5 Helpful Tips for Creating Accountability at Work

Two people working at a white board to symbolize the importance of creating accountability at work

When you’re at work, your entire team has tasks and responsibilities that they are individually responsible for. Each team member relies on their co-workers to complete assignments and reach collective goals.

If a task does not get done as assigned, however, this can create problems within the company culture, as well as affect the work of several team members.

Therefore, it’s necessary to foster a culture of accountability at work to create a more harmonious and productive workplace.

That’s what I’ll be focusing on in today’s article. I will talk about what accountability truly means to an organization, as well as provide some ideas for building a more accountable culture.

What is Accountability at Work?

Employees that are accountable do what they say they will, communicate clearly and effectively with the people around them, and take responsibility for what they say and do.

Accountable employees work hard to reach their goals but are also honest with themselves and others about their shortcomings and what they still need to learn.

A work culture that is centered around accountability allows employees to come together to solve problems. They feel comfortable holding themselves and others responsible for their words and actions because they know that their co-workers will do the same for them.

Why Accountability Matters

Besides reaching company goals, accountability is paramount to the success and happiness of individual employees.

According to a study by Gallup, 26% of employees say that the feedback they receive from managers helps them perform their jobs better. Yet, 47% only received feedback “a few times or less” in the last year.

Anne Loehr, a business thought leader, recognized that about 93% of employees in the U.S. don’t know what their company is trying to achieve or how to align those goals with their work.

The bottom line is, everyone works better when everyone is accountable. The question is “how do you create an accountable work environment?”

Building Accountability at Work

Creating accountability is a process that requires sequential steps.

Here are the steps I recommend:

1. Set Clear Expectations

Set very specific and clear expectations when giving a task or directive to employees. It’s important to emphasize objectives and make clear the value of the assignment while leaving room for creativity.

Set employees up for success by writing down expectations and setting aside time to answer questions or work alongside them, when needed. 

Clear communication and support will help employees feel valued and more compelled to become accountable for the work they do.

2. Recognize Achievements

If an employee does something particularly well, be sure to say something publicly. When individuals feel valued and know that their hard work is paying off, they are more likely to work with the same level of enthusiasm moving forward. Plus, they will stay with the company for longer.

On the other hand, if you have negative feedback that needs to be shared with someone as a way of solving future problems or otherwise helping them to grow, that is best shared in private. Publicly degrading someone can have the opposite effect when it comes to accountability, making them feel insecure and disrespected in the office.

3. Be Willing to Have Difficult Conversations

If you are a manager or supervisor, you may choose to have serious conversations with employees regarding accountability. It is important for people to be willing to have these difficult conversations with each other, speaking honestly and listening attentively, all while maintaining mutual respect and understanding.

If you notice someone falling behind or performing poorly, try to talk to them as soon as possible. Be empathetic to how this conversation might make them feel and encourage them to create an action plan moving forward. If appropriate, you may even tell them that you’re there for support should they need it.

4. Allow People to Recognize Mistakes

If someone makes a mistake, make sure they can honestly own up to it in a way that does not involve finger-pointing or blaming.

Employees should feel comfortable saying what went wrong, what they learned from it, and how they will proceed moving forward. Then, the mistake should not be brought up again by any co-workers or managers, particularly in a public setting.

5. Avoid Over-Commitment

Sometimes, individuals don’t complete tasks and assignments not because they aren’t responsible, but because they have taken on too much and need to cut back.

Employees should feel comfortable speaking up when they feel overwhelmed or like they can’t do everything that is expected of them. Individuals and managers should be able to have conversations in which they set reasonable expectations for deadlines and projects.

To Conclude

An accountable office is a positive and productive office, which is why it’s important not to let accountability slip through the cracks. Find ways to create open and honest dialogue to set clear expectations about what employees want to see in an accountable work environment.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can open these conversations and make them productive? 

Let’s take a closer look at your organization. Take the cultural toxicity assessment to learn more about where your organization falls, and then schedule an appointment with me to talk more about your results and how to bring about positive change to your workplace.