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Accountability in the Workplace

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

Is your business suffering from low team morale, unclear priorities, unengaged employees, missed deadlines, low levels of trust or high turnover rates? Lack of accountability just might be the culprit.

Accountability in the workplace means that employees are responsible for their actions, behaviors, performance, and decisions. Additionally, accountability is linked to an increase in dedication to work and employee morale, which results in higher performance.

Accountability in the workplace

Accountability is about ownership and initiative. When an employee says they will do something, they follow through and get it done. It’s about recognizing that you are a part of a bigger picture and that other team members are dependent on the results of your work. It’s about proactive communication, keeping team members informed of the status of your commitments, because it has a direct impact on their ability to follow through with their own commitments.

Taking ownership at work involves working with initiative and doing the right thing for your business, employer, and/or team. Taking ownership is about taking responsibility for results and avoiding assuming that it is somebody else’s responsibility.

Ultimately, when team members consistently demonstrate ownership and accountability of their work, trust is formed. You trust someone will do the right thing and trust that they’ll do what they said they will do. Trust is the backbone of high-performing teams. Leaders and team members desire trust, but ultimately that trust needs to be earned.

What happens if there is no accountability?

The team suffers.

When an employee or colleague is not accountable, one person’s delay become the team’s delay. One bad habit spirals into a slew of bad habits. Tolerating missed deadlines, lack of punctuality, and incomplete work tends to give employees the impression that it is “no big deal.” When in fact, it’s a huge deal! People learn that the “real” deadline is actually a week from the published one, that regularly being a few minutes late for a meeting is normal, and that substandard work is acceptable. Your team suffers, and ultimately your workplace culture suffers too.

When a team member isn’t meeting their commitments and isn’t being held accountable causes irritation and disengagement with the rest of the team. A lack of accountability leads to:

  • Low team morale

  • Unclear priorities across the team

  • Employees become less engaged

  • The team or individual is not meeting goals

  • Low levels of trust

  • High turnover

How to make accountability a core part of your culture and a core value of your team

The two main reasons that we resist holding others accountable is because we are uncomfortable doing it and because we forget to. Let’s address these issues.

1. Lead by example and hold yourself accountable first

As the team leader, you are the pacesetter of tone, performance, and culture for your team. People will follow your lead. If you are continuously showing up to meetings late, pushing deadlines and not owning up to your mistakes, the team will follow in your footsteps.

So how do you demonstrate your own accountability in the workplace?

  • Complete tasks that have been assigned to you by the deadline you agreed on.

  • Be responsible for the success of your team and make the effort to support your team when needed.

  • When you schedule meetings, respect everyone else’s time by showing up prepared and on time (and expect that others do too).

2. Work on your feedback skills

Giving tough feedback isn’t easy, but you can do it. As a leader, one of the most important things you can do is to provide feedback. Even negative feedback is better than no feedback at all. When you regularly give feedback, including positive feedback, it makes difficult feedback much easier to give and receive. Providing regular feedback also reduces the chance of your employee being surprised by the feedback they are receiving, which could lead to further disengagement.

Remember to be clear and direct, feedback should not be ambiguous.

3. Recognize that procrastinating feedback only makes things worse

Providing feedback can be uncomfortable, but procrastinating feedback only makes matters worse. Issues very rarely resolve themselves and just turn into bigger issues. Eventually, you will have to deal with it. Trust us, it’s easier to deal with the issue as soon as possible, for you and the person you are providing the feedback to and the rest of the team.

4. Make accountability a habit

Setting up a reminder to give, and solicit, feedback as a part of each meeting will help ensure that feedback flows consistently. One-on-one conversations and team meetings are excellent opportunities to build a habit around accountability.

5. Keep track of your commitments and hold each other accountable

If you promise to provide more feedback to your team, make sure you add that as a future agenda item to hold yourself accountable. If your employee commits completing a task by a certain deadline, make sure you have a way to check-in on that. Here at Estacar, we love using calendars to keep up with important deadlines and follow ups.

One way to encourage a culture of accountability, or address a lack of accountability, is to assign action items to team members during meetings. This way, each and every member of your team is held accountable for their actions.

Incorporating these new techniques into your day to day schedule takes time and discipline, but it’s worth it to build accountability in the workplace.

6. Use an accountability framework

Accountability is much more difficult to maintain if there is a lack of clarity on who is responsible for what. A Gallup Study found that only 50% of employees strongly indicate that they know what is expected of them at work. That is a huge miss for leaders.

Fortunately, there are accountability frameworks out there to help with this problem. You could create your own framework for your team, or you can utilize one that has already been created. For instance, the RACI matrix, or RACI chart, ensures that all individuals involved with a project are assigned a role every step of the way. These roles are broken down into four levels of accountability.

  • Responsible: Those responsible for completing the task.

  • Accountable: Those who are ultimately accountable for the completion of the task. This person is responsible for delegating the work to those responsible for completing it.

  • Consulted: These individuals are usually the subject-matter experts on the task at hand. They are involved in the specific stage of the project in a consulting and advisory capacity.

  • Informed: These are the individuals who are kept up to date on progress at each stage of the project.


Creating and encouraging a culture of accountability for your team will not only improve employee morale and productivity, but it will also give your team the autonomy and sense of ownership they need to thrive! If you feel accountability is lacking on your team, it’s time to make some changes.

Need assistance in creating and fostering an accountable workplace? Executive Coaching may be the right path for you. Give us a call at 806.412.2381 or send us an email at for more information.

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