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Employee accountability in a workplace

11 min read

To start, it’s not what you think. 

Employee accountability is as much about autonomy as it’s about trust. All employees are responsible for their actions, behavior, performance, and choices at work. When you give employees control, they feel responsible and inspired. All of this results in increased motivation at the workplace and there is a higher commitment from everyone’s side.   

However, it’s easier said than done. Most places don’t have any culture of accountability and because of it, they suffer. 

Let’s get started. 

What is accountability in the workplace? 

Integrity is an integral element in the process of driving accountability at the workplace. What employees do when everyone is looking does matter, but what matters more is what they do when no one is looking. It means that employees do complete the task when they take responsibility to do something. They follow through and get to the end of things.   

Our work impacts the entire team and the organization is also a key factor towards becoming accountable. Proactive communication will show people that their work is as important as anyone else’s and their commitment will directly impact the performance of the group. 

For employees, it is about taking ownership and becoming a focal point for their set of objectives. Yes, others will chip in to help but you need to take responsibility for results and solve challenges in case they arise at any point in time. Don’t wait for others, start and do things. 

The biggest problem with accountability is that most people get it wrong from the start. Here are some of the tips to help you out. 

  • Offer trust first and then everyone will demonstrate ownership and accountability.  
  • Trust people to do their part and they’re more likely to do it. 
  • Employees don’t work for leaders, it’s the other way round. 
  • Owners of any business have to work the hardest because they own it. 
  • Autonomy is about giving control, not taking it. 
  • Focus on results, not on total number of hours. 
  • Accountability starts with YOU. 

Track outcomes, not hours 

Post-COVID, more and more people are working remotely. Tracking productivity is one of the challenges most organizations are facing. While using tools can be a good idea, but people don’t want tools to track them as it feels like an invasion of privacy. They may adopt this method but don’t appreciate it. Instead, outcome tracking is a fundamental shift in performance management. No longer is the input or number of hours being tracked, rather it’s the outcomes/results that are being tracked.   

This is the reason accountability has become important during present times. Think about it. 

Employees have the freedom of working from any location. Results matter and things will work only if everyone takes ownership of their work and contribute towards a collective cause.  

To keep employees on track, it’s necessary to keep a track of their well-being. Now, we can’t physically go to everyone and ask ‘How are you?’ 

Pulse surveys can help us in employee engagement and give us a clear picture of which employees need help. After all, a good culture is about taking care of everyone. 

You take care of your employees and they’ll take care of you. 

No accountability means no progress 

It can destroy a team. 

When people don’t care about the fact their work impacts the entire team, it leads to delay and lack of results. One thing leads to another and the whole team’s productivity goes down. People tend to emulate what they see. If they see that a team member is missing deadlines, not finishing work, etc., they too end up copying that behavior. What an organization allows to become a norm is the norm. People coming late to meetings, submitting sub-par work, etc. cannot become a common practice. Because if it does then the whole organizational culture suffers. 

Lack of accountability in the workplace leads to:  

  • A team with no morale 
  • No set of clear priorities in the team 
  • Low employee engagement 
  • Individual or team not meeting the set objectives 
  • Lack of trust 

A step-by-step process to make accountability a part of your culture 

Accountability is a core value that should be on the priority list for any organization. However, most organizations fail to talk about accountability and that’s why they don’t have it in the first place. 

Here’s a step-by-step process to help you solve this challenge. 

Accountability starts with YOU 

People imitate what they see. Managers set the tone in any team when it comes to culture, style of working, and the level of autonomy. If a manager is continuously showing up to work on time, taking responsibility, and helping everyone, then the employees will embrace it and follow suit. If it’s the opposite, everyone will stop caring and the team will be in shambles.  

This is how managers or anyone else can demonstrate accountability: 

  • Complete your own set of tasks first and then help others finish their work. 
  • Give credit to the team for success, but when things don’t go right, be the first one to take responsibility and solve the challenges. Help your team when they need it the most. 
  • Respect everyone’s time and trust everyone’s skills. 

Feedback is a continuous process 

Giving constructive and helpful feedback without killing the morale of others is an art and therefore it’s better to master performance reviews.  

When feedback is continuous, it helps in creating an impact. Regular feedback gives everyone a sense of the processes and where everyone stands at a certain point in time. Random feedback can surprise employees, often leading to disapproval and denial. 

Giving employee feedback in the right way helps build a culture of positivity. Everyone realizes that they’re working at a place where improvement is at the heart of things. That people care and give a damn about others.  

If you don’t speak, nobody will know about it 

Assumptions don’t work at workplaces. The more you think people will understand things themselves, the more you’re fooling yourself. Instead, keep your instructions clear and precise. Especially when it comes to challenges or improvements in work, be upfront about it. Give honest feedback and show how things can be done in a better way. All employees love this approach, so will yours.  

Accountability is a habit 

Everyone hates long meetings. Keeping both feedback and meetings short helps everyone. We believe having a meeting checklist will save time.  

To make a conversation productive, it needs to involve a good set of questions. 

Here are few to help you out: 

  • Key takeaways from the past week? 
  • Roadblocks affecting the current set of goals? 
  • Status of goals? 
  • What’s the current set of morale and stress? 

Looking for more? Check out the One on One meeting templates blog. 

Track everything and hold each other accountable 

Thinking of doing something is the first step. But if you don’t track the progress, then things will fall apart. If a team decides to have daily scrum calls to talk about the status of work, then everyone has to participate regularly to make it count. If people commit to a project, everyone in the team has to check-in on the D-day regarding the completion of that project. If not, then who’s the person acting as a roadblock. This is how accountability is built with practice and time. 

Dividing major tasks into smaller actionable work is better for accountability-driven culture. This way everyone has control of their action but the impact is visible to the whole team.  

To wrap up… 

Building a culture of accountability requires giving the control back to people. Yes, it does sound crazy but this is the kind of trust an organization needs to have in its employees. The employees will not only feel motivated but also take ownership of their work and be super productive.  

Don’t leave everyone to survive. Instead, help them thrive. It takes time. All good things do. But you don’t have to manage all the processes by yourself, let Keka help you!  

Ok, that’s all. Now go and be accountable! 

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    Meet the author

    Keka Editorial Team

    A bunch of inspired, creative and ambitious youngsters- that’s Keka’s editorial team for you. We have a thirst to learn new subjects and curate diverse pieces for our readers. Our deep understanding and knowledge of Human Resources has enabled us to answer almost every question pertaining to this department. If not seen finding ways to simplify the HR world, they can be found striking conversations with anyone and everyone , petting dogs, obsessing over gadgets, or baking cakes.


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