Creating a culture of accountability in your organization

Culture of Accountability

To create a culture of accountability in the office, you need to change your culture in a way that centers on accountability.

Nobody wants to work in a place where the blame game is a routine activity. Not knowing who to trust and whether or not to own up to your mistakes has a devastating effect on employee morale and consequently your performance.

A study drawn from the Workplace Accountability Study revealed that 82 percent of respondents “have limited-to-no ability to hold others accountable successfully.” More worryingly is that 91 percent of the people interviewed ranked the ability to hold others accountable in an effective way as one of the top development needs in their organization.

Culture of Accountability – Low accountability at work

A mark of an organization with low accountability is a steep, rigid hierarchy. In such workplaces, whatever the boss says goes, and thus only managers are held accountable. But in modern organizations, where employees collaborate and work interdependently in teams, individuals hold both their bosses and colleagues accountable. But if they keep silent, the company as a whole will suffer and face problems.

A company where accountability isn’t part of the culture repels good talent. Hard working people get frustrated when their efforts aren’t recognized, and when underperformers aren’t held accountable, and leave at the earliest opportunity. The remaining work staff relies heavily on their leaders and over-performing colleagues, who in turn get overwhelmed by the dense workload.

Culture of Accountability – Accountability starts from the top

Accountability begins with leaders. Their actions create a role model for the kind of culture they expect from their subordinates. Leaders should make a point of taking personal accountability and articulating it to others. Personal accountability helps you learn about the real you. You become aware of your failures as much as you are of your successes.

Minda Zetlin, business author, speaker, and journalist, says it best: “Perhaps the best way to create a stand-up organization is to lead by example. Make sure employees understand what you expect of them and that you’re holding yourself to the same high standard. Follow through on your promises, own up to your mistakes, and give feedback even when it isn’t easy.”

Being able to take criticism and work on it is the mark of a good leader. Being accountable for your mistakes puts your employees at ease and lets them work in the comfort of knowing that they won’t be held responsible for something they were ordered to do.

Culture of Accountability – Recognizing failures

People fail, and that’s ok. It’s important that not only do you realize this, but your company understands it as well. When other people are sympathetic to your mistakes, you’re more likely to admit it. Create a culture where people are comfortable with admitting defeat, not ashamed.

A workplace where people are at ease with mentioning their failures allows you as a manager to come forward and provide support and guidance. You should be able to talk and review their failure, the same way you revise their successes. This way, people will know what they’re doing wrong and not repeat it.

Culture of Accountability – Set guidelines and measures

To increase accountability in the office, you need to change your culture in a way that centers on accountability. As a leader, you need to figure out how to create an environment of responsibility using the right processes, practices, metrics and tools to monitor productivity. Employees should know that are accountable for their work based on a set of guidelines.

Most importantly, the defined measures and standards should be clear to everyone on the team. Have them emailed or posted on the office notice board. Keeping new goals and due dates on a weekly basis will keep employees motivated to work every day. And, this goes without saying, you must follow your own rules!

Culture of Accountability – Communicate with respect

Today’s culture has a ‘violence or silence’ attitude. So at times when you speak up for something, your boss might perceive your words as violence. You need phrase the beginning of your sentence to show that this is not an attack.

When you are in a dispute with your superiors, you need to show them that you both are on the same side and that you want what they want. A mutual purpose and mutual respect allow you to call out your boss when they’ve made a mistake. If you communicate with respect and purpose, the other person won’t feel attacked and listen to your cause.


Kristen McAlister

Kristen McAlister joined Pamela Wasley to purchase Cerius. She has spent most of her career helping companies establish and improve their infrastructure for high growth. She has grown companies and created optimal infrastructure from both an operational and client management perspective. Kristen has spent the last ten years teaching companies how to leverage executives for transitional situations such as high growth and turnarounds. She is a national speaker and is published on topics ranging from operations and productivity to talent management and the contingent workforce. Kristen is a mother, Ironman, and Marine wife. Click here to learn about Kristen McAlister and send her a question.

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