Accountability, Top Down

by James McDonough

Member Matters,  Training and Development

Many conversations we have with members about employee behaviors and performance involve accountability. This typically includes how employees are informed of what they are accountable for, and the consequences related to the outcomes. Accountability is a core expectation of what employers demand of their employees, typically reflected in policies and employee handbooks. This excerpt from the MSEC Employee Handbook Planning Guide provides a straightforward definition of accountability:

 Effective individual ownership and accountability are the keys to our success.  High levels of ownership and accountability are evident with the consistent delivery of products that meet our clients’ expectations and are on time and within budget.  The ultimate outcome of our success in this regard is our clients’ confidence in our ability to effectively and efficiently meet their needs.  Ultimately, we succeed or fail as an organization, not as individuals.  Success requires the commitment of each individual to take ownership of his or her part of all deliverables.

One might assume that employers who desire the advantages as described above would hold employees at all levels equally accountable for workplace performance. But are they?

Not according to “The Leadership Accountability Gap”, a recent study from Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH)*. It reveals that only 31% of employers worldwide are satisfied with leadership accountability and 72% believe this accountability gap is a critical business issue facing their organization. Surprisingly, 80% of organizations tolerate poor performance by leaders, much to the detriment of the organization. Why are leaders not being held to the same accountability standards as other lower-level employees? The study explores this question and many others, suggesting this key point:

To achieve a resilient culture of accountability in your organization, start at the Top. Contact MSEC for help with tackling your workplace accountability issues at any level.

*To read more about this study, click here for the downloadable LHH study:






About the author
James McDonough

James McDonough, HR Research Consultant, consults with Employers Council members to provide guidance and support on their organizational practices. He writes articles, conducts presentations and trainings on HR compliance, organizational effectiveness and business management topics. A graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, James has worked in the public and private sectors in HR and business management.