6 Pitfalls of Lack of Accountability in the Workplace

Great leaders know that positive accountability creates a culture of trust, engagement, and exceptional performance. When employees can count on one another, team members become invested in the company’s success — and feel rewarded for their hard work. In short, accountability is key to a more effective and happy workforce. So how does a lack of accountability in the workplace impact a company?


Unfortunately, without a strong Culture of Accountability, your organization will suffer. Wondering how to spot the warning signs? Here are the 6 indications that you need more positive accountability in the workplace:

1. Low morale.

Low morale can manifest a lack of accountability in a variety of ways, but tends to stem from inadequate and ineffective communication.

The Fix: CHAT IT UP. Employees often have no idea if they’re making a contribution or not — and radio silence from their supervisors does nothing to correct this. “Chatting it up” makes the workplace a more collaborative and authentic space where employees feel heard and respected. Communicate more effectively and often. Tackle communication systematically, with scheduled check-ins and evaluations. Remember: meaningful communication inspires positive attitudes towards work.

2. Unclear priorities.

Imagine working on a project only to have your manager tell you the company’s priorities have shifted — you go back to make adjustments to your project, only to learn later that management has changed priorities yet again! As frustrating and avoidable as it is, this scenario is more common than you’d think.

The Fix: GET CLEAR. In our Workplace Accountability Study, we found that “85% of survey participants indicated they weren’t sure what their organizations were trying to achieve.” By contrast, successful enterprises have two things: (1) a few major objectives, or Key Results, and (2) a standard to which they hold themselves accountable for delivering these key results, no matter what.

Leaders must determine three to four meaningful, measurable, and memorable Key Results for the whole organization. Every member of your organization should know them inside and out, such that all priorities and initiatives are framed in terms of those results. Avoiding a lack of accountability and getting clear only works if everyone knows what it is they’re working towards all of the time.

3. Declining engagement.

If levels of engagement are dipping, and employees don’t seem invested in their work or are disconnecting from their teams and peers, it’s time to reinforce a sense of purpose.

The Fix: CONNECT THE DOTS. The heart of the problem is that individuals in the organization aren’t connecting their daily, individual work with the organization’s Key Results! Strive to make that connection: give consistent feedback, and help employees understand the measurable ways in which their work has a real impact. Partners In Leadership will soon be launching a set of revolutionary new digital tools that allow employees to track and see their real impact on achieving Key Results, thus encouraging deeper engagement.

4. Ineffective execution.

Whether on an individual level, a team level, or across the organization, if you aren’t successfully meeting objectives, you probably have a lack of accountability issue.

The Fix: MIND THE GAP. Are you seeing a gap between desired results and the actual outcomes of team-wide or organization-wide results? Bridge the gap with positive accountability. First, call for a radical re-imagining of what accountability really is. According to the bestselling book The Oz Principle, accountability is “a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and to demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving Key Results.” Rather than punitive or reactive measures, positive accountability champions individuals and teams, recognizing them for their good work and encouraging everyone to work together to hit performance targets.

5. Low levels of trust

A lack of trust contributes to negative relationships among colleagues and across the organization at large. It can also contribute to defensive, unproductive attitudes among employees.

The Fix: WALK THE WALK. Trust is lost when team members don’t deliver as promised — so do what you say you’re going to do, and hold others to the same standard. Foster a Culture of Accountability in which each individual holds him or herself personally responsible. High levels of positive accountability equate to high levels of trust, and vice versa.

6. High turnover

Last, but certainly not least: high levels of turnover often result from unclear expectations and a general sense of tension between management and employees.

The Fix: STAY ABOVE THE LINE®. Leaders should help all employees work Above the Line — that includes assuming responsibility, envisioning results, and taking action to achieve them — as opposed to engaging in Below the Line® thinking, which is categorized by blame, excuses, and disengagement.

The point is: you can’t always change unfavorable circumstances, but you can change yourself. By actively taking the steps to positive accountability — See It, Own It, Solve It, Do It® — you can “rise Above The Line” into a new mindset.

The Big Fix to a Lack of Accountability

We have been helping organizations create Cultures of Accountability and high levels of engagement to achieve better results for more than 30 years. With a number of accountability, leadership, and culture-building products and a broad array of services, training options, and award-winning curriculum, we can help transform your organization and drive sustained results

Related Stories

Learn More

4 Steps to Creating a Culture of Accountability

Learn More

Responsibility vs. Accountability

Learn More

Why Companies with a Good Product and Strategy Aren’t Succeeding

What Can We Help You Find?