Are you creating a culture of accountability with your team?

August 4, 2015 3 mins read
Are you creating a culture of accountability with your team?

Rio Goh, Managing Director, shares his advice on how to handle excuses and create a workplace culture of accountability.

How often do you hear this excuse from your employee? Excuses are like clockwork, at the very moment when a project, task or assignment is due, they will come pouring in:

  • "I had too many things on my plate”
  • “I was dealing with an emergency”
  • and my personal favorite “what assignment are you talking about?”


While it is difficult to keep your calm when listening to these excuses, the trick is to know how to handle them and leave the accountability with your employee.

When I was a new manager I had difficulty balancing getting the job done and showing empathy and ended up saying: “that is okay, I will take care of it.” I honestly admit I have been a pushover as well and I learned the hard way that when you keep accepting these excuses your employees will walk over you. On the other side, shouting at your employee will certainly not help and yes that happened once in a while as well during my earlier years.

Throughout the years I have found ways to push back, to make my own life easier but most importantly create a culture of accountability within my team. My advice to you is, stop saying it is okay and start asking questions instead.

After much experience I have learned not to let the conversation stop after hearing the excuse, instead I would ask questions and try to understand the cause of the problem.  I have also learned to give feedback and share my disappointment in people’s bad behavior. Without being too judgmental it would be fair to understand why they did not have the time or did not finish the project.  By simply asking specific questions such as:

  • When did you start working on this?
  • What were the challenges?
  • What did you do to solve these problems?
  • and who did you ask for help?


This will help in sorting out what the real issue is and if it is a matter of laziness or unwillingness to do things so be it. It is not your problem as a manager that someone is not willing to complete an agreed assignment. Although you carry that responsibility, it is the trick to give that accountability to your employee and you have to be firm.

If you want to move on after this has all been sorted out, make sure you set expectations for next time and to also agree on reprimands if the same thing happens again.  Without inspection you cannot expect so as a manager your responsibility is to follow up timely and to check on progress. Start by agreeing that your employee will arrange a meeting to follow up with you. The message you want to convey is that you will not settle for anything less than the best and step by step they will understand there is no room for excuses. 

Marlon Mai's picture
Marlon Mai
Managing Director, Greater China