How to Increase Employee Accountability

What proportion of your employees seeks to avoid responsibility?

When AMA Enterprise, a division of American Management Association, asked senior-level business, human resources, and management professionals that question, their responses broke down like this:

  • 11 percent of survey respondents said more than 50 percent of their employees shirk responsibility.
  • 21 percent said 30 to 50 percent do.
  • 22 percent said 20 to 30 percent do.
  • 24 percent said 10 to 20 percent do.
  • 17 percent said fewer than 10 percent do.
  • 5 percent said they didn’t know.

How would you respond to the question? Are you leading a group of employees who take ownership of their jobs and their actions or who try to point fingers and cover up their mistakes?

Build accountability among your employees by following these tips.

  • Communicate your vision. Regularly remind employees know how their daily activities contribute to the success of the business. Explain that when they don’t play their individual roles properly the entire business suffers.
  • Set expectations. Meet with employees to establish clear short- and long-term goals for which they will be held accountable for reaching. Evaluate their progress frequently and reward their successes in performance and salary reviews.
  • Make success attainable. If you set goals too high, employees will likely give up. Offer coaching and training to your staff members and provide all of the resources and information they need to meet — and exceed — your expectations.
  • Accept a reasonable amount of failure. If you blow up every time things don’t go as planned, employees will hide their mistakes because they fear your negative reaction. Accept that failure is part of business, help employees learn from mistakes, and always treat them with respect.
  • Address mistakes — tactfully. Instead of reprimanding employees for errors, ask what went wrong. Say things like “Help me to understand what happened, so that we can solve the problem” and “Please describe the situation as you see it and the actions you have taken so far.”
  • Be a role model. If your employees see you making excuses and shifting blame when you fail, they will follow suit. Admit when you’re wrong, and share with your team what you have learned from your mistakes.
  • Refrain from solving employees’ problems. When they ask you for a solution, don’t immediately offer one. Instead, ask “What do you think you/we should do?” and don’t accept “I don’t know” as an answer. Talk through the problem, offering feedback if they veer off track. Ultimately, make them responsible for coming up with a workable solution. The more you do that, the less inclined they’ll be to run to you every time they need to make a decision.

About Jaimy Ford

Jaimy Ford is a business writer and editor. She writes subscription newsletters, training tools and blogs that focus on professional development, leadership and productivity. Her goal in everything she writes is to provide actionable advice that can be put to use immediately.
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