Establishing & Enforcing Accountability

In last week’s post, we discussed how delegating tasks can be a key factor in your growth as a manager. But effective managers don’t just delegate – they also check in and give feedback. Part of giving feedback means addressing concerns as they arise.

Since many employees often associate the word “accountability” with something negative, like a slap on the wrist or some other form of punishment, it’s critical to approach the topic from a positive standpoint.

As a manager, you’ve probably dealt with at least one -or maybe all – of the shortcomings below:

  • Dropped balls
  • Coming in late
  • Leaving early
  • Missed deadlines
  • Sub-par performance

How do you handle these situations? If you’re aware that one of your employees has been coming in late, do you choose to ignore it, hoping the problem will “take care of itself” eventually? When someone misses an important deadline, do you feel anger bubbling from within as you contemplate how it could have happened in the first place?

Check in Often – And Give Feedback

If you’re left wondering how an employee could have missed a key deadline or why his performance has been sub-par lately, remember that situations like these can often be avoided with frequent check-ins.

It’s important to develop an entire culture of accountability in the workplace so that employees begin to see accountability not as a form of punishment, but as an opportunity for growth and success.

One of the first steps is to establish clear expectations in the workplace. If employees don’t even know what the goal is, how can they be held accountable?

Once you’ve defined clear expectations, check in often to evaluate progress. Instead of simply labeling employees with a basic job title and description, motivate them beyond the “box” so that their job becomes about achieving positive results.

As a leader, it is your job to enforce accountability. If your employees aren’t taking you seriously and you’re not getting the results you expect – find out why your current tactics aren’t working.

Enforcing Accountability

Without clear expectations and strong leadership to enforce accountability, employees will often adjust their performance accordingly. Think of when you were in school. If you found there weren’t any negative consequences when you didn’t finish your homework, you probably were less likely to put forth any effort.

If you’ve told your employee “Try not to let this happen again next week” when he shows up 15 minutes late on Monday morning – but the same behavior happens again and again – he’s telling you that since his previous tardiness didn’t produce any perceived undesirable consequences, he can continue it again and again.

An effective manager will consistently enforce accountability when an employee has failed to live up to expectations and when he meets or exceeds performance goals. The key word here is consistent. When you routinely enforce accountability, you’ll begin to create a climate of responsibility in your environment.


As you’re working to establish and enforce a climate of accountability in your organization, remember that as with any change, it won’t happen overnight. That’s where consistency in your leadership becomes critical.

When the concept of accountability is approached by an effective manager, it can generate overwhelmingly positive results for the organization as a whole.