Enforcing accountability in the workplace is not simple. It is a key to achieving organizational success, yet many leaders fail to hold their employees accountable.
Some leaders flunk at creating a sense of employee accountability as they’ve focused more on how their team perceived them, not on the outcome.
It is important to note that employee accountability in the workplace is essential in establishing growth opportunities and creating a high-performing team.
Employees often view this negatively because leaders try to mandate responsibility using a top-down method.
However, that’s not how employee accountability works. Business leaders must understand that they should create a culture of accountability to keep their employees engaged and achieve business goals.
In this article, we’ll dive into the fundamentals of employee accountability, the ways to achieve it, and its importance in the workplace.
What does employee accountability mean?
At its core, employee accountability refers to the responsibility of each employee to complete tasks and perform workplace duties relevant to the organization’s goals.
There is a negative connotation with the term “accountability,” as many think it is associated with employee mistakes. More so, accountability is a mere consequence of those actions.
Employee accountability is about setting and maintaining employees’ expectations in relation to business goals. It is the accountability in both employee performance and the business outcome.
When one employee is not accountable, this shortfall in performance has a ripple effect throughout their immediate team. In fact, the lack of accountability in the workplace could lead to:
- Low team morale
- Unclear priorities across the team
- Decreased employee engagement
- Unmet team and individual goals
- Low levels of trust
- High employee turnover
Examples of employee accountability in the workplace
It is imperative that leaders have the ability to create accountability among staff as it will drive a high-performing team.
Here are some examples of employee accountability in the workplace. Accountability is shown in the workplace when employees:
- Are present for their entire required shift
- Complete any tasks assigned within the agreed timeline
- Are responsible for specific duties
- Support the team members when needed
- Consistent in doing the right thing in all aspects relevant to their job
- Work together toward a common goal for the business
Ways to encourage employee accountability in the workplace
When done right, enforcing accountability leads to employee engagement, improved performance, a sense of ownership and morale in the organization.
Here are some ways for leaders to hold employees accountable in the workplace:
Lead by example
People will follow the leader’s lead. A better way for business leaders to establish a culture of accountability within the team is to hold themselves accountable first.
Whether it is managers or executives, they have to serve as good role models for their team members.
When leaders are not afraid to accept their mistakes, they are likely to encourage employees to follow this practice.
Set clear expectations
In creating employee accountability, setting clear expectations between team members is crucial. This means being clear about the certain rules to employee’s roles, the outcome produced, how leaders measure success, and their approach to achieving objectives,
This makes it easier for team members and leaders to understand their roles and what are expected of them individually and on team levels.
While leaders are at it, make sure that the set goals are attainable, so employees are consistent in improving their work progress.
Establish a culture of trust
Team leaders need to understand that building trust in the workplace is just as important as creating accountability.
Trust allows people to count on each other, whether helping others with their tasks or creating a comfortable environment for colleagues.
As per Harvard Business Review, employees who have established trust in the workplace are 76% more engaged than those in less trusting workplaces.
Without trust, employees are not empowered to do their roles and responsibilities, they will feel unmotivated, and this will diminish their team morale.
Provide performance feedback
Surveys show that there are 14.9% lower turnover rates in companies that implement regular employee feedback.
This translates that feedback is a vital ingredient for improvement. Thus, it doesn’t matter whether the feedback is positive or negative since feedback is a learning experience for everyone.
If leaders want to achieve employee accountability in the workplace, feedback is absolutely necessary, for instance, pointing out the mistake of a team member.
Feedback must be focused on the work, not on the person. Review one’s work and highlight the positive as well as the negative to further improve.
Hold each other accountable
Every employee should have a sense of accountability for their roles and duties. It must be a habit within the team.
For instance, if an employee commits to providing the expected outcome within a specific date, leaders should check that as soon as possible. This is to ensure that feedback flows consistently.
Why is accountability in the workplace necessary?
Companies won’t accomplish continuous business growth without accountability. A lack of employee accountability will impact not just one individual but the whole team. It may lead to disengagement and distrust between each other.
Here’s the breakdown of some benefits of employee accountability in the workplace:
When employees take accountability of their work, they develop a sense of ownership. Employees increase their efficiency and boost productivity as they are more invested in the success of a particular project.
However, if one fails to meet the expectations, leaders should hold them accountable, guide and help them improve. Thus, practicing employee accountability boosts performance within the team and at the organizational levels.
Employee accountability builds trust among employees. Trust shouldn’t be one-sided, it should be mutual between members and leaders.
A trusting environment is when employees seek advice and accept feedback from leaders. Leaders then treat each team member in accordance with policies and standards of accountability.
When accountability is encouraged within the team, a culture of trust is strengthened. The more positive connections between teams, the more good results in the workplace are acheived.
Employee accountability in the workplace is the outcome of a stronger adherence to compliance. Improving employee accountability reduces the chance of facing the consequences of non-compliance.
Accountable employees are aware of the things that are expected of them. They understand that they must deliver those expectations while adhering to work policies, procedures, and standards.
Strengthens workplace culture
When a company has a strong culture of accountability, this translates that the organization encourages growth and development.
It will take an extensive effort to enforce employee accountability as it will begin from top to bottom. But one thing is certain, if accountability is at the core of any organization, this will result in strong company culture and reach greater success.
Creating accountability in the workplace is quite a challenge for managers. Holding someone accountable may sound confrontational. Thus, many still view this as a negative.
Fostering a culture of employee accountability on your team will boost employees’ morale and productivity. It will also give a sense of ownership which will help them make the most progress.
 Employee accountability in the workplace. Han, Y. and Perry, J.L. (2019). Employee accountability: development of a multidimensional scale. International Public Management Journal, 23(2), pp.224–251.
 Employee expectations. Pond, S.B., Armenakis, A.A. and Green, S.B. (1984). The Importance of Employee Expectations in Organizational Diagnosis. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 20(2), pp.167–180.