Accountability is when you’re answerable for your actions. At work, this can cover everything from sticking to deadlines, to working alongside your team to achieve your goals and understanding and respecting your organization’s values.
Say that you have to attend a team meeting but you get caught up with some work. Forgetting to update your team members may result in an unnecessary delay, wasting their time. Working as part of a team means that you have to own up to your actions. It’s not the same as working alone. Tasks and people are interdependent because the ultimate aim is to accomplish organizational goals.
There are different types of accountability in the workplace—related to what kind of employee you are, your expectations and how you treat others. For organizations that want to create a highly-engaged, ethical and well-performing environment, encouraging accountability will go a long way.
Let’s look at the seven types of accountability in an organizational setup.
Types Of Accountability
Internal and external factors like employee turnover and economic policies can determine who should be held accountable for what.
In the case of problem-solving, collaborating with different departments or teams makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when things started to go wrong. Harvard professor Dennis F. Thompson defines this as the ‘problem of many hands’. You may not understand who’s at fault or who should be held accountable for the consequences. This is common when your work depends on others and vice versa.
Here are seven types of accountability in the workplace:
When you’re accountable not just for your actions but for others’, you’re taking professional accountability. This is commonly observed in professional fields like medicine and law where a doctor or a lawyer would be accountable for their practice, patients/clients’ well-being and the outcomes of their actions.
Think of this in terms of your organization’s social responsibility. Many organizations are mandated to set aside a portion of their budget for CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives. These could involve organizing tree plantation drives, sharing food at an orphanage or teaching school kids. Each organization is accountable for how their business impacts the environment. They’re accountable for mitigating any negative effects and promoting sustainability.
Personal accountability is whenever you make a conscious choice to take accountability for your actions. In the workplace, this can mean being accountable for your decisions and how it affects your coworkers. When you do something wrong, you could apologize instead of deflecting blame. Being productive at work and reflecting on your actions fall within the scope of personal accountability.
This would apply to those in a leadership role, like managers and team leads. Their actions play a significant role in their employees’ work lives. Being a fair and just manager is something that should come naturally. Making everyone feel like an appreciated member of the team is another aspect of public accountability. Organizations can benefit from public accountability as it nurtures an honest and compassionate work culture.
In an organization, financial accountability is concerned with creating a sound budget and ensuring minimal waste. Allocating resources efficiently would ensure that there’s no excess expenditure. This is critical when you’re in the planning stages of a new project where there are higher chances of exceeding your budget. Organizations have to consider economic policies, external stakeholders and their employees when establishing financial accountability.
Respecting your coworkers and clients, not blaming others for your mistakes and apologizing when you’re in the wrong is part of ethical accountability. Organizations and their employees have to be accountable for each other. For instance, if an employee does something wrong, the organization may have to issue an official apology on their behalf.
Who has the ultimate authority in your organization? Administrative accountability means that you’re accountable to the person who’s in charge. You may not have a choice in the matter if you’re working in a traditional organizational setup. Sometimes, it may even mean that you have to be accountable as a team even if only one person is at fault. It varies from organization to organization.
If you want to thrive in your organization and be a valuable member of your team, being accountable is one way to establish your credibility. Harappa Education’s Navigating Workplaces course will teach you how you can navigate different types of organizational values and identify your organization’s mission and objectives. It’s critical to align yourself with your organizational goals because it’ll drive you to work harder and give your 100%.
Explore topics such as Employee Engagement, Employee Engagement Strategies, Employee Development, What is Accountability & Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility from our Harappa Diaries section and give your employees the right tools for development.
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