workplace culture.

The Importance of Accountability at Work

In order to correctly implement it, business professionals must understand the definition of accountability. Accountability in the workplace entails setting and holding employees to clearly set expectations. Expectations should be informed by the company's core values and mission statement.

Common barriers to developing a culture of workplace accountability include-

  • Unclear business priorities
  • Vaguely set expectations
  • Lack of employee engagement in communication
  • Confusion over the company's organizational culture
  • Tension between managers and employees
  • Individuals consistently failing to meet set expectations
  • A company culture apathetic to failing to meet set expectations
Employees regardless of their position title or seniority must be responsible for their actions and held accountable towards accomplishing their company's business goals. Accountability is hard work, requiring a lot of effort and consistency from all employees in a company. However, the benefits of accountability are very worth the effort, including-
  • Trust built between employees
  • View of the work environment as a safe space
  • Fosters team member cooperation
  • Promotes honesty
  • Creates open lines of communication
  • Demonstrates transparent leadership
  • Strengthens employee culture
Workplace accountability needs to balance personal accountability with a trust-based environment. Employers should reward employees who demonstrate excellent work ethic and exceed set expectations. An approach that is punitive and overly supervisory is detrimental to work ethic and overall accountability. Common examples of unsuccessful attempts to build accountability include-
  • Encouraging a workplace culture of tattle-telling on coworkers
  • Overemphasis on rules being broken
  • Punishing employees through a punitive administrative approach
  • Supervising in order to catch employees in transgressions
  • Micromanaging slight, or occasional, mistakes
Accountability should not only require everyone on the team but also benefit the entire company. Starting from the top, you can strengthen company culture and achieve greater business success. Management must combine clear role set expectations with standardized performance measurements. Establishing and defining employee roles has dual benefits, it eliminates employee confusion and saves valuable time.

Actionable and specific feedback and consistently utilized evaluation mechanisms are key to measuring an employee's success in their respective role. Employees should be empowered to take ownership of their work and independently seek improvement. Leadership can hold subpar employees accountable through-
  • Proactively paying attention to both processes and results
  • Acknowledge when expectations are not met or submitted work is unsatisfactory
  • Educate on set expectations
  • Help improve accountability by holding yourself accountable
It is just as important, if not more important, to acknowledge and reward employees who follow guidelines and meet or exceed their established expectations. Support, congratulate, and encourage employees, making sure to celebrate company milestones and personal successes together. Through recognition and positive reinforcement, you will foster a collective culture of employee accountability instead of fear-motivated, punitive work culture.

Tips to Improve Accountability

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Increased accountability results in better compliance, leading to fewer lawsuits, fines, oversights, and other non-compliance consequences. Some tips to improve accountability include-
Setting clear expectations- An employee is unable to adequately perform their job if they are unsure what their role actually entails. During the interview process and when on-boarding new employees make sure to clearly outline what the role entails. Ensure you are reiterating these expectations periodically with the individual and during team meetings when necessary.

Providing consistent feedback- Put into place a receiving feedback system that your employees clearly understand. A feedback system will help improve performance and provide a consistent metric for employees to measure their success. Take into consideration time-off requests, time clock entries, and attendance to analyze feedback responsiveness.

Build trust and empowerment- Allow employees to play as much of a role as possible in their own management. Not only does this lessen your workload, but it also avoids unproductive power dynamics, micromanaging, and the promoting resentful relationships between managers and employees.

If possible, give your employees control of their schedules and allow employees access to swap and trade shifts amongst each other. This will establish trust and encourage employee self-regulation and self-sufficiency.

Define clear consequences and rewards- While avoiding micromanaging, you must still have reinforcement methods in place to regulate employee behavior. Employees should have a clear understanding of both the positive and negative consequences associated with their job performance. When everyone understands expectations, your entire company will benefit.

Establish meaningful objectives- Develop goals that align with company culture, core values, and your company's mission statement. Clear-cut goals go a long way to help employees keep morale, productivity, and accountability up.

Encourage communication- Employees are still human beings with emotions and personal lives. If you notice an employee having difficulties, it is much more productive to have a constructive conversation that is honest and promotes transparency than to insist on an uncomfortable and punitive formal conversation. Consider taking an employee for a cup of coffee and chatting.

Casual face-to-face conversations increase receptiveness and show your employee that they are more than just a worker to you. Your employees will be less likely to shut down, and appreciative of you showing them that you value and care about both them and the work they produce. Ideally, both you and your employee will leave the conversation feeling rejuvenated and ready to work together towards optimal company success.

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