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The Best Way to Encourage Employee Accountability

Posted on March 28, 2015
Mary Browse BloodWritten by Mary Browse Blood | Email author

We have all been there. A day that simply doesn’t turn out the way you expected leaving you tired and frustrated. As consultants, this is an all-too-familiar feeling as we juggle projects and different personalities. As people managers and project managers, this is also a very common feeling and often one that leads to a hesitation to delegate responsibility and the statement “I’ll just take care of it myself.”

We trust ourselves to do the work. We know the quality of our work and feel confident that we will hit our own deadlines. As tempting and as easy as it may seem to do the work ourselves, there is an inherent problem with this approach: nothing will ever change. So how do we teach our employees to accept responsibility and rise to the challenges of the work day? What if nothing changes and we miss our deadline or produce a low-quality deliverable? There are a few things you can do to help:

  • Open the lines of communication: Encourage employees to tell you what they consider to be their strengths as well as what they consider to be areas needing improvement. Be sure they understand their responsibility to ask for help when needed and not to wait until you come to them.
  • Schedule weekly check-in meetings: These do not need to take longer than 15 minutes but can be invaluable for both you as the manager and the employee as they learn. The time should be used to discuss challenges or ask for help. This is not an opportunity to ensure they are actually doing the work. This is an opportunity to show you are in it together.
  • Consider documentation: Have you ever missed a deadline because someone didn’t realize they were responsible for submitting information? Consider sending an email clarifying each individual’s responsibility in a project as well as corresponding deadlines. Assuming someone knows what you know never works out in the end.

The reality is, you can coach people into taking responsibility and you can put checks and balances in place to ensure the expectation of responsibility is clear, but sometimes it is a conscious choice for people to succeed or fail and to meet or fail to meet expectations.

By no means am I suggesting that we begin accepting poor performance, or even accept the status-quo. What I am suggesting, is not to lose sight of your own responsibility of being a manager. Just because we take the first step of delegating tasks, does not mean we close our eyes to the work along the way. It is our responsibility to check-in. To make sure our team members have the knowledge and tools necessary to be successful in their roles.

When I talk to companies about Helios and the HR services we can provide, I often hear the same thing: “I don’t know what I don’t know”. I look at encouraging employees to have accountability the same way. Without continual guidance and support, they will never know, what they don’t already know.

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