Improving Employee Satisfaction Through Positive Accountability

Imagine this: Your gut tells you that if you can cultivate a positive work environment where your employees are happy, they’ll perform better in the long run. The old adage upholds in this case – trust your gut, because it’s absolutely correct.

We recently conducted a poll titled “Happiness at Work,” and the results highlighted trends that confirm your gut feeling. When employees are happier at work:

  • 85 percent say they take more initiative.
  • 73 percent believe they are better collaborators.
  • 48 percent care more about their work.

Recent research conducted by economists at the University of Warwick further adds to the point. The results suggested that our brains actually function more effectively when we feel positively towards ourselves and our surroundings. To put that into numbers, the researchers found that this positivity made participants about 12 percent more productive.


This is all priceless insight when it comes to moving the needle on results and productivity. There’s clearly rich incentive for leaders to promote happiness among their workforce, but what are the most effective ways to improve employee morale? Hint: The answer isn’t installing popcorn machines in the hallways and serving free lunch on Fridays.

Based on years of research and accountability training with some of the largest organizations in the country, we’ve identified the secret to satisfied employees: Reinforcing positive accountability increases happiness and employee engagement.

Not what you expected? Don’t worry – we’re here to help. Follow these three strategies to leverage accountability, develop purpose and foster engagement among your teams.

1. Define accountability

If you were to gather employee feedback on whether they believe there are areas within the business where more accountability is needed, all of them are likely to say “yes.” Ask the same group of employees if they are personally accountable in the workplace, and every single one will still respond with a confident “yes.” It’s extremely rare for an employee – or even a manager – to admit anything along the lines of “I’m a train wreck. Don’t count on me for much.”

This happens because we judge other people based on what we see them doing, yet we assess ourselves based on our own intentions. In most cases, people don’t realize when they’re neglecting their responsibilities or playing the blame game because they see their own intentions as accountable.

Hence why leaders must start by clearly and simply defining accountability from the get-go. While many view it as such, accountability doesn’t have to punitive. It should be a constant in the work environment, present when things go wrong but also when they go right.

The Oz Principle defines accountability as “a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate ownership necessary for achieving desired results.” The idea it to take accountability by seeing, owning, solving and doing. Employees can get behind this definition because it empowers them to take action when challenges arise, rather than getting lost in regrettable agendas.

Remember that accountability in this case is not quite synonymous with responsibility. Every job title comes with a list of responsibilities for employees to fulfill. Accountability is their choice to accept responsibility for such tasks and complete them at the expected rate. When they fail to do so, they should accept responsibility for letting the rest of the team down.

Rather than establishing a status quo where employees expect to hold others accountable, emphasize a nurturing work environment where everyone takes greater accountability. This will create a culture of productive employees who are proactive in adapting their own behavior to achieve companywide results.

2. Put employees in the driver seat

People are happy when they’re in control – which is why ownership is such an influential tool to improve employee satisfaction and engagement. When it is within an employee’s power to do meaningful work, they are more likely to see a task through to completion.

Ownership involves two factors: involvement and agreement. When employees understand their piece in the bigger picture, it adds a motivating sense of purpose to their daily projects. Agreement comes into play when employees are on board and ready to deliver their best work, knowing they will feel fulfilled and satisfied when their efforts yield positive results for the company.

Including employees in this high-level way can also increase loyalty to the company, leading to reduced turnover rates and long-term engagement.

Companies with positive accountability at the heart of their leadership styles empower employees to take ownership for work that matters, as opposed to fixating on problems that surface from finger pointing and lack of initiative. When employees take responsibility for delivering companywide results, engagement, productivity and happiness rise exponentially.

3. Emphasize the common cause

At the end of the day, employees show up for the paycheck. However, they work harder for good leaders – and perform even better when they’re working for a meaningful cause.

While the menial, repetitive tasks are inevitable in any role, the bigger picture can keep motivations high. Make sure every employee understands how their role combines with others to bring the mission of the company to life. They’ll be more inclined to give it their all, even if they’re not particularly passionate about the monotony of the menial tasks on their to-do lists.

The bottom line: Give your employees purpose, and a high level of satisfaction and engagement will follow.

Accountability fosters happier employees

Most employees we work with report that accountability training has a positive impact on their personal level of engagement at work. What’s more, they actually feel happier when they take more initiative.

At Partners In Leadership, we can help you lead a team that takes accountability for what matters most. From there, your organizational culture will flourish and you’ll see the boost in employee morale that leads to better performance and company-wide success. Unhappy employees who?

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