Creating a Culture of Accountability within a Small Business

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Accountability means taking responsibility for one’s self and one’s work, getting credit and recognition, but more importantly speaking up when responsible for an issue and taking the steps to fixing problems created and learning from mistakes. Small business owners can loan their employees an environment wherein they can be accountable in a few ways, but when they make the effort to promote real responsibility and transparency, they will find that their employees are not only working harder, but are more invested in the outcome of their efforts.

How does accountability figure in to the workplace? To fully answer this question, imagine the following scenario playing out at your business: A new hire, eager to get started, is tasked with compiling a list of exemplary clients. By accident, they create a list of exemplary clients that contains a number from a “do not call” list. As their list is given to their supervisor, the supervisor does not notice the error and it is passed along until someone calls the number and it opens a can of worms. Enter you, the owner of the business. You find that, no matter who you ask, nobody is able to say anything about how the error came about. The problem goes unresolved because nobody will admit any fault, and you have been loaned a fresh headache due to accountability issues. This example is obviously oversimplified, but the concept remains important. How can small business owners create a culture in their workplace where their employees are able to take credit where credit is due and also admit when they are at fault or need help?

Accountability is a commitment for everyone within a business. Saying that going forwards, everyone has to tell the truth and be accountable and then expecting it to happen just like that is downright foolhardy. In order for a real culture of accountability to take root within your small business, you are going to need to take real steps backed by a solid commitment to making your work environment a better place. A common problem within businesses is that rules mandating accountability are applied with exceptions made for managers or department heads, meaning that when issues arise they are pushed onto the shoulders of lower ranking personnel. This is problematic because it allows the issues present within management level employees to remain unidentified and uncorrected, as well as a negative effect on morale to take root within the business in question.

Promote accountability on a management level. One of the biggest reasons why employees will remain silent when there is an issue is because they are afraid for their own jobs. Not wanting to get fired when they make a mistake, they allow the issue to grow further by not addressing it or reporting it to a higher up. Teaching your entire staff that they do not need to be afraid to report a problem is the first step you must take when you are working on promoting accountability within the workplace. The fear of punishment is what holds many back, therefore, stress that problems that are reported will be worked on by the whole team in a manner that allows them to be fixed as effectively as possible and used as a learning experience. When training managers, stress to them that they need to be approachable and receptive when the employees that they manage approach them with a problem.

Reward examples of accountability within the company. On the other side of the coin from identifying issues based off of accountable practices, small business owners should also loan some recognition to those who go the extra mile to produce quality work and results. This is the other side of teaching by example. Rewards for accountability should be tailored to the situation at hand in order to avoid either over or under-rewarding performance. When seeking to reward an employee, a good place to get insight is directly from their supervisor, who can provide a d account of how they were able to excel. When other employees see that their hard work is recognized and valued, then they will feel the incentive to continue to push their limits and produce positive results.

Photo Credit to Kevin Dooley on Flickr

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