Held Accountable: Accountability Stimulates Individuals To Do Their Best

Today it seems that much of what we hear focuses on a lack of accountability. It resonates inside business practices as well as being far reaching in the character of influential people within our political environment, cultural role models, and those responsible for influencing and teaching our children. Accountability is an important topic to consider, especially in business today. After all, a lack of accountability in the workplace does produce both intended and unintended consequences that can affect so many people in a brief amount time.

The choices we make and the paths we choose to take all come with associated levels of accountability and accompanied consequences. Many in the business setting tend to have extremely higher stakes and risks. The question is; "Should accountability be a number one priority in today's business climate?"

Basic Definition of Accountability

The basic definition of accountability can be simply defined. It is being answerable to others. In the work environment as managers and leaders, it is important for several reasons. Accountability is the means for applying checks and balances. These protect companies from internal and external vulnerabilities and competitive disadvantages. It enhances fairness for employees and limits disruptions and frustrations that slow their efforts and personal growth. Through accountability, everyone can be given the opportunity to share their ideas, motivate and encourage those around them. Perhaps it is time to look at accountability as a "positive business relationship factor" rather than a "judgment that defines individual progress and potential."

Personal Accountability

Accountability inside the workplace needs to be considered as a positive principle to embrace. It motivates each of us to do our best. It presses us to be better managers of the time, talents, responsibilities, and resources that have been awarded us to oversee. If it were not for being answerable to someone else, it would likely become a much more difficult task to foster personal growth and to become better at what we do along the way. Nothing hampers individual promotions and work relationships more than a lack of personal accountability, or the desire for it. If you look around and give it careful consideration, you will probably notice that most divisions and derisions within departments or work units can be directly traced back to issues of little to no accountability in regard to one or more people.

Why Many Will Openly or Silently Resist Accountability?

Being in a leadership position requires the knowledge of understanding why many employees and even peers will openly or silently resist accountability. It may be wise to formally address them as part of your company expectations or workplace standards reinforcement activities.

  • Some Employees Have an Aversion to Accountability
    They are inwardly or even at times outwardly rebellious to authority. They sometimes feel they know better than someone else, and will refuse to adhere to any rules or suggestions that they have had no input or say into their development or implementation.
  • Some Employees May Be Simply Lazy and Non-Performance Driven
    Accountability interferes with the ability to continue in their comfort zones for doing what they feel they want to do, when they desire to do it.
  • Some Employees May Fear the Loss of Their Jobs or Positions
    Accountability implies a disclosure of their negative performance in areas where they may be compared to others, where positive outcomes will become undermined or overlooked.
  • Some Employees May Not Trust Their Mangers or Supervisors
    They refuse to believe the accountability criteria they set will be fair, or feel it will be used appropriately.
  • Pride or Ego Highly Contributes to the Erosion and Resistance to Accountability
    Some individuals believe that the means of their own personal feelings and belief system will forever tend to justify the ends and outcomes they wish to produce. Actions of accountability and support of everyone's interests are not a necessary part of the process for getting something accomplished. These individuals usually feel they are above the need to display qualities of corporate responsibility, while being held to the same standards as everyone else.

Accountability Stimulates Individuals Do Their Very Best

These are sobering days for any business and especially those that function within them. Character, high standards for staying on course, upholding personal convictions, promoting truthful words and unwavering actions while displaying high levels of responsibility, are all an integral part of accountability.

While it is true that everyone is probably forced to do more with less, accountability needs to become a two way street. A buy-in to accountability can make a huge difference. Work relationships generally become stronger. Responsibility becomes part of the company culture. Paths to individual success, progress, and promotion are opened up. Corporate stability is sustained, which in turn allows for greater future growth and individual prosperity. Trust within the workplace is greatly enhanced. Loyalty increases.

For multiple reasons, accountability stimulates individuals do their best, versus doing only what is needed to get by. In the end accountability will ensure that all workers will begin to hold each other to set standards, and because of it, increase pride and more positive workplace attitudes. Individuals taking advantage of circumstances and situations tend to become far fewer. Challenges can be addressed and solved without the accompaniment of intimidation and fear. By placing accountability as a number one priority, there will be far fewer challenges to overcome but more privileges, promotions, and positive rewards to offer.


If you would like to learn more about employee accountability, refer to Negative Employee Behaviors: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions.

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. is author Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It.

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