Barriers to Employee Accountability


“Accountability breeds response-ability.” —Stephen Covey

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


What is Accountability?

Accountability seems to be this all-encompassing, nebulous word. Ask ten people what accountability means to them and you will get ten different answers. Accountability boils down to taking ownership of one’s own thoughts, words, actions, and reactions. You are not a victim in this world, don’t act like one; and don’t foster a culture of victim mentality in your organization. So, what are some of the barriers to accountability that you should be looking out for?

 Lack of commitment

Vince Lombardi believed, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” What is the level of commitment in your organization? Lack of accountability is directly related to a lack of commitment. So, how can you boost the commitment levels of your employees? Effective organizations have teams where everyone feels they have influence. When people feel like their voice is being heard, their investment in their work increases. Also, you must set and communicate a clear vision and direction so your employees know where you are going and what needs to be accomplished. How does each of your employees fit into your plan for success? The commitment level of your employees will drastically improve if they know the organization is going somewhere meaningful and that they are valued for their contribution to the overall success.

 Lack of ownership

Mary Barra explained, “What I always say is, ‘Do every job you’re in like you’re going to do it for the rest of your life, and demonstrate that ownership of it’.” Do your employees feel a sense of ownership of their work? One of the greatest barriers to accountability stems from how much control people feel they possess over their work. When employees are in control of the “what, when, and how” of a decision or action, their ownership and accountability skyrockets. When people feel that others are in control of how their work gets done, accountability decreases significantly. So, how can you increase the level of ownership your employees take of their work? Simply put, if you want people to be responsible you must clearly define the results you want them to deliver and then let them have control over how they deliver them.

Lack of resilience

Gever Tulley said, “Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” How confident are your employees in their ability to work through difficult problems? How often are they given the opportunity? Does your organization provide a safe environment where failure is understood to be part of the learning process? So, how can you increase the resiliency of your employees? Start by training not only for technical, but also problem-solving skills. Develop a culture that encourages communication, collaboration, and the constructive resolution of conflict. Provide a trusting, safe environment where employees won’t fear failure. Help your employees set realistic objectives and then provide the productive feedback and training necessary for them to build confidence in their ability of work through the problems and overcome the challenges they encounter.

Remove the Barriers

Brett Hoebel told us, “If I could give one tip for people – it’s not an exercise or nutrition regimen. It’s to walk your talk and believe in yourself, because at the end of the day, the dumbbell and diet don’t get you in shape. It’s your accountability to your word.” How can you remove the barriers to employee accountability? Start by modeling the behavior you want to see. Can your employees see that you are accountable to you word? Show your commitment, ownership, and resilience through your words and actions. Help employees set objectives that are realistic, give them control over their work, and then require them to account for their decisions and actions; not to instill fear, but to grow confidence and ability. Further instill accountability by giving employees the skills and control needed to respond to tough problems. And then, in the end, celebrate the victories.





© 2015 Elizabeth Stincelli


Elizabeth Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Elizabeth holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at