How to Make People Accountable

How to Make People Accountable

In an ideal world, you have hired motivated, self-directed people who will actually punish themselves more than you ever could for not meeting objectives. Those are the people who get a performance management review that has a dozen or more glowing comments and all they remember is the one ‘needs improvement’.

However, in the real world, it takes more to get there. Many people have a sense of entitlement and expect to get paid for just showing up rather than delivering concrete results. And you hired them for the promise of delivering results.

How do you get them to be accountable for performance?

It is challenging to make someone be accountable because accountability is a feeling. Your star employee has it. That is why he or she is re-reading that one ‘needs improvement’ over and over again, looking for where things went wrong. Most people do not have that internal drive.

Here are some things you do not do when trying to get people to take accountability for their performance:

  • Threaten them
  • Bully them
  • Micromanage them
  • Beg them

If accountability is a feeling, you need to create the setting or environment for them to develop the emotion or feeling. It has to be part of the culture of the organization.

In a culture of accountability, people feel valued because the importance of their work is communicated to them. Employees have control over their own success and are recognized and rewarded for it. They understand the importance of deadlines and the timeliness of their work. Rewards and consequences are consistent and fair. Rewards and consequences are also proportional to the result, and do take circumstances into account.

Another way to create a culture of accountability is to have team-based work. By that, I mean have people responsible for providing inputs to others rather than to the manager.

Here is how you start moving things into the direction you want:

  • Communicate the importance of the work.
  • Give employees some control over their work and success.
  • Make sure deadlines and timelines are legitimate, and not some arbitrary line in the sand (everyone hates the hurry-up-and-wait game).
  • Reward appropriately: be fair, consistent, proportional, and take circumstances into consideration.
  • Find ways to create team-based work so that your employees are accountable to each other.

This is one example of the kind of work I do with my clients. To work with me, send an email to or complete the online form.

About the Author:

Michelle Hamelin provides business consulting and coaching services, working primarily with owners of small businesses. I am a planner by nature, which means I work with you to gather facts, analyze the work, and then help you create a plan to get to your goals.

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