Mistakes happen on the job. It may be an oversight, a lack of oversight, carelessness, corporate culture – mistakes are part of doing business. People aren’t perfect. Employees aren’t perfect.

By increasing accountability with a policy of acceptance and remediation, mistakes can become opportunities to help refine systems and increase productivity, instead of opportunities to point fingers.

The Advantages of Increased Accountability

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provides a list of advantages1 of increased accountability among employees, including:

  • Improved employee performance
  • Increased employee participation
  • Improved feelings of competency
  • Increased employee commitment to work
  • More creativity and innovation
  • Increased employee morale and work satisfaction

These advantages are realized, according to the OPM, when employees recognize accountability programs as helpful methods of assigning and completing tasks.

Do Business Leaders Believe Employees Accept Responsibility?

According to a survey2 conducted by AMA Enterprise, a division of the American Management Association®, business leaders recognize a lack of accountability on the part of employees:

  • 11% of survey respondents said more than 50% of their employees shirk responsibility.
  • 21% of business leaders believed the percentage of unaccountable employees ranged from 30% to 50%.
  • More than one out of five company managers put the number of employees who avoid taking responsibility at 20% to 30%.
  • One-quarter of business managers believe that 10% to 20% of their staff avoid accountability.

Building Employee Accountability As You Build Your Business

Employee accountability can help deliver benefits to small and large businesses with a more engaged, confident workforce willing to admit mistakes, take responsibility, and offer solutions to avoid repeating the same misstep in the future.

Creating a workplace atmosphere that encourages employee accountability is an on-going process of creating a corporate culture in which employees and management learn from their mistakes. Business operations are likely to improve with each mistake that leads to a systems refinement.

Define business expectations. Meet regularly with all members of the staff. Identify both short-term and long-term company goals. Explain what the company expects of employees. Then evaluate individual employee performance, rewarding engagement with pay raises, promotions and sincere praise.

Don’t solve your employees’ problems. Part of accepting workplace responsibility is the opportunity to fix mistakes, minimizing their negative impact. If you, or a member of the management team, jump in to solve a problem each time one crops up, employees won’t learn to accept responsibility, they won’t become problem solvers, and they won’t reap the benefits of providing solutions to problems they know well.

Practice what you preach. Accept responsibility when you make a mistake. Apologize to those who are negatively impacted by your error. If management is accountable for the inevitable mistakes that are part of daily business operations, employees may become more accountable by following their example.

Define success in reasonable terms. Setting the bar too high may guarantee failure, or result in an over-worked staff that doesn’t function at peak levels of productivity. Don’t just list company goals –  provide the means for employees to achieve those goals. If necessary, provide coaching, training, and additional education to employees when a lack of adequate instruction and practice are the cause of mistakes.

Be tactful. Recognize that mistakes and errors in judgment are routine. Don’t affix blame. Instead, ask the employee what went wrong and ask, “How do we fix it so it doesn’t happen again?” Avoid reprimands in front of other employees, which are bad for morale. Praise loudly and criticize softly.

Prepare to fail. Good business managers know that things won’t always go as planned. Blowing up at employees each time there’s a mistake will frighten other employees, encouraging them to hide mistakes, instead of identifying them and offering solutions. When this happens, the same mistake can occur over and over.

Creating accountable employees delivers numerous business benefits – from lower employee turnover to constantly improving business protocols. And, it all starts with company owners and managers.

  1. www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/performance-management/reference-materials/more-topics/accountability-can-have-positive-results/
  2. www.amanet.org/news/8636.aspx

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.

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