The A – Z Of Why Is Accountability Important

What is accountability?


Accountability isn’t about telling the boss about each other’s mistakes and punishing wrong-doers. In short, responsibility means holding people to set expectations.

Values and expectations that have been clearly defined for all employees are required for high accountability. This way people can be responsible for their workload. There should be a good balance between responsibility and autonomy. If there is, people can take ownership of their work while performing to a good standard.

Accountability requires trust and honesty. A business with high responsibility will likely have good faith and evidence of good teamwork within the organization.

When employees are held accountable for their role in the business, they are more likely to make better decisions. Also, they will be more likely to take responsibility for their mistakes and take action to rectify them.

Therefore, organizations must implement high accountability amongst their employees, but it can be challenging to achieve this.

Ladder of accountability

The next ladder demonstrates the levels of accountability. For example, 1-4 shows a person with low responsibility, and 5-8 shows high accountability.

Organizations should aim to ensure all employees are at the higher levels on the ladder to achieve results. Unfortunately, employees within a company sometimes fit into the first 4 levels. This can result in challenges and undesirable outcomes.

Leaders can use this ladder to evaluate an employee’s level of accountability. It can also help to demonstrate the importance of accountability to the employee.

  1. Unaware there is an issue
  2. Can see the issue but is blaming others
  3. Rationalizing why the issue is not their responsibility
  4. Waiting to see what happens and taking no action
  5. Accepting there is a problem that requires solving
  6. Taking ownership of this issue
  7. Owning their part in the issue and trying to find a resolution
  8. Taking action to solve the problem

What is required for an employee to have accountability?


Accountability only works successfully if it applies to every team member, from management to employees. Everyone must be responsible for completing their roles with a clearly defined set of expectations.

Leaders should model accountability, by being transparent with the team about their responsibilities. They should also ensure access for all employees to appropriate equipment or information. This will ensure they can complete their role effectively.


There should be clearly defined expectations for each employee to know exactly what they are accountable for. If everyone is clear on their role, they can make realistic plans. These plans could relate to the timeframe and what resources will be required.

Without clearly defined roles, employees will not feel wholly accountable for their work, and performance may deteriorate.


Proper guidance and feedback are necessary parts of good leadership. In addition, it can help people be accountable for their work if they have a regular review and evaluation of their progress.

Both positive and negative feedback can be helpful. Positive feedback can increase motivation and ensure employees feel valued in their roles. Negative feedback is useful when it is framed constructively. It can help employees clarify their roles and where they need to improve.

Both leaders and employees can have an active part in reviewing work. Then they can make positive changes as a team. This can improve relationships as well as accountability.

What are the barriers to achieving accountability?

Poor leadership

Without a good leader, employee accountability will be low. This behavior needs modeling by a good leader. They should set defined goals for individuals and teams while also taking ownership of their actions. For example, some teams regularly miss deadlines or display poor work. This may be down to negligence but often is related to vague expectations.

Bad leaders won’t give a clear boundary of what is acceptable, or set clear expectations for individuals. This often leads to bad habits forming, resulting in poor performance. Also, it can lead to members of the team not being clear on their role, and things are missed.

If productivity is poor or lacking, the work must then be completed by another team member. This can then cause tension in the team and poor relationships between employees and management.

Bad habits

It is widespread for bad habits to form in a workplace with low accountability. These might be poor quality work, non-adherence to the company policies, or just a generally bad attitude.

Good leaders would not have allowed these habits to form. They would be challenging this behavior and holding people accountable. People need firm boundaries and clear expectations to perform well and be accountable. Without this accountability, these habits become reinforced, and people begin to feel less responsible for their work.

Unclear direction

A bad leader does not clearly define what is expected of individuals. Thus, there is no accountability for work that is unacceptable. The employee may complete work they believe to be satisfactory.

If the leader does not evaluate this work and suggest improvements, the employee will continue to perform at low quality. In this instance, the relationship between the leader and employee could deteriorate. This may result in a lack of trust developing on both sides.

What are the benefits?

Building trust

Accountability builds trust within teams. This is because it allows people to count on each other if each person does what is required of them. Work doesn’t get missed or done to a poor standard, so others aren’t required to pick up the slack. This creates a positive culture where each claims personal responsibility for their role resulting in a successful team.

High accountability can create a safe space for employees if there is high accountability. Then they can ask for help rather than be afraid of judgment or punishment. When people are held accountable for their work, it results in increased motivation to perform and take ownership. Therefore, it also results in increased company success. Employees have more trust in a leader who holds others and themselves accountable and enforces boundaries.

When employees are treated relatively like this, it results in improved morale and productivity and can lead to a strong foundation of trust within teams. With higher levels of trust within an organization, employees report less stress and more energy and productivity.

Improved performance

The performance of all team members will increase if there is consistency in accountability throughout the organization. This way, each individual knows exactly what is expected of them. Therefore, they can focus solely on completing their role to a good standard. With accountability, employees can become more committed to their roles. They could feel a sense of ownership over their work and will aim to improve their performance.

With good leadership, employees will feel accountable as they will participate in regular evaluations of their work. In addition, good leaders acknowledge and congratulate successful work, and make suggestions or targets for improvement.

Receiving both positive and negative feedback from leaders is essential for building a culture of accountability in the workplace. If employees feel appreciated and valued it can boost their confidence and morale and make them perform better.

Reduces costs

If there is low accountability in an organization, it will not function well. Deadlines are missed or work is of poor quality. So, this work then has to be repeated, or solutions need to be found. This can be timely and costly for the business. With high accountability, employees and leaders can admit their mistakes. Thus, solutions are found quickly and in collaboration with the rest of the team.

Accountability means that employees have clearly defined goals and milestones. With this, it is easier for management to track progress within teams and ensure work is being completed effectively. In addition, it is possible to highlight where things may not be working so well with accountable teams. This makes it easier to try to resolve these issues. This also saves the business money as things can be rectified efficiently without having wasted time and resources.

Creates a culture of accountability

Creating a business with high accountability is the responsibility of the entire workforce. With accountability, each employee adheres to expectations. This can help to integrate teams and promote a positive work culture.

A business with low accountability will likely experience a blame culture because employees are less likely to take responsibility and therefore want to pass on the blame. With high accountability, this is not the case. So, employees will feel able to admit their wrongdoings and aim to find solutions. This mindset can often lead to teams reflecting on where things went wrong, resulting in them collaborating to resolve issues as a strong team.

If people can hold discussions and share their ideas, there is a greater likelihood of a successful outcome. This will then build on the strength and trust within the team.

Similarly, leaders should be able to hold themselves accountable for mistakes and discuss them within the team. Then, they will be likely to find an effective solution quicker.

If employees can have open discussions with management, it will promote a mindset of reflection and honesty. People will be more likely to come forward with issues or ideas. If they do, the team will be more likely to thrive and thus, promote accountability.

Improves compliance

Without accountability, an organization can risk facing legal actions. A business must adhere to various laws, regulations, and guidelines, and everyone must be held accountable.

Leaders must ensure employees are trained in following these procedures, while employees must ensure they follow them as required. Sometimes, either of these actions does not occur and there is a lack of accountability. These results are that rules get broken and the business faces legal consequences. 

When everyone is held accountable for their role in adhering to procedures, they are more likely to act with integrity. Therefore, an improvement in compliance. Good leaders will model this behavior themselves. They will also ensure that all management and employees receive adequate training and understanding in this area.

Be accountable and take ownership

As demonstrated, accountability is a pivotal part of creating success. There can be many barriers to achieving this, but these can be overcome with good leadership.

Accountability requires every team member to take ownership and responsibility for their work and actions. If this is the case, it can result in great success and high-performance levels across the organization.