Accountability in the Workplace | Main Region | UB

Accountability in the workplace

a group of people working together
Employees who are accountable are well equipped to succeed at work.  Highly accountable employees are productive, transparent and proactive, but they are hard to find. With hiring managers increasingly looking for candidates who can demonstrate their own personal accountability at work, this is an incredibly positive attribute to develop. 
Here, we explore why accountable employees are valued and how to improve your workplace accountability skills.

What is accountability?

Accountability involves taking responsibility for doing what you say you will. It’s about taking ownership of your work and delivering the required outcomes.  
Accountable employees perform to the standards their employers expect. They deliver tasks as agreed and on time. They take responsibility for their actions, both successes and failures. 

Importance of accountability in the workplace

There are many benefits of accountability in the workplace. By taking responsibility for their day-to-day workload, employees hold themselves answerable for achieving the required results and outcomes. This improves their performance and builds their reputation as a trusted and reliable team member who gets the job done. Employee engagement, productivity and trust all improve when employee accountability is prioritised. 
In contrast, a lack of accountability leads to missed deadlines, pointed fingers, no commitment or transparency and a failure to achieve individual goals. 

Examples of accountability in the workplace  

The following accountability examples show what this looks like in action.

Accountable employees proactively address problems 

Steve, a sales manager, knows that his team is struggling to provide timely and efficient service to its customers. However, his team’s chorus of complaints isn’t having any positive impact on resolving the problem.  
Instead of joining the chorus, Steve recognises it is part of his responsibility to take proactive steps to find a solution. 
Steve introduces product training to help his team. He formalises a new service-level agreement that his team can refer to for better clarity around their own capabilities. Steve builds in more time to provide feedback and support to individual staff members. He also wins support from his manager to secure human resources. This helps diffuse the pressures his team is shouldering. 
Morale in the team improves, along with productivity and efficiency. Steve’s employer recognises the positive impact Steve is having by demonstrating accountability.

Accountable employees accept responsibility for mistakes

It’s a small mistake but a significant one. Veronika, an insurance broker, has only been with her new organisation for a few chaotic months. She’s performing above expectation on most fronts. However, in a recent meeting, it’s come to her attention that several staff members are experiencing repeated difficulties finding electronic files. 
Veronika has a sinking feeling. It dawns on her she’s been misnaming some files and storing them in incorrect locations.  
Instead of hoping the issue blows over, Veronika quickly acts to rectify the problem. She’s up front about her errors, and quick to correct her document management, which her manager appreciates. 
Veronika’s admission also ultimately uncovers wider systemic issues within the organisation’s document management protocol. The protocol is updated, and all staff receive the memo about new document management guidelines. The problem is much bigger than Veronika, but she has been instrumental in highlighting it. She earns the trust and respect of her employer by being accountable for her mistake, addressing it, and developing from it.

Accountable employees bring good energy

Fateha is always punctual [or early] and ready to contribute. She’s always on hand to pick up any additional work or provide feedback to staff. Fateha, an administrator, brings good energy to her role because she takes her accountability seriously.  
It’s recognised in her organisation that, if there’s a problem, Fateha will be proactive about playing her part in addressing it until its resolved.  
Fateha doesn’t wait for problems to fix themselves if she thinks she’s part of the solution.

Lack of accountability in the workplace examples

The following accountability examples show the implications when it is missing in the workplace.

Disregarding policies and procedures

Dave works hard in the warehouse. But he’s the first one to call out rules and policies he deems unnecessary.  
Sometimes Dave decides not to wear a safety vest, because he doesn’t think it matters. Dave is always focused on the job in front of him, but he doesn’t consider himself accountable for promoting his organisation’s policies and procedures. 
Some of Dave’s colleagues think he is jeopardising safety in the organisation. Dave’s distinct absence of accountability is also dampening morale in the entire team.

Ignoring feedback 

Raj is an experienced engineer who likes to share his experience. He is well regarded as a go-to for problem-solving.  
Raj has been with his organisation for more than 15 years. For the past seven years, he has been in the same role. He has some set ideas about how things should be done and he’s sensitive to feedback. 
His employer wants him to continue to develop to help the organisation thrive. But lately, Raj has been especially combative and resistant to feedback. 
Raj’s employer is considering recruiting another engineer prepared for greater accountability. Raj would report to the new hire instead of receiving a promotion to undertake the position himself.

Refusing to help colleagues

Jenny, a customer relationship broker in a bank, is snowed under. Other brokers in her team depend on her for advice. However, in team meetings Jenny is the first to say she has too much on to help anybody right now. 
Lately, other staff members are too uncomfortable to approach her. One colleague is considering raising the issue with upper-management.  
Jenny is widely regarded as a poor team-player who is holding an otherwise high performing team back.

How to improve accountability in the workplace

As an employee, you can develop accountability traits by taking feedback on board and using it to inform your development. To help improve your accountability skills, you can:  
  • Seek out feedback so you stay in tune with your accountabilities 
  • Don't only take on board positive feedback - carefully consider negative feedback, too 
  • Take stock of all your main daily tasks to understand your accountabilities 
  • Revisit any vague expectations and solidify outcomes with your manager 
  • Put accountability systems in place. For instance, manage your time to ensure you deliver outcomes as required 
  • Set clear and actionable goals in the areas you need to improve the most 
  • Set timeframes for achieving your goals 
  • Regularly track your progress, and adjust your goals and priorities as needed. 
If you also manage staff, you can improve accountability in your team by being more communicative. Have one-on-one productive conversations with staff to set performance goals. Then provide regular constructive feedback tied to accountability.

Take personal responsibility for your work

When you are accountable, you understand what you expect of yourself, and what your organisation expects of you. You set clearly defined expectations for yourself, and any direct reports, to embed accountability into your day-to-day work. When you are held accountable for your own actions, you always follow through and deliver on expectations. This enables you to act with a sense of direction and independence, which helps make life at work engaging.
Employers are likelier to entrust you with new opportunities and responsibilities when you demonstrate your accountability, too. Ultimately, this results in more satisfying career development.

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