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The Real Meaning of Accountability in the Workplace

By Darren Finkelstein
By Darren Finkelstein

The Accountability Guy®

Home » Accountability at work » The Real Meaning of Accountability in the Workplace
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An organisation suffers dearly from a lack of accountability. Without accountability, a workplace becomes chaotic and lacks direction.  Why?

The answer is simple – nothing gets done when people deny or ignore their responsibility to take action, solve problems, and deliver results. Accountability is when people understand their responsibilities clearly and own up to their good or bad actions.

To achieve business goals, everyone must do their part effectively. It allows the employees to work together and find solutions to problems. But what exactly does it mean, and how can one encourage workplace accountability?

Let’s address the true meaning of accountability first.

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What is Accountability?

Accountability is not about laying strict rules and punishing the people for not adhering to them. Though it’s not what most people think, it is more about creating a proactive environment of responsibility. It means showing up and fulfilling the commitments you said you would do and complete.

It’s about taking responsibility for your work and moving towards achieving it. Building up a shared sense of accountability within the organisation is the first step for teams and businesses to thrive.

However, it’s not as easy to achieve as one might think. Most people resist holding others accountable for their actions because they feel uncomfortable doing it, or some don’t choose the right way. But it’s not something one can dodge and still expect to successfully achieve team or company objectives.

Ways to Foster Accountability at the Workplace

Accountability is a virtue everyone should have, whether a manager or an employee. Yet, many organisations fail to create and nurture an atmosphere of accountability. Data shows that 82% of managers acknowledge that they have “limited to no” ability to hold others accountable for their actions successfully.

However, there are ways to instil accountability in the workplace. Here are a few pointers you can work on to start seeing changes instantly.

Lead but Set an Example First

Are you demonstrating accountability yourself at the workplace? Well, it’s time to set an example. As a manager, you’re the trendsetter of your team’s performance and work culture. Teammates will follow suit the way you behave within the organisation.

If you show up late to the meetings and keep pushing the deadlines, your team will start mirroring your actions too. Don’t nurture a mentality that you’re superior and can bypass your accountabilities. Start taking responsibility for your actions, and everyone will follow.

That’s the beauty of it.

Set Clear Goals, and Follow

Goals and expectations are where work begins. You can’t be accountable or hold anyone else accountable if you aren’t sure what to expect or what you should be responsible for. Unclear goals and lack of details create unnecessary gaps in accountability.

It’s essential to bridge the gaps and reduce ambiguity—set goals for yourself and your team. And don’t forget to make them clear and measurable, so everyone knows the end objective. Try to make the goals and expectations as specific as you can.

Timely and Actionable Feedback is Crucial

Giving feedback is easy if you tell your team members where they lack. However, it’s not an ideal way. As a leader, you must make your team members understand what they are doing right and where they can improve.

Giving not only timely but actionable feedback helps them to work on their weaknesses. Have open discussions about their progress, ask about their challenges, and provide resources to help them improve.

Create Safe Environment

Have you ever worked with a team where you felt genuinely safe? If not, that’s the environment you should nurture at your workplace. Trust and psychological safety are the building blocks of creating a culture of accountability.

When your employees feel safe talking about their problems and limitations, it’s easy to work through them. Accountability can only fluster if people are transparent and honest about their current status.

Reward to Encourage Accountability

Another way to encourage accountability is by rewarding the one who shows it. Celebrate their achievement and reinforce positivity. It compels others to change their actions and take responsibility more seriously.

You can include accountability as one of the criteria when considering appraisals. Offer incentives to employees who go above and beyond to align with the company’s goals.

Concluding Thoughts

Promoting a culture of accountability will empower your employees with a sense of ownership and improve their self-esteem and efficiency. If you feel there is a lack of accountability in your team, it’s time to make changes. Take hints from the above points and pave your way to achieve accountability.
However, if you still struggle to see visible results, get in touch with an accountability coach and see your business flourish beyond measures. Remember, most people want to grow and do their work efficiently. Setting accountability will help them through it.