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Are transparency and accountability the same or different?

By Darren Finkelstein
By Darren Finkelstein

The Accountability Guy®

Home » Accountability » Are transparency and accountability the same or different?
Are transparency and accountability the same or different

Transparency and accountability are related to each other, they go hand in hand with each other, but they are not the same. You can’t replace or give a reference with either title. When we talk about work culture, it would be correct to say that we want transparency, but when we discuss accountability, we want each employee to be accountable. Now clarity might come into play when we talk about responsibility. Hence, they might be co-related to each other, but the meaning of both aspects is entirely different. So, before we start discussing differences or similarities between both, let us understand the importance of each. 

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What is transparency?

Transparency means clarity or open culture. When we think about communication channels in the workplace, we want them to be transparent and honest. One should be genuine and clear about what the manager wants to communicate to subordinates. Or a manager should be evident while giving feedback to his team members. Similarly, another example of transparency is when a new government is in action and promises to be transparent in its work. That means we want to show everyone how hard they have worked to make our country achieve goals faster. Now, let us understand what accountability is. Transparency is reflected as an action of group work, like team members, organizations, or government institutions.

What is accountability?

Accountability is when an employee shows responsible behaviour in his decision-making and outcomes. He is proactive in problem-solving and maintains good relationships at work when an employee demonstrates a goal-driven attitude, where the individual will stand up for his mistakes or failures. Instead of creating problems for everyone at work, the individual will be focused on solving problems at work. The employee is more focused on building better trust among each other and building strong relationships. Accountability starts with the individual, and the culture is formulated in the team and organization. A manager is responsible for his team’s performance. An individual is accountable for his performance and others. 

Transparency vs. Accountability

  • Transparency is reflected by the policies or guidelines the organization has set.
  • The actions, decisions, and ownership reflect accountability by an individual.
  • Transparency focuses on clarity and openness of the culture at the workplace.
  • Accountability focuses on the ownership, or the responsible behaviour shown by an individual.
  • One can observe transparency at the level of team or organization policies.
  • Accountability starts with every individual in the workplace.
  • Transparency is supporting collective effort or work.
  • Accountability begins at the individual level.

What is the connection between transparency and accountability?

Transparency is a prerequisite to attaining accountable behaviour at work. To inculcate responsible behaviour in each employee, the organization must lay down essential rules, guidelines, and policies that show transparency or openness. Openness will provide the employee clarity about the expectations and a good understanding of the working culture at the workplace. Transparency will encourage every employee to show responsive behaviour toward their decisions taken. Well, as mentioned above, the level of transparency provided at level is defined by the policies created by the organization.

In comparison, the accountable behaviour across the board stays the same, as it is more of a personal trait that we want each employee to start working on. Accountability is a mind shift that must slowly adapt over time with the help of training, guidance, and Feeback. Feedback shared with the individual must be open or transparent because that will lead the individual to improve better. 

Final Thought

Both accountability and transparency are different aspects of the working culture in any organization. Accountability is a personality trait, and transparency is the organization’s policy or guideline. Both accountability and transparency are co-related to each other, making the working culture smooth and efficient. The staff can communicate openly with their managers if the approach is transparent and clear. The managers will become more approachable to their staff or team members. The communication will be more straightforward and more open. Whereas with accountability, the responsive behaviour of every individual improves, providing better results for the organization. Transparency is offered by the organization to its employees, whereas accountability starts with every employee at any level giving the organization an accountable culture. Transparency is one of the elements to create responsible behaviour in each employee. 

Therefore, transparency and accountability are related to each other, they go hand in hand with each other, but they are not the same. But to attain accountable culture at work, the organization must provide transparency to its employees. That’s how the employees will feel encouraged and empowered to make the right decisions, and they will then stand up for their failures as well. Transparency will give the employees clarity about the expectations and a good understanding of the working culture at the workplace. And when the expectations are addressed, the individual will feel responsible for his actions and performance.