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Workplace accountability done right

Kaleigh Moore 7 min read
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If you’ve ever been part of a team project that ends up going nowhere, you’ve probably experienced a breakdown in workplace accountability.

The reality is: When team members aren’t held responsible for their tasks, things kinda…fall apart.

As humans, we inherently value accountability within all of our relationships–so it’s no surprise that this extends to the working environment, too.

If you’re looking for ways to boost workplace accountability, you’re in the right place. We’re taking a deep dive into this topic today.

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What is workplace accountability?

Workplace accountability is when employees are responsible for the tasks they’re assigned. It’s a public form of responsibility within the work environment that allows team members to count and rely on each other, knowing that each person fully accepts and can execute their assigned duties.

Workplace accountability helps answer questions like:

  • Can the employee be relied on to complete assignments and projects he/she is given?
  • Is the employee performing the duties required by their job?
  • Are employees participating and helping fulfill the goals of the organization?

Without accountability, workplaces become environments that cause unhappiness, bitterness, and frustration for employees. This is why it’s so important to foster a team culture that holds every person accountable.

“Instead of telling your team what to do (as in direction) tell them why it’s important (as in context.) Their ability to commit and be accountable for that task increases immensely as a result.” – Karthik Sridhar,

Statistics on workplace accountability

The numbers paint a clear picture around why workplace accountability is so important.

Let’s look at a few key stats on how it impacts teams at work:

  1. According to Gallup data, 47% of workers received feedback from their manager “a few times or less” in the past year. 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do their work better.
  2. 25% of leaders surveyed feel that 10% to 20% of their workers avoid accountability.
  3. 84% of employees say the way leaders behave as the single most important factor influencing accountability in their organizations, yet just 15% of leaders have successfully defined and broadly communicated their key results.

Master Workplace Accountability

Best practices for creating a culture of accountability

If you want to create a culture of accountability, you’ll need to follow a few best practices.

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Set SMART goals for team members

SMART goals are ones that are realistic for team members–and they’re highly specific. When these types of goals are in place, each person has a crystal clear picture of what they need to accomplish in order to make the project successful.

“Clear communication and clear goals are essential. They remove negative feelings that come as a result of lacking communication which can eat away at team morale. When team members know they’re responsible for something (and if they don’t accomplish it, they’re holding up everyone else) there’s inherent accountability built in.” -Vincenzo Landino, CEO of  The Landino Group

Define accountability expectations (and document them)

“Define the scope accurately at the beginning of the project, share the  “why” and the end goal. People don’t want to be pixel pushers or number crunchers, it’s easier to hold the team accountable and get strong results when they feel good about what they’re doing.” -Hudaina Baig, Paid social consultant

Do all of your team members know what’s expected of them outside their goals and objectives? Do they know how the project will progress, and how information should be shared, for example? By documenting your expectations and sharing them with the group, you provide a point of reference that can help realign things should they fall off track.

For example: If an employee misses an agreed upon deadline, make sure there are implications that keep it from happening again. One way to do this might be to have the team member explain to their teammates why they weren’t able to do their part on time. Having to admit a failure to the group can be a powerful accountability booster.

“Document, document, document. Writing out weekly summaries of daily stand up meetings and weekly check ins is a great way to boost team accountability, because it puts progress in a format that can be referenced by others.” -Michelle Urban, Marketing 261

Culture of Accountability

Evaluate progress regularly with individuals and ask how you can help them reach their goals

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re in the dark on a project. Make sure that team members know how they’re performing on an individual basis and as part of the team at regular intervals–at least once per week. Also, be sure to ask questions about how you can help them and make it easier for them to accomplish their tasks.

“Accountability breaks down when team members don’t fully know what’s expected of them. The fix, in my experience, has been adding clarity around expected tasks and showing team members how those tasks link into larger corporate goals.” -Stefan Palios, Pulse Blueprint

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Provide opportunities for skill improvement

Employee development and accountability go hand in hand. Giving team members opportunities to learn, grow, and expand their skills means you’re setting them up to be more productive, engaged team members when it comes to projects. Make sure you have a program in place that encourages training, education, and hands-on work so your team members are always sharpening their skills.

Address accountability wins and failures

It’s important to publicly acknowledge those who excel at accountability and to spotlight their hard work. After all, a job well done deserves to be recognized–and it can spark that competitive spirit in your teammates, too. By spotlighting accountability wins, you create a culture herein everyone wants to be the person getting recognized. Plus–it just feels good.

But accountability failures need to be addressed as well. For example, say an angry customer calls someone within your customer support department because they’re unhappy with a product they purchased. The customer service representative doesn’t appreciate being cussed out by this frustrated buyer, so after the call ends, they go on social media and rant about the rude customer.

The customer ends up seeing this post, and now is even more upset–and takes his complaint to the CEO. The customer service manager should be held accountable for her subordinate’s actions, as should the employee who took action on social media. The incident should be documented and addressed accordingly.

Master workplace accountability

With some smart strategies and a willingness to keep your team members on task, you can master accountability at work and create a team culture wherein team members motivate each other day after day.

Just remember: Accountability won’t happen overnight. Be willing to work on developing this quality in your team and use positive reinforcement to increase their accountable behaviors.

Start working better with your team using this team tasks template:

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Kaleigh is an experienced writer on all things SAAS at She is a Forbes + Vogue Business retail contributor on her free time.
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