How to build a culture of accountability in the workplace

Marlo Oster
January 14, 2021
4
Minutes

Accountability in the workplace means the buck stops with you. It’s not just about completing the tasks that are assigned to you; it’s owning the end result. 


To be held accountable often has a negative connotation. In fact, if you search synonyms for accountable, “punishable” is chief on the list. While it’s an element of being accountable, fear of punishment does not contribute to a healthy work environment.

simpsons accountability gif workpatterns


Being accountable at work means your team can rely on you to own your mistakes and your successes, to never shift the blame to someone else or shirk your duties, and to always meet the expectations set by your organization. 


Read on to learn the downsides of a lack of accountability, the difference between accountability and responsibility, and how you can build a positive culture of accountability in your workplace. 

Why is accountability important?

The benefits of accountability being ingrained into your company culture are numerous. Accountability is paramount to the success of your business because it brings everyone inside that success, from the top down.


Accountability in the workplace improves

  • Employee performance and participation

  • Employee pride and satisfaction

  • Team morale

  • Innovation and creativity

  • Trust between coworkers, team members, and management

Accountability vs. responsibility

The difference between accountability and responsibility lies in what takes place after the completion of a task. You’re responsible for completing the task, yet accountable for the results. Accountability means owning your successes as well as your failures. 

What happens when accountability in the workplace isn’t a core value shared by employees?

Lack of accountability erodes trust

Have you ever worked with someone who just wasn’t accountable? Someone who never followed up, always completed tasks late, forgot about deadlines, or missed meetings entirely? It’s difficult to trust someone with such a lack of dedication because you never know when or if you can count on them. 


In a workplace, even one team member who isn’t trusted can slow down productivity and hinder a team's ability to make quick, reliable decisions. 

Lack of accountability builds bad habits

When people aren’t accountable for the quality of their work, bare minimum mindsets can form. Sure, your team is technically getting the job done, but thriving organizations should expect more than that from their employees.


If your team is only focused on the bare minimum of responsibilities, creativity, innovation, and progress dies. It’s imperative that businesses ensure a culture of underachievement never becomes commonplace. Always strive to build an enthusiastic and motivated team filled with employees that do the best they can every day—and that isn’t possible without accountability.

Lack of accountability reduces productivity

There’s a bottom line to consider, and when a team lacks accountability, productivity suffers. A successful team is a well-oiled machine. When one person is out of sync and unaccountable, systems begin to slow down or fail altogether. 


When a team knows who is accountable for what, and members trust each other to follow through, smooth processes begin to form. A culture of accountability leads to efficient and effective decision making, and ultimately, a more productive work environment.

How to build a culture of accountability in the workplace

Begin With Leadership Accountability 

Accountability starts at the top. Building a culture of accountability means everyone in the workplace, from CEO to intern, needs to practice the same standards. It may seem simpler to let leadership off the hook now and again, but this short-term thinking can be damaging. We get it: as a business owner or manager, you’ve got a ton going on, but in the long run, that lack of accountability will trickle down through the company.


Workplace accountability is up to everyone, no matter the role. Set common standards of accountability across your team and ensure management leads by example.

Set Goals to Maintain Accountability

No one can be held accountable if there’s nothing to be held accountable for. Unclear expectations create gaps in accountability because everyone has a different idea about what’s expected.



Clear goals need to be set and updated regularly. Forget about generalizations like “high standards” or “quality work” and instead opt for clear expectations that aren’t up for interpretation. Define exactly what success looks like. How can your team and each individual member attain it?

 

💡  Goal management with WorkPatterns is flexible, measurable, and results-oriented. Try it yourself to begin setting SMART goals as a team—all in one convenient place.

Provide visibility

Accountability needs to be visible. Track action items and ensure the whole team can see what needs to get done, who’s going to do it, and how urgent any task is.


Any action items should be visible to other team members with an owner, specific due dates, and any relevant information that aids smooth task completion. Visibility will allow teams to work effectively with limited roadblocks and fewer time-sucking meetings.

Ensure accountability goes beyond tasks

Accountability goes beyond task completion. Simply completing a task is being responsible for your work, but it’s not being accountable for it. To be accountable, you need to own every aspect of your work before and after a task is completed.


Ensure accountability in your workplace is all-encompassing. Accountability should be at the forefront of all hands meetings, project planning, communication, one on one meetings, retrospectives, and any other aspect of being a part of the team.


💡  WorkPatterns helps remote and distributed teams work asynchronously with a meeting management system that keeps employees engaged, productive, and aligned.

Hold a Daily Standup 

Daily standups are an ideal way for teams to give asynchronous updates on what they’re working on. Daily standups should be short, so they don’t infringe on the team's productive hours, and they should get right to the point—what was completed, what’s being worked on next, and any possible roadblocks that could occur.


You can set up a simple Slack reminder at the beginning of each day or have a quick 15 minute standup on a daily basis to keep your whole team visibly on track and accountable.

Define responsibilities with a RACI matrix

example raci matrix workpatterns

Without clear, defined roles and responsibilities, teams struggle and productivity stalls. Who needs to do what? Who reports to who? Enter RACI, which stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. 


A RACI matrix, also known as a RACI model or RACI chart, is a diagram that visually represents where each team member fits on a project; it identifies their roles and the associated set of tasks needed to complete. It also ensures no team member is saddled with more work than another. A RACI matrix should be visible to the entire team to ensure everyone knows exactly what they’re supposed to do, when, and who to report to. 

Provide constructive feedback

Being able to provide constructive feedback is critical to the growth and success of a business. It improves an employee or team member’s performance without killing their motivation with negativity. Feedback lets someone know what they did right and what can be improved upon, but it’s a lot easier said than done. 


Constructive feedback requires tactfulness, emotional intelligence, and strong communication skills. It doesn’t mean sweeping mistakes under the rug for fear of a confrontation. It means providing feedback that’s not accusatory or judgemental but rather objective and designed to yield a better outcome overall. 


Utilizing constructive feedback in the workplace helps build accountability by allowing employees to be more honest about what they feel they did well and what they could do better—without fearing an angry manager’s reprisals. 


💡  WorkPatterns can help you create a culture of accountability with frequent, lightweight, bidirectional, and continuous feedback.

Build a culture of accountability with WorkPatterns

WorkPatterns provides One on Ones, Team Collaboration, Feedback, Recognition & Goals—all in one place. It’s the ideal platform to begin building an indestructible culture of accountability in your workplace. WorkPatterns helps teams maintain accountability through task visibility, optimized meetings, asynchronous communication, and constructive feedback.




Start having meetings that work together with WorkPatterns