Skip to content
× FreshBooks App Logo
FreshBooks
Official App
Free - Google Play
Get it
You're currently on our US site. Select your regional site here:
9 Min. Read

4 Ways to Increase Accountability in the Workplace

How to Increase Accountability in the Workplace: 4 Ways

You probably have several experiences where you had to take responsibility for your actions or inactions in your personal life. For instance, when you plan an outing with a friend, it's your responsibility to show up or send a message if you can't make it. This is described as being accountable, and it’s just as important in business. 

Building a culture of accountability is the secret sauce of several fast-growing companies—it’s how they deliver successful projects and consistently bounce back from unexpected losses and setbacks.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand that turns employees accountable overnight, but small and consistent steps can make all the difference. In this article, we will discuss how to increase accountability in the workplace.  

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

What Does “Accountability” Mean? 

Why is Workplace Accountability a Big Deal?

How Does Lack of Employee Accountability Affect Small Businesses?

Common Hindrances to Workplace Accountability

4 Tips for Improving Accountability in the Workplace 

Improve Accountability in Your Business

More Management Resources for Businesses 

What Does “Accountability” Mean? 

When every stakeholder in your business is accountable, they are fully responsible for whatever they do and understand how their decisions affect everyone else. Accountable employees take ownership of tasks and are not afraid to acknowledge their mistakes. 

Does accountability only apply to employees? Hardly. Everyone in the workplace owns a piece of the pie. As long as you have some commitment to the organization, you are expected to embrace decision making, hold your role, and play your part to help the business achieve its goals. 

Business owners should set the pace for the rest of the team. If you keep passing the buck to someone else, chances are your workers would find it challenging to step up to their tasks. 

Why is Workplace Accountability a Big Deal?

Whether you’re a business with only five workers or 1,000 employees scattered all over the world, you will achieve a lot more when every stakeholder executes their tasks with no one breathing down their necks. 

Team accountability makes it easy for companies to follow existing systems and processes—there’s no reason to chase employees for missed deadlines or outdated client records. 

Let's look at some other wins accountability can achieve for your company:

1. Better Results

For a car to operate at optimal levels, every part needs to function as designed; the same goes for your business. When everyone delivers on their tasks without excuses, they make it easier for a small business to achieve its goals and scale faster.

2. Improved Performance

The last thing a business needs is lackluster performance passed off as efficient output. 

Personal accountability teaches employees to take ownership of projects and deliver on expectations without unnecessary back and forth. Employees can see how their contributions fit into the big picture and are excited to get to work with little or no interference. 

If everyone taxes themselves to put in the work and execute their responsibilities to the last T, you can build up a high-performing team and record outstanding success. 

3. Well-outlined Processes

Accountability helps you to peg business processes against performance. You can build up systems based on how team members already perform tasks and achieve exceptional results. This way, employees don't spend too much acclimatizing to new structures. 

4. Positive Workplace Culture

When employees are sure that everyone else would hold up their end of the bargain, it creates an environment of trust, a critical part of a positive work culture. 

When workers understand how individual accountability can affect the team’s performance, they are eager to help others and own up to their mistakes. 

How Does Lack of Employee Accountability Affect Small Businesses?

In teams without accountability, everyone is eager to play the blame game. There are also high levels of unproductivity, frequent mistakes, and fewer individual and collective successes. 

Other telltale signs of unaccountability in the workplace include;

1. Low Team Morale 

When a lack of accountability sets in, you’d notice that employees are no longer invested in their work. The entire team becomes disconnected and cannot collaborate to achieve goals. 

Typically, this starts with one person, and before you know it, there's a collective lack of interest in the company's goals and objectives. The truth is it's hard for some workers to commit to their tasks when others do not have a sense of ownership. If you're the only person putting in the work for your team, you will experience burnout in no time. 

2. Unclear Priorities

Without employee accountability, small businesses would find it impossible to align the team with measurable goals. Then everyone keeps asking questions like, "Should we go here or there?"

Something else that happens when businesses cannot prioritize work is people end up working on random projects. And you wouldn’t blame them; no one knows the exact direction the organization is headed, so they spend a lot of time working on projects that are not the company's priorities. 

3. High Turnover 

Lack of workplace accountability is one of the common reasons high-flyers resign from companies. 

When employees feel like they are the only ones committed to their tasks, they become overworked and lose a sense of purpose. When this happens, they might be forced to quit.

Common Hindrances to Workplace Accountability

Likewise, there are many factors that can impact accountability and lead to issues in the workplace. 

Tackle these common hindrances early on to improve employee engagement and communication.

1. Unclear Expectations

It's one thing to demand accountability from workers; it’s another thing for workers to know what they should be accountable for. 

If you do not communicate the company's larger goals and individual action items, employees will find it impossible to take ownership of their roles. 

2. Poor Reward System

Rewarding outstanding workers is a crucial motivator for team accountability. And no, it doesn't always have to be money. Simply recognizing an employee's contribution to team goals can spur them to take responsibility for their own roles, decisions, and mistakes. 

The ripple effect of rewarding high-flying team members is enormous—for one, it encourages others to become more accountable to their jobs. After all, everyone loves to be celebrated. 

If you can throw in a financial incentive now and then, why not? 

3. Lack of Employee Engagement

When workers feel seen and heard, they won’t hold back on taking the initiative for tasks. By creating constructive feedback channels, you can encourage participation. This means fostering productive conversations with the team, listening to the fantastic ideas, encouraging employees to share the not-so-great ones, and acting on employee suggestions. 

4 Tips for Improving Accountability in the Workplace 

When you discover that your business has an accountability problem, the next step is crafting strategies to help you improve the situation. 

Making small changes to your company culture and how the team communicates will encourage employees to become more responsible in the workplace. 

1. Share Your Shortcomings 

Tried out a new idea that didn't work? Lost a client? Let the rest of the team know. 

Although you run the business, you're human too. This means you will make mistakes like poor judgment or predictions that fall out of place at different points. When these happen, discuss them with your team openly. You'd be showing them what owing up to responsibilities means firsthand.  

Openly discussing your shortcomings is a great way to build up workplace engagement. It also helps employees follow through with your decisions—they'd know when a plan has fallen through and why the entire company is taking new steps, and they can get on board with the company’s goals faster. 

2. Involve Team Members in SMART Goal Setting 

Don't assign responsibilities and roles without context. 

It's hard for employees to follow through with ideas they don't understand. So, before you dish out tasks, have team meetings and explain different goals and objectives. Help your team to see the big picture. 

More importantly, justify these goals. Why is the company introducing a new email strategy? Why is the sales team merging with customer support? When you answer all these whys—no matter how basic they seem, employees can better understand how their contributions would help achieve these objectives. 

3. Spell Out Expectations 

Even when you want employees to take the initiative on tasks, you still need to point them in the right direction. Setting expectations early would guide workers on how to measure their successes. 

Now, this goes more than handing down tasks—you should create a detailed process that spells out what everyone needs to do and how one role syncs into the other. Then, organize one-on-one conversations with team members. 

Also, invest in effective lines of communication to help you monitor employees’ progress. These include frequent stand-ups, onboarding meetings, and project updates. 

4. Be Empathetic 

Sometimes, employees will struggle with responsibilities for one reason or the other—maybe they lack confidence, have never taken up such tasks in the past, or are dealing with other personal issues. 

When this happens, it's not the time to yell about how disappointed you are. Instead, put yourself in their shoes (you possibly had a similar experience in the earlier part of your career). As the more experienced stakeholder, discuss these challenges and provide practical feedback to help younger workers pull through. 

Other practical steps you can take include:

  • Resolve work conflicts objectively.
  • Encourage workers to ask questions and provide answers when employees have concerns.
  • Provide all the resources employees need to carry out their tasks. 

Improve Accountability in Your Business

Micromanaging isn’t a sustainable path to growth. If you cannot trust employees to do what’s best for the business, you will hit unproductivity quickly. By investing in workplace accountability, business owners can free up valuable time for high-level brainstorming and decision-making.

More Management Resources for Businesses


RELATED ARTICLES