What is Accountability in the Workplace?

Accountability is the responsibility of employees to complete the tasks they are assigned, to perform the duties required by their job, and to be present for their proper shifts in order to fulfill or further the goals of the organization. It’s being responsible for one's own work and answering for the repercussions of one's own actions. No one can stand over you full time to make sure you're working, so accountability ensures that you have an incentive to fly right.

In organizations, accountability is a management control process in which responses are given for a person's actions. These responses can be positive or negative. Depending on the response, the person might need to correct his or her error. In other words, accountability refers to individual responsibility for the work performed and answering to peers and superiors for performance.

To help employees be accountable, employers or leaders must let them develop a sense of ownership in what they do. Ownership is about taking initiative and doing the right thing for the company or business. It is about taking responsibility for results. At minimum, taking ownership means that if you recognize something is material to achieving results, that you take the initiative to bring it to the attention of the right people. One will then say he is accountable if he follows through and gets done what he or she said would get done.

Accountability is about recognizing that other team members are dependant on the results of your work and not wanting to let them down. It’s about good, open, pro-active communication to keep team members informed on the status of your commitments because you respect that the results of your work has a direct impact on their ability to make their own commitments. Ultimately, when team members consistently demonstrate ownership and accountability, trust is formed.


What is the importance of accountability?

Where there is no accountability, execution becomes a problem and eventually results are not achieved. Accountability at work is important to a business’s success as a whole. Every employee, no matter what level of seniority is equally responsible for aiding in the success of the company. In order to achieve the goals of the company, long and short term, it is important that all people within the company work together and share accountability. 

  1. Firstly is when we don’t hold ourselves accountable for doing a job well and on time, there is a tendency of getting relaxed and lenient. A day becomes a week and a week becomes a month. With accountability, an employee has to plan his work by having clear action plans showing what the output will eventually be and the time period of execution. It is at the end of the exercise that one will be answerable for the job well done and not well done.
  2. Not being accountable can also impact on the entire team or department. Your delay becomes your team’s delay. The work they had planned gets impacted and that work potentially has further downstream effects.
  1. Being accountable means standing by decisions, actions, and the overall well-being of projects.
  2. Accountability is also a management process that ensures employees answer to their superior for their actions and that supervisors behave responsibly as well.
  3. Accountability addresses both the organization's expectation of the employee and the employee's expectation of the organization.
  4. Accountability is crucial to ensuring high performance within an organization. Accountable employees help to increase performance of business as a whole and to maintain a positive company culture, vision, and ethics.
  5. Employees on all levels are able to be kept on a certain standard as accountability will be measured by performance assessments which can be done weekly, bi-weekly, monthly and yearly


As a leader, how do you create a culture of accountability at the work place?

Many people look at accountability negatively , however holding people accountable yields positive results: greater accuracy of work, better response to role obligations, more vigilant problem solving, better decision making, more cooperation with co-workers, and higher team satisfaction.

The tips for creating a culture of accountability are S.I.M.P.L.E.(by: Lifehack)

  1. Set expectations
  2. Invite commitment
  3. Measure progress
  4. Provide feedback
  5. Link to consequences
  6. Evaluate effectiveness

1.Set expectations

It is important to set firm, clear, and concise expectations for any group. Accountability will not grow where team members are unsure of the group’s purpose and vision. Teams need to know what is expected of them before they in turn can be expected to be held accountable.

You can set expectations by:

  • Clearly communicating the team’s mission and vision.
  • Emphasizing the urgency and importance of whatever task you have assigned.
  • Laying out the standards that will be upheld throughout the process. Be specific regarding end results, time frames, and expected levels of effort.
  • Clearly and explicitly defining each member’s role and responsibilities.
  • The clearer initial goals and expectations are, the less time will be spent arguing when someone is held accountable because of ambiguous initial goals.

1. Invite Commitment

Although you may make these initial conditions and goals clear, it is important to have the team members commit to these standards and expectations. Work with your team to make sure that everyone commits to their role, understanding how it will benefit both the individual and the team. Be sure to put it in writing, too. This will give the commitment a physical representation that cannot be debated.

Accountability grows when this connection is made, and is enhanced when other people are aware of the commitment. Team members are further motivated to accomplish their tasks and will more readily welcome you holding them accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

2. Measure progress

Measure the progress of team members in alignment with the goals and expectations set out at the beginning. Goals can only be measured when they are quantified. Compare the measured results to the goals to find out where team members need the most improvement. Over time, the concept that one’s results are a product of their own actions is reinforced and solidified as a belief. 

3. Provide feedback

After setting clear expectations, committing to set goals, and measuring progress, it is important to provide feedback to team members so that there can be improvement towards the goal.

Regular developmental and performance feedback from a credible source helps employees understand and internalize how their specific behaviors and choices are contributing to their results. However, the feedback must be rigorous, consistent and ongoing to be effective. 

When creating a culture of accountability, make sure that the feedback that you do give highlights both the positive things that the team member has done and the areas where they can improve.

4. Link to consequences

Not all people are driven by internal motivating factors. So, in creating a culture of accountability, it is important to emphasize the link to consequences, whether as a ‘whip’ behind the team members to drive them forward, or as a carrot for them to chase. As a leader, it is key to assess and realize which type of motivation different people may need.

5. Evaluate effectiveness

Not all methods of operation are effective! Waiting until the end of the process or project to evaluate the effectiveness can severely hamper the potential of you as an individual or your team as a whole. Step aside and assess the plan and the participating team members. Evaluate the effectiveness of each component, good and bad, in relation to the goal and mission.

Creating a culture of accountability does not end with evaluating effectiveness, and it is not established by going through this process one time. Once you take stock in the efficiency of the process and team, use the information you have gained to improve the process moving forward.


Examples of Accountability in the Workplace:

  • Employees being present for their entire required shift
  • Employees completing any tasks that have been designated to them
  • Employees being responsible for the specific duties that go along with their job
  • Employees being consistent in doing the right thing in all aspects pertaining to their job
  • Employees working together towards a common goal for the business


Some Bible teachings on accountability. (source: What Christians want to know)

1. We are accountable for every word we speak

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

There are so many words spoken in a day that we hardly think about what we say. Yet the Lord doesn’t forget our meaningless words and we will have to give an account for each one. We know that we are to be “slow to speak” (James 1:19)—to help us carefully consider what and how we speak to those around us.


2. We are accountable for how we live our lives

 “So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:12).

Our everyday decisions matter to God and to those we live with at home, school, or work. We set the example of how believers reflect Jesus in good and bad times. Our attitudes and actions speak much louder than our words. We must live under the direction of the Holy Spirit being accountable to live righteous lives.


3. Leaders are accountable for those who serve under them


“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

Every leader will give an account to God for those who followed them in their lifetime. A leader must be sure that they’ve said and done everything as directed by the Lord so that people will stay on the right track. Followers will give an account as well in how they demonstrated patience and submission to those the Lord put over them.


4. Unbelievers are accountable for rejecting truth

“But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5).

The Lord makes the truth known in every place on the earth. People only have to look at the sky, trees, or rivers and they will know that God exists. However because of the hardness of their hearts, many will reject God and instead choose to live by their own rules. They will stand before God and give an account of rejecting His precious Son, Jesus Christ.

5. We are accountable to warn unbelievers

 “When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood” (Ezekiel 33:8)

God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the whole world and masses of people never hear the gospel because we are afraid or timid to share it with them. By doing so, we contribute to their fate of eternal death because we withheld the truth from them. The Lord will hold us accountable for sharing the Good News with those who live or work around us every day.

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