Every business needs to instill and cultivate accountability in the workplace. Without it, employees can devalue the business causing the good ones to leave and your loyal customers to look elsewhere. Encouraging staff to be more accountable should therefore be a primary focus for every manager. Teams thrive when everyone is responsible and accountable for their actions.
For accountability to become part of the organization’s fabric, it must be fostered, not forced. How can you do that?
Make accountability a goal
Make accountability one of the core values that all employees in the company should Endeavour for. Discuss it, exchange ideas, and arrive to a universal consensus about what accountability should stand for in the workplace. Establishing the values and beliefs central to accountability is very important. For example, some people might think that accomplishment and commitment reflect accountability, while others think consistency and trust are at the heart of accountability. The first step is to have a discussion on the different perceptions of each of the values, then try to come to a common agreement on how they align with accountability. This essentially is laying the foundation for accountability.
Discourage the use of external attribution to escape accountability
Even after establishing the value and belief system, it doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will start being accountable. We are all wired to assign a cause to whatever happens to us, and this includes attributing blame to something. How often have you heard someone say “the devil made me do it” or “I did it to myself”? People who dodge responsibility always attribute everything to external factors or events. If this behavior goes on for a long time, they start developing “learned helplessness” where they avoid taking responsibility for anything.
This problem can be tackled by asking a set of questions such as:
What course of action could you have taken? Is there anything you could have done to this situation?
Are there clues that you didn’t pay attention to?
What risks did you avoid that could have made all the difference?
In addition to asking these questions to help someone see their error, we need to make sure that they are strong enough to be accountable. People with great confidence feel they can take responsibility and accountability because they know that even things don’t work out, they could always dust themselves up and start again.
However, an individual with a fragile ego always imagines and expects the worst if they take accountability – “I will mess up and bad things will happen” or “my boss will kill me if I mess up.”
As a manager, praise people when they do a good thing and this will go a long way in building their self-confidence and self-capacity. They will no longer have to play victim. Genuine praise strengthens the ego. Don’t create fear by punishing, because this always has a negative effect. Instead, always try to find solutions to a problem. If you create a culture of blaming and punishing, accountability will not take root.
Accountability in the workplace will not happen overnight, but if you put the right elements in place, results will come.