How to Improve Accountability in the Workplace


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For many manager and employers, accountability from your employees might seem like a dream. Too often we may find employees not completing their work, frequently calling off or being late for shifts, or refusing to perform certain duties entirely. This can be a nightmare for a supervisor who is then tasked with correcting mistakes and picking up the slack, all so the business can continue to run smoothly.

So how can you create more accountability in your workplace? Accountability creates a more consistent and reliable workflow so that work doesn’t become a game of catch-up. Instead of wasting time trying to get others to do their job you can invest energy in actually improving the business and getting ahead. This change of pace can actually increase morale and decrease stress. This is in part due to the sense reliability and trust that is built up by being accountable.

Confront The Problem 

Avoiding confrontation is a common trait, especially for managers who want to keep the peace. But if you have an employee who is being unaccountable in the workplace, then it is likely affecting everybody. Be sure to screen for the use of illegal substances to prevent drug-related workplace accountability problems. The manager and other employees may have to take the lion’s share of the work in these cases, creating inequality and tension all around.

On the other hand, an employee who is not doing their fair share may be struggling to understand what is expected of him. He may feel discouraged and confused about what to do or how to do certain tasks. By directly addressing the problem with a non-judgmental attitude, you can develop an understanding of what is preventing this person from showing up for his job.

Try Creating SMART Goals 

Creating too lofty or vague goals can often create a sense of them being unachievable. Instead, help your employees understand how to achieve those goals by using the SMART goals system. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. By combining these elements, you can create clear expectations of what working towards these goals will look like every day. Employees can have a better understanding of what they need to do to contribute to the completion of the goal.

Correct Bad Habits Early-On 

If you let mistakes go on without fixing them they may quickly become cemented habits in that person’s routine. The longer that the behavior is allowed to continue, the harder it will be to correct it. So don’t delay, quickly address the problem. Often times, an employee may simply need more training or may misunderstand what is expected of them.

Try to understand what is causing the problem and let the employee know what they are forgetting or the mistakes they have made. Some individuals may not respond well to criticism, but don’t let this discourage you. You will ultimately have a better work situation if they are not allowed to perform their tasks incorrectly or get away with unacceptable behavior. This can also prevent more difficult conversations later on.

Empathize With Your Employees 

Your employee may or may not understand the effect their behavior is having on the work environment. There may be reasons why they are underperforming or not doing their tasks. By trying to understand where this behavior is coming from, you can address the root of the problem.

There may be times where talking with your employee may reveal a reasonable explanation for their behavior. They may have unavoidable life circumstances, physical limitations, or a recent traumatic event that has been preventing them from reliably completing their tasks or being on time. By keeping an open mind and giving the time to try to understand the emotions of your employees, you can work around such limitations and find reasonable compromises.

Ensuring accountability from your employees can be a struggle, but once a work culture that supports the expectation that everyone must do their share is established, you may find a reliable routine develops. By utilizing SMART goals, being empathetic, and confronting problems early-on, you can be well on your way to creating workplace accountability.

Brian O'Connell
Business Writer
Brian is a semi-retired business owner with 15 years experience covering small business, entrepreneurship, careers, and financial planning. He has appeared in dozens of top-tier national business publications, including Time, MSN Money, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, The, Yahoo Finance, CBS Marketwatch, and many more,


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