6 Steps To Improve Accountability In Your Workplace

Updated February 24, 2023

Taking accountability for your work is one of the most important steps to take when advancing your career. When you hold yourself accountable for your actions, you show your employer that you’re responsible and motivated in your job.

In this guide, we’ll review what steps you can take to improve your personal accountability.

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What is accountability?

Taking accountability means taking responsibility for your actions or the results of your projects, depending on your specific role or duties. Accountability at work is an important characteristic which, combined with job-specific skills, can help you progress in your career, as you could more likely be promoted if you prove yourself willing and able to handle accountability in your daily responsibilities.

One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re accountable for performing your duties responsibly is to review your job description. Thoroughly read the list of responsibilities and make sure you’re performing your daily tasks proficiently. If you’re not sure about something, ask your manager. Part of accountability is asking questions to understand the tasks you’re responsible for in the workplace

Related: 8 Ways To Lead by Example in the Workplace

How to improve your accountability at work

Expanding your skills by taking on more responsibility can position you as a valuable asset to your company and help you advance your career. Keep your career goals in mind when considering which responsibilities you’d like to take on. 

While considering specific skills you’d like to learn, try to find ways to be more involved with your company by following these steps: 

1. Discuss your career goals with your manager 

Create a discussion around aligning your career goals with the needs of the company. Indicate that you can handle more responsibility and make suggestions on how you can incorporate your skills and the skills you’d like to strengthen into your position. When your management sees that you’re willing to take on extra work to learn necessary skills that will benefit the company,  they’ll be more likely to associate you with accountability and help open new opportunities for you.

2. Take initiative

If you see something that needs to be done, jump into action. Complete the task before someone can ask you to do it. Make sure your main tasks allow you to take the time to perform these extra duties. 

Depending on your job, some tasks may require permission from a manager or supervisor before you can complete them. If this is the case, simply bring up the task and what needs to be done and ask if you can complete the job as required. This will show that you recognize problem areas and can see what steps need to be taken to rectify any issues.

Related: 6 Key Leadership Skills: Definition and Examples

3. Identify problem areas at work

When looking to complete extra tasks, check with your colleagues and ask if they could use your help. This shows that you’re not only willing to take on more responsibility, but that you’re also a team player who is quick to help out wherever the team needs it. Volunteer to help with any tasks or projects your coworkers are struggling to complete. Not only will this help you create a culture of accountability, but it can also generate friendliness between colleagues. Fostering a friendly, helpful work culture is a great way to keep and inspire hard-working employees.

You must, however, be careful not to overwhelm yourself by taking on more responsibilities than you can handle. Your goal is to make yourself indispensable and prove your value, so if your managers see you struggling to complete tasks you volunteered for, or that your regular duties are suffering due to the unrealistic amount of extra work you’ve taken on, it could have the exact opposite effect and make them reconsider you as an accountable, capable worker.

4. Get involved in work events

If your organization or company has extracurricular activities, such as group sports, social events or charitable events, try getting involved. Helping out will show your leadership skills and provide a networking opportunity. You’ll be able to get to know the people you work with and identify more areas that could use your set of skills. Volunteering at extracurricular activities or events also allows you to participate in and foster a positive work environment

Creating a healthy work culture is an integral part of the workplace and allows you to establish relationships with colleagues outside of your department. 

5. Own your mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes; it’s a great way to learn important lessons. Missing a deadline can teach you to manage your time more wisely. Making an error on an important project will prevent you from making the same error in the future. Forgetting to file important paperwork can teach you to be more vigilant when it comes to setting reminders for yourself. Owning your mistakes will show your supervisors that you are responsible and mature enough to admit when you’re wrong, and are willing to learn important lessons from your missteps. Not only will this position you as a valuable asset in the company, but it will also create a positive and productive work environment by setting good examples for your colleagues. 

6. Continue learning

Staying updated on the latest industry trends and developments allow you to position yourself as exceptionally knowledgeable and interested in a particular subject or area, thus increasing the likelihood that you will be recommended for related projects in the future and enhancing your level of expertise to eventually elevate your career to your desired caliber. 

Read articles, white papers, case studies and any other relevant content relating to your industry and share your findings with your team. Initiate discussions about the content to allow your colleagues to offer their input and opinions.

Related: What Is Respect in the Workplace?

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The importance of accountability in the workplace

When members of a team are committed to consistently demonstrating ownership and taking accountability, trust is formed within the team, which leads to higher performance throughout the team. It’s important to remember that one team member’s lack of accountability could cause the team to fall apart quickly, so having the trust in one another is a valuable but often fragile thing. Here are a few ways that managers can convey the importance of accountability in the workplace:

1. Give feedback

Giving feedback can be difficult, but it’s a necessary part of being part of a team. It’s easier if you can reframe your thinking of feedback. Instead of thinking of feedback as criticism, consider the fact that not receiving feedback is one of the fastest ways for your team to lose motivation. Even negative feedback can turn failures into learning opportunities if delivered in an optimistic, unambiguous way.

2. Make accountability a habit

Incorporating feedback into your regular schedule will help ensure the consistency of the message. Team meetings, held at regular intervals, have been proven effective at building a collective habit of accountability. As a manager, ask your team the following: 

  • Are there areas of your job where you’re struggling and would you like to receive additional training? 

  • Are we all working toward a shared goal?

  • What does success look like, and how will it be measured?

  • What are the key steps we need to take to achieve success?

  • What piece will each person own?

  • How will we respond if things go wrong?

  • Do you feel you’re receiving adequate feedback on your work? 

  • How could we improve our teamwork?

3. Track your progress

Follow up regularly on these discussions, provide and ask for feedback and make sure you schedule check-ins to reassess your accountability. Make sure you’re clear about what your action steps are and when to complete them. 

As a manager, consider doing these things as part of your daily routine so you can build a culture of accountability for yourself and your team.

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