Create a Culture of Accountability: Ditch Your Fear-Based Strategy

Corporate managers who evaluate employee performance throughout the year may ponder the following questions:

  • Did the employee receive the necessary training to do the job?
  • Will additional coaching help the employee?
  • Do they lack skills, or is their low performance due to poor behavior?

Aside from these questions, you may be overlooking an essential element-accountability.

Accountability Defined

Webster’s definition of accountability is “…the quality or state of being accountable; an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions.” How do you implement accountability in your office?

Words Make the Difference

The “how” can mean the difference between instilling fear or a sense of pride in your employees, which can result in lower performance and higher turnaround. For example, if someone says, “I will hold you accountable for this task,” it implies threat, which is counterproductive. On the other hand, if you want employees to take pride in their accomplishments, and strive for perfection, maybe it’s time to rework your strategy.

180 Degree Culture Change-Negative to Positive

Front Loading Your Strategy

The words used by Webster to describe accountability include quality, obligation, willingness, and responsibility – terms, which are diametric to words that imply threat and instill fear.

“It starts at the top” is a familiar and profound phrase. Before you can achieve employee buy-in, all levels of staff must show accountability. Here’s an example:

Suppose you are the Director of National Accounts on a deadline to write a proposal for a new client. You ask your assistant to roadblock all calls and visitors so you can concentrate and complete your “obligation.” You suddenly remember that you forgot to pick up a gift.  As you try to leave the office, your assistant meets her “obligation” by reminding you of your obligation to finish the proposal. You “willingly” return to your office and finish that hot proposal.

Set precedence for accountability in your office by beginning on a one-on-one basis.


When you perform annual reviews, try a new approach.

  1. Begin by asking, “How do you think you’re doing?” Continue by elaborating on each responsibility and allow them to answer.
  2. When you discuss a negative performance, avoid derogatory comments or words; instead, offer feedback and suggestions on how they can improve.
  3. Offer staff the opportunity to give their input on how they can improve.

To conclude, you must lead by example.

The most significant way to cultivate a positive environment of accountability in your office is to hold yourself accountable to your staff. Ask your employees to evaluate you, ask them how you are doing, ask them how you can improve as a manager. This will begin to change how people take responsibility for their actions, replacing fear with willingness.

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