How Accountability Builds a Healthy, Thriving Workplace
‘Fessing up. Owning your sh*t.
Being accountable at work isn’t always easy. Yet, it’s a principle bandied around frequently and freely, and as though every organisation lives and breathes it. Almost every workplace claim accountability as one of their guiding principles nowadays, but is it really practised day to day?
If it was, we’d have more teams really thriving and less with people experiencing work-related issues such as chronic stress, anxiety, fatigue, depression, lack of connection, and mistrust of others in their workplace.
Yes, being accountable is that impactful.
Research Professor Brene Brown’s work reveals that at the core of workplaces where people trust one another implicitly — and are free to voice themselves honestly without being shamed — is a culture of accountability.
A study by Atlassian also shows that 69% of teams with a high sense of wellbeing are able to admit to their slip-ups or oversights, and 67% of high-achieving teams regularly engage in candid feedback.
Businesses with accountability built into their culture are more likely to:
- Have employees who bring creativity to problem solving, leading to innovation
- Prevent high staff turnover due to greater team esteem
- Achieve their vision, mission, and strategic objectives
- Avoid erosion of trust which leads to toxicity and low team morale
- Develop loyal, high value customers
And these are just a small few of the rewards accountability culture brings.
In an ideal world, taking responsibility for our actions should be a cinch. It sounds easy, but it isn’t because it requires individuals to be truly open and honest about them. And allowing ourselves to be this vulnerable in a place of employment can be fraught with awkwardness and distress.
So where do we start, especially if we’ve let accountability slide?
Encourage radical ownership
Create an environment where employees put their hands up for tasks or projects outside of their comfort zone.
Seizing opportunities for risk-taking will both encourage an accountability mindset AND lead to more creative problem-solving. Humans are wired for contribution and connection, and this will feed that innate need, resulting in a team with a sense of purpose, high performance, and high self-esteem.
Be willing to talk through the tough stuff
It’s human to dodge conflict or situations where we feel uncomfortable and exposed.
But here’s the thing: when you open yourself up to being dead honest about your blunders (regardless of the outcome), you’ll not only gain self-respect, but the respect of others. This leads to trusting relationships built on integrity. And when you cultivate those, you elevate morale and loyalty.
Punctuality + honesty = respect
This might seem obvious to note but being on time for meetings, arrival at work, and meeting deadlines is a vital facet of building accountability culture. We need to feel as though we can rely on each other so we can meet objectives, and a lax approach to timeliness is sure-fire way to breed mistrust and contempt among teams.
Of course, life happens, and glitches will prevent people from being on time every time. But the point is to encourage employees to be upfront about why, rather than making excuses. Demonstrate that in being honest, they won’t be ‘blacklisted’ or shamed — and that the respect for others’ time will result in greater mutual respect, leading to stronger relationships among our peers.
It takes time, courage, and commitment to build an environment where everyone feels safe to hold themselves to account, but the payoffs and resulting progress you’ll make as a business are too great to let accountability in your workplace dwindle.
Start with these few essentials and you’ll see the difference faster than you think.
And if you’re on the hunt for work in an organisation with a strong accountability culture, get in touch with our talent specialists who will point you in the right direction.