How To Increase Accountability In The Workplace | 4 mins read

5 Ways to Increase Workplace Accountability

5 ways to increase workplace accountability
Lauren Christiansen

By Lauren Christiansen

Experts from the business world and the field of psychology reached several conclusions regarding personal accountability and motivation in the workplace. These case studies demonstrate that while individuals are naturally more high performing than others, most people will inevitably do as little work as possible without accountability.

Growth-driven organizations should consider these findings from experts when training management, standardizing employee incentives and creating culture norms. By optimizing workplace accountability and motivating workers to perform their best, an organization will strengthen relationships, make more money, and improve employee morale.

  • Studies have shown that the fear of losing a job or being disciplined by management are the most powerful motivators to improve performance
  • There is a strong connection between wanting good work relationships and personal motivation. Employees want a sense of belonging at work and perform better to gain that community.
  • In the hierarchy of needs, achieving goals is at the forefront of human desires. By creating incentives for achieving goals, employee motivation dramatically increases.

How to Increase Accountability in the Workplace

Workplace accountability occurs when employees are responsible for completing the projects assigned to them. Organizations that optimize workplace accountability through an accountability team creates a culture where coworkers can rely on one another because they know that every team member will recognize and execute his/her designated tasks.

If team members lack accountability for their failure to complete projects, the entire company culture and employee morale will suffer. This lack of employee engagement will eventually result in a decrease in operational effectiveness. Finding ways to enhance and improve accountability in the workplace is an essential requirement of effective management. Best practices include -

Online employee scheduling software that makes shift planning effortless.
Try it free for 14 days.

1. Confront the Employee

It can be hard for managers to confront a non-accountable employee, particularly if he/she is well-liked in the organization. To improve the outcome of the confrontation, supervisors must focus on performance objectives, rather than personality.

It can be helpful for the supervisor to provide an example of when a mistake was made and then ask the employee why it occurred. Managers should continue to dig down into why certain actions were not taken that would improve performance. This will help to pinpoint the root cause of the problem. Common reasons given by the worker include -

  • No clear instructions were given
  • Waiting on a response from the help center or another department
  • Employees feel unequipped to handle the task
  • A technical problem prevented him/her from taking ownership of a problem
  • The employee is struggling with a personal problem
  • The worker is ineffective at time management or prioritizing

2. Address Performance Problems Quickly

2 address performance problems quickly 1612210258 5391

The employee will not take responsibility if the manager does not make the effort to talk with him/her. Supervisors must recognize that it becomes more frustrating for coworkers and leadership the longer a productivity problem goes unresolved.

Effective leaders must be clear about what is expected from the worker moving forward and then give a list of requirements and recommendations to ensure high performance If the employee is simply a poor performer in general, managers cannot rely on a verbal directive to improve behavior. Specific goals, key performance indicators, and instructions must be written and delivered to make sure employees take ownership of their workload.

3. Be Empathetic

Though it can be frustrating to manage an unproductive worker, managers should avoid making judgments right away. It is important to find the root cause of the problem without being unkind or rude. This will help establish a better relationship moving forward, given that the employee does his/her part.

Also, it's important to remember those otherwise effective workers may be juggling outside problems that are interfering with work. For example, a typically productive worker may have been 30 minutes late the last two weeks because of a conflict with childcare.


In this circumstance, the manager should be kind but firm, letting the worker know that he/she is expected to show up on time. Or, an exception can be made as the employee has been a hard worker and on-time up until that point.

How leadership decides to handle an unproductive worker can vary depending on the situation and the person involved. Many times, HR may need to propose a more optimal solution that benefits everyone.

Online employee scheduling software that makes shift planning effortless.
Try it free for 14 days.

4. Create SMART Goals

4 create smart goals 1612210258 3895

The most effective way to ensure employee workplace accountability is to establish a set of SMART goals. SMART goals are clear expectations in the form of key performance indicators. These objectives must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely to ensure the best outcome.

These can help all workers stay motivated and accountable, particularly for those who are struggling to be productive. HR team members can convey these goals during the onboarding process, and business unit leaders should regularly update and revise them as needed.

While they do not need to be conveyed every day to every worker, it can be helpful to reiterate them with an unproductive worker. Managers should make sure to check-in regularly with this employee to track the progress towards achieving these goals to ensure accountability.

5. Conduct Regular Follow-Ups

After every single performance evaluation, managers should write direct reports that document everything said in the conversation. Sending an email will ensure there is an audit trail of the conversation for accountability purposes.

Check ins should assess whether the worker is meeting the SMART goals. Managers should make certain to point out any positive developments while maintaining professionally reiterating any problem areas. If the employee does not continue to meet the objectives set out for him/her, then HR and team leaders may need to consider suspension or termination.

  • Regular employee performance reviews decrease the company turnover rate by 14%
  • 1 in 5 workers is certain that their managers are not providing quality, regular feedback
  • 92% of workers say that negative feedback, if given properly, is effective at improving their performance

Key Takeaways

key takeaways 1612210259 8838

In conclusion, here are the best practices to increase workplace accountability

  • Creating accountability requires management to confront the worker to pinpoint the root of the problem. It's important to remain calm and professional during this process to ensure the best outcome.
  • To create cultural accountability managers should address performance problems as soon as possible, as they can impact someone else. Managers should be empathetic but firm during their conversations while working with HR to come up with a set of solutions.
  • Supervisors should create SMART goals to track and monitor employee performance and hold the team accountable. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
  • It's important to perform regular follow-ups to see how the employee is progressing. If the worker does not improve performance over time, the company might need to consider termination or suspension.

 cta content inline and exit intent