Make Accountability a Core Part of Your Culture

Accountability in the workplace is linked to higher performance. It’s also linked to increases in commitment to work and employee morale (Source: The U.S. Office of Personnel Management).  The problem is that accountability is lacking in many workplaces.  

One in two managers are rated as doing 'too little' when it comes to managing accountability. Click To Tweet

 (Source: HBR One Out of Every Two Managers Is Terrible at Accountability



Accountability in the workplace

Accountability is about follow through and getting done what you said you’d get done. It’s recognizing that other team members are dependant on the results of your work. It’s about open, proactive communication to keep team members informed of the status of your commitments because it has a direct impact on their ability to achieve their own commitments.

Taking ownership at work is about taking initiative and doing the right thing for the business. It’s about taking responsibility for results and not assuming it’s someone else’s responsibility. It’s the opposite of passing the buck.

 Ultimately, when team members consistently demonstrate ownership and accountability, trust is formed.  You trust someone will do the right thing and trust that they’ll do what they said they’d do. Trust is the backbone of high performing teams.

What happens when there’s no accountability?

It damages the team.

When people are not accountable, one person’s delay becomes the team’s delay. One shortfall snowballs into bigger shortfalls. Tolerating missed deadlines, lack of punctuality and unfinished work has the tendency to make this behavior “no big deal”. People learn that the real deadline is a week from the published one; that consistently being 10 min late for a meeting is the norm; that sub-par work is acceptable. Your team suffers, and ultimately your workplace culture suffers. too.

Holding employees accountable

Having a member of the team that isn’t meeting their commitments and isn’t being held accountable causes frustration and disengagement with the rest of the team.

How to Make Accountability a Core Part of Your Culture

The two biggest reasons that we resist holding other people accountable are because we’re uncomfortable doing it and because we forget to do it. So let’s tackle these issues.

1 Work on your feedback skills

Giving tough feedback isn’t easy, but you can get better at it. Not only that, but one of the most important things you do as a manager is provide feedback because not giving feedback is one of the most demotivating things you can do to your employees. Even negative feedback is better than being ignored. When you regularly give feedback (including positive feedback), it makes tough feedback much easier.

This is such an important topic, we’ve dedicated a whole post on  how to give good feedback to employees . At its heart, good feedback comes from a place of genuinely wanting to help. You need to “give a damn”. The second part of it is to be clear and direct. Feedback should not be ambiguous.

2 Recognize that procrastinating feedback only makes things worse

As uncomfortable as it is, when we procrastinate providing feedback, we only make matters worse. Issues very rarely resolve themselves and just turn into bigger issues. Eventually, you have to deal with it. It’s easier to deal with the issue as soon as possible for you, for the person you’re providing the feedback to and for the rest of the team. Remind yourself of this often.

3 Make accountability a habit

Setting up a reminder to give (and solicit) feedback as part of each agenda will help ensure that feedback flows consistently.  We believe one-on-ones and team-meetings are great opportunities to build a habit around accountability.  


Here are a couple questions that managers using SoapBox regularly add to their one-on-ones:
Is there anything we should START doing as a team?     |||     Would you like more or less direction from me on your work?     |||     Do you feel you’re getting enough feedback on your work? If not, where would you like more feedback?     |||     Is there an aspect of your job where you would like more help or coaching?     |||     How could we improve the ways our team works together?

For more one-on-one questions used by managers, here are the  top 10 questions managers opt to use in their one-on-ones within the SoapBox app .

4 Keep track of your commitments and hold each other accountable

If you make a promise to provide more positive feedback, make sure you add that as a future agenda item to check in to hold yourself accountable. If your employee commits to providing a work back schedule for a project by such and such a date, make sure you have a way to check-in on that day.

How SoapBox helps

Making sure you add good feedback questions to your one-on-one and team meetings and sharing follow-up items to hold yourself and your team accountable are pretty simple. However, in our research*, we’ve found most managers and employees don’t do these simple things. Not because they don’t care, but because the day-to-day at work is more complicated than ever, making it tough to find the time to work on these habits.

So we created SoapBox to work the way you work and to help you with these simple reminders. If you’d like to try SoapBox for yourself, it’s free. Forever.

SoapBox Product Screen Capture

*study of one-on-ones with 1,000 managers and employees


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