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The best teams hold each other accountable: examples of how it works

September 1, 2022 - 12 min read

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Being accountable at work

12 examples of accountability in the workplace

What are the benefits of accountability at work?

Take your accountability home with you

Workplaces should be cultures of accountability. In an accountability-driven environment, team members are free to share knowledge, provide constructive criticism, and own their successes and failures without fear of repercussion. 

It might seem like an unattainable, utopian workplace, but it doesn’t have to be. Learning about strategies and accountability examples will help translate this vision for your company into reality. Developing workplace accountability takes resilience, grit, and a growth mindset. It asks you to be vulnerable and open — traits that will help you in your personal life, too. 

And accountability is in big demand. A study from Gallup found that only 30% of employees feel their manager involves them in goal setting, and just 2 in 10 strongly agree that their managers motivate them to perform better. Accountability is the right tool to address this gap in leadership to transform employee engagement in the workplace. 

Read on to learn what accountability means and how it fits into your work life.

 

Being accountable at work

Accountability is willingly accepting responsibility for your actions. An accountable staffer owns their work and doesn't try to make excuses for themself. If something goes wrong, they communicate honestly with their team about what happened rather than hiding the truth. 

But accountability requires more than honesty after the fact. Being accountable at work means you’re setting goals and timelines, being proactive with your tasks, and setting clear exceptions for yourself. You acknowledge your mistakes, but you’re also focused on strengthening your skills so they don’t happen again.

Why is accountability important? A culture of accountability at work is a game changer. It fosters an environment that thrives while working together, rather than against one another. And when you do slip up, you can flex your personal accountability rather than succumb to a culture of blame. 

Accountability helps keep high-performing teams in tip-top condition. It inspires you to remain committed to team goals, be attentive during team meetings, and never lose sight of growth. 

Being accountable at work is something employees of all levels should strive for. Whether it’s your first week on the job or you’ve been at the company for five years, accountability will make you a stronger and more effective employee.

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12 examples of accountability in the workplace

Employee accountability comes in all shapes and sizes. You demonstrate accountability in the way you speak to others, how you prepare for meetings and your leadership style. And the main difference between accountability and responsibility is that accountability focus on the outcome of a task — not who completes it.

Think about how you might model accountability at your workplace with these 12 examples:

1. Be proactive rather than reactive

It’s easy to follow the same comfortable routine — but that won’t help you become a more valuable team member. Being proactive means you’re consistently evaluating your effectiveness and the strengths of your workplace. You’re looking for ways to improve and grow before problems have a chance to occur.

2. Come up with solutions

You’ll inevitably encounter a big challenge at some point in your job. Rather than admit defeat, why not take steps to solve it? Take the initiative to brainstorm possible solutions and bring them to your supervisor alongside the problem. It’s OK to be frustrated with difficult circumstances, but don’t let them win. Think creatively and use all the resources at your disposal.

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3. Show up

Arrive at the office ready to work. Team members who jump ship when things are tough or don’t contribute much aren’t as valuable. Show up to team meetings on time — maybe even ahead of schedule. Be ready to flex your skills and offer a hand when a coworker needs help.

4. Accept criticism

Constructive criticism is an incredible tool. To be an accountable employee, you must be open to giving and receiving feedback, even if it’s not always positive. Know that it’s necessary for improvement. Don’t avoid team check-ins or evaluations, because they allow you to learn and grow. Try not to take things personally and know your team members only aim to help.

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5. Speak up

There’s a time to listen and a time to speak up. Maybe you’re in a meeting with your team, and a manager assumes an idea they didn’t like was someone else’s when it was yours. Rather than letting others take the blame for you, speak up and take responsibility. Actions like this help to build trust within your team.

6. Communicate effectively

Every workplace values strong communication skills. Articulate your ideas and instructions concisely so others can learn from you. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns if you’re lost or confused about something, either.

7. Set clear expectations

This goes for creating actionable items for other employees and yourself. Organize your schedule and know when you’ll be working on specific tasks during the day. Delegate work early and be there to support your coworkers if they need guidance.

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8. Handle disagreements maturely

Sometimes you won’t see eye-to-eye with your team members. But whatever happens, remain calm as you unpack your feelings and reflect on your actions. Never yell or throw insults at your coworker. In a mature disagreement, work out how you can do better moving forward to avoid a similar problem in the future.

9. Be mindful of rules and regulations

Understand the rules and regulations of your workplace. How do you request a sick day? Who are your projects handed off to? An accountable staffer knows how to operate within the company’s expectations — this shows you value and respect management. If you don’t care about the rules, it communicates you don’t care about the work environment as a whole.

10. Have a willingness to learn

Personal accountability takes lots of practice. Listen to advice from your peers, and don’t shy away from the chance to expand your knowledge and learn new things. Your accountability is always evolving and improving.

11. Pay attention to the details

If you want to be accountable, you need to develop a keen eye for detail. Look over your work with a fine tooth comb. Strive to catch mistakes before they cause any problems. Double-check metrics, statistics, and other data as often as you can.

12. Be sincere

It’s one thing to apologize or admit when you’ve made a mistake, but do you really mean it? Accountability goes hand in hand with honesty, so be sincere with your apologies, feedback, and praise. It’s your chance to be vulnerable with your feelings, build trust, and show you care about your coworker’s experiences.

What are the benefits of accountability at work?

Accountability impacts how you engage with your team, how you feel about your job, and how well you perform. Studies have found that accountability positively benefits team performance because it brings teams together to work collaboratively instead of competitively. If you’re worried about looking better than your coworker, you’re not doing your best work.

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Accountability in the workplace is essential because it:

  1. Strengthens transparency between employees and management
  2. Encourages and supports autonomy in the workplace
  3. Fosters more effective teamwork and collaboration skills
  4. Boosts employee engagement 
  5. Increases job satisfaction and feelings of purpose at work
  6. Builds better working relationships among staff

Take your accountability home with you

Accountability in the workplace is a valuable skill, but don’t think it ends at the office. Personal accountability helps you in every aspect of your life, like your education, relationships, and personal goals.

Maybe you’re starting a new hobby but are unsure if you can stick with it. Or you want to develop a different morning routine, but waking up early is hard. Accountability is just what you need.

Being accountable at work is a great start, but don’t forget it when you leave the office or log off for the day. Now that you’re familiar with some accountability examples, you know that positive accountability will support you as you grow into the person you want to become at work and at home.

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Published September 1, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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