Every company is accountable for many things. The leaders of every company are accountable to the government, to stakeholders, to employees and to customers. Even the most junior employee is accountable for acting according to their work contract and good judgment while they are on the job.

Overview: What is accountability?

Since everyone is accountable and accountability is essential for business, it’s important to really understand what it means. Accountability is the accepted responsibility an individual takes for the execution or outcome of a specific process. Accountable parties are the ones that take the blame if something goes wrong.

2 benefits and 2 drawbacks of accountability

Even the most basic forms of commence would crumble without accountability. It’s a fundamental source of value in everything from global financial markets to personal romantic relationships.

1. Benefit: Performance incentives

One of the main reasons companies establish professional accountability among their workforce is to improve performance. Individuals are more likely to work harder and do a better job if they know that this work is noticed.

2. Drawback: Taking blame

Blame isn’t always bad, but it’s bad if you don’t blame the right people. Just because someone is ultimately accountable for a specific outcome doesn’t mean they deserve all the blame.

3. Benefit: Building reputation

Accountability is fundamental for maintaining good public image and brand reputation. The willingness to be accountable for the quality of products or services builds consumer confidence. Even an apparent disregard for accountability can be a public relations nightmare.

4. Drawback: Potential for bias

One of the problems with accountability in the workplace is applying it evenly and fairly. Every employee needs to be held to a similar degree of accountability according to their job duties and position.

Why is accountability important to understand?

Accountability is a fundamental business management principle that is often misused and misunderstood. Every leader needs to understand how to delegate responsibilities and hold people accountable.

Unspoken accountability

Responsibility for a situation or event may be implied even if not accepted formally. It’s up to a judge to decide what truly counts as implied accountability when liability is involved, but it’s usually defined as what a person would reasonably expect given the circumstances.

Everyone is accountable

Everyone is accountable to someone. A parent is accountable to their kids for basic care and provision. Employees are accountable to their bosses for job performance. Politicians are accountable to voters for their decisions. It’s important for every person to know what they are accountable for in the workplace.

Linking to liability

Liability isn’t quite the same thing as accountability, but it’s often very close. Being financially or legally liable for a particular outcome can have serious consequences.

An industry example of accountability

When customers walk into a small restaurant, they don’t usually sign a document or agree to any particular conditions. They just sit down and order their food. Even though it wasn’t discussed, this process actually relies on many layers of accountability to function.

The customers are accountable for the cost of the food when the meal is finished. The restaurant is accountable to the customers for a safe and positive experience. The cooks and servers are accountable for performing their jobs according to the conditions of their employment and the reasonable expectations of the customer.

3 best practices when thinking about accountability

Accountability is a natural and powerful mechanism for directing the future of a business. Managers and leaders must be willing to embrace it personally and leverage it in their organization.

1. Be clear and precise

Leaders need to be careful about conveying the conditions of accountability within their organization. Every employee should know all of the responsibilities and expectations of them in the workplace.

2. Don’t be afraid to share

Accountability isn’t always solitary. Many processes are the result of mutual responsibility, so it makes sense that each person should be accountable for collective outcomes.

3. Establish real consequences

Punitive and disciplinary actions should be decided ahead of time so that they are administered fairly and openly. Everyone is accountable for their actions and performance in the workplace, but the workplace is also responsible for defining violations and prescribing corrective action.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about accountability

Why is accountability important?

Being able to hold parties accountable for a certain process or product establishes value, security and trust, which are cornerstones for business.

How do you demonstrate accountability?

Someone can demonstrate accountability by willingly accepting or embracing their responsibilities to others or an organization. Accountable leaders are willing to take the blame for their own mistakes, but aren’t afraid to hold others to a standard as well.

What is positive accountability?

Positive accountability is when a person or party is only responsible for the final outcome of a situation. They are not accountable for their methods or strategies, only if they achieved the desired result or not.

Embracing accountability

Being accountable isn’t just about blame and responsibility, it’s also about leadership and success. You can’t grow in any career if you don’t embrace accountability. In fact, truly great leaders learn how to appreciate accountability and leverage it in the workplace. They also hold themselves accountable as a way to fuel motivation and personal growth.

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