How to Hold Your Employees Accountable

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How to Hold Your Employees Accountable

Posted on August 10, 2018 by Danny Leffel

One of the most challenging questions employers face is how to hold employees accountable. If you’re struggling to find a balance between laissez-faire leadership and dictatorial micromanagement, follow these steps to bring healthy performance management to your business.

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1. Understand What Accountability Is and Is Not

The first step to holding your employees accountable is understanding exactly what accountability is — and what it’s not. For instance, accountability is about more than owning up to your mistakes or holding other people responsible for theirs. Accountability starts long before something goes wrong. In fact, failing to cultivate a company culture of accountability in a holistic way, from top to bottom and beginning to end, almost guarantees that something will go wrong.

Also, keep in mind that there is a right way and a wrong way to hold employees accountable. A healthy, productive system of accountability requires a nuanced, thoughtful approach. Simply berating others when they mess up is not accountability, and is actually counterproductive. Angry and aggressive behavior may convey the seriousness of the offense, but it’s unlikely to inspire your employees to do better. Instead, you’ll end up undermining your employees’ confidence in your leadership and their own abilities. As morale suffers, so will performance.

Accountability means setting goals and following through. It’s about fulfilling your commitments. Every team member should understand their role in the organization and how their job affects both their co-workers and your customers. Accountability requires taking responsibility not only for your work but also for its outcome. As a business owner or manager, you can hold your employees accountable by clarifying your expectations, supporting your employees’ efforts, and providing regular feedback. Communication is key.

2. Set Clear Expectations


When you think of employee accountability, your thoughts may jump straight to performance reviews, warnings, and incentives. Before you start enforcing policies, though, you need to make your expectations clear. Employees won’t feel fairly treated if you start grading them based on criteria you haven’t disclosed.

Be sure to lay out the following:

  • What outcome you expect
  • How you want the outcome to be achieved
  • How you measure performance
  • What the consequences of failure are


It’s best to have this conversation in person to reduce the chance of any misunderstandings. Discuss your expectations and give employees a chance to ask questions or make suggestions. It’s especially important to get input from seasoned employees or employees whose jobs you are less familiar with. It’s easy to set impossible deadlines or unrealistic standards when you don’t understand the day-to-day demands of a person’s job, and the insight of experienced team members can be invaluable.

At the end of the meeting, ask your team to summarize what you discussed. This is the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page. You may also want to print out a copy of any new rules or goals and post it where employees can see it, or send out a reminder via the messaging feature on the Crew app. The Crew app is a communications app designed specifically for teams who don’t have ready access to effective communication technology on the job.

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3. Give Employees the Training and Resources They Need to Succeed

Once you have communicated with your employees, make sure they are properly equipped. Provide thorough training on the policies and procedures you want them to follow and equip your team with the knowledge they need to do their job better. If they need certain tools or software to do their jobs well, acquire it. Give them opportunities to increase their knowledge or improve their skills.

You should also take the time to evaluate your employees’ abilities. Are they capable of achieving what you’ve asked of them? If not, find out why and resolve the problem. Don’t set your employees up for failure by asking for more than they can deliver. The answer could be as simple as more training or new equipment, or you may need to move people around or reassign job responsibilities.

4. Provide Regular, Constructive Feedback

Finally, it’s important that you give employees feedback on a consistent basis. Make steps such as these a regular part of your management approach:

  • Make a point of interacting with each of your team members one-on-one and providing individual feedback.
  • Give gold stars in the Crew app to recognize and reward employees for meeting goals or taking initiative.
  • Encourage employees to ask for clarification or help if they need it.
  • Set weekly or monthly goals that you can use to track employees’ progress.
  • Address poor performance in a private, timely manner before small issues escalate.


Don’t wait for a problem to arise before providing feedback to your employees. Instead, incorporate positive reinforcement into your accountability plan to increase employee motivation. If your only interactions with your team are negative, you may end up with disengaged employees. Change management strategies to ensure that you are balancing constructive criticism and appropriate consequences with praise when possible.

At first, a push to ensure that employees are held accountable may leave your team wary. However, when done the right way, accountability is a vital part of any company culture that values, respects, and empowers its employees.

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