Five signs that you lack accountability and how to fix it

Our life at work depends on what we believe in and what we do. We often hear leaders talk about engagement and motivation. Some of us are in such conversations daily, while others have the luck to listen to them only several times a year. During the last several years, a new paradigm evolved. Now leaders talk more often about accountability in the workplace as an expression of internal engagement and motivation. Accountability has become the new norm. Companies measure it, and HR departments and company leaders try to sell the model to matters if they want to be successful. The new reality stressed more accountability, while the leaders understood that there is no reason to keep happy and motivated employees who do not deliver results.

In many cases, engagement connects to the currently established environment rather than toward the tasks and challenges of showing up at work. The new understanding points more that people do not have to be completely happy at work but stretched enough to deliver results. The balance between work and personal priorities is now measured through the level of accountability everyone shows at work and through establishing its strategy to deliver results.

While many employees like the paradigm of engagement and motivation, they use it as a tool to negotiate with their employers. On the other hand, leaders who want to achieve better results move to understand and manage accountability. This creates a discrepancy in understanding and beliefs and often causes employees to feel lost and betrayed. Paradigms and experiences are evolving, and missing to follow them, can cause much stress for both sides – the leaders and the employees.

If you are in the same situation, you are not alone. According to a University of Dallas research back in 2019, sixty-four percent of employees do not understand what accountability means and cannot identify the signs showing the lack between needed and demonstrated level of accountability.

In 2021 I have conducted a short online survey on How people understand that they lack accountability and the best ways to deal with that. The survey covered six countries in Europe and covered 2192 people. I found that people evaluate the discrepancy between needed and demonstrated level of accountability by five criteria. Down you will find the five signs and how to fix the accountability issue for yourself.

Missed deadlines

We have often seen this one. You have someone in your network whom you count on to do something for you, and when the deadline approaches, you find that nothing is done, and you will have to re-plan the work for later. It is not only inconvenient but can easily create and unnecessary conflict. At the same time, missing deadlines often is a signal that something is not OK.

The simple solution: If you find a person in your network or team or even you who misses deadlines without looking concerned about that, you will need to step up and talk about it. Ask what is not OK. Show empathy and try to understand. What may look stupid for one person may be a turning point in the life of another one. After you know what is wrong, offer help, but at the same time insist on personal involvement from the person with deadlines, final results, or products and a simple plan on progress tracking. And if you are that person, then you will need to analyze what has happened and what causes you to stop delivering great results as usual.  Anything after that is just a will to change and a structured plan.

Putting a spin on bad news

All of us have seen it or experienced it. There is always someone who spreads lousy news on others. You have failed to deliver a project deadline, and someone has communicated it with everyone. We all make mistakes, but then, someone who is officially our friend spreads the bad news about us. And we must invest much time to make things good again. There is news that the company will need to cut some expenses, and already there is news that things are not going well, and the simple cut-off is turning into a storm that will kill everyone.

Simple solution: Bad news is not unusual. We hear at least three every day. It depends on us to transform what at first looks negative into a positive outcome and opportunity. Reacting to bad news must not be emotional but logical. That will allow you to find a constructive solution without breaking you and others around you emotionally. Do not give your ears to the bad news. Hear them,  analyze them,  but do not take them for granted.  They are often hyperbolized, and you will need to look deeply into understand the essence and the meaning of the message.

Passivity in meetings

One of the most common “punishments” we demonstrate is to stay still at meetings when we do not feel comfortable at meetings or feel unappreciated. “I will show them now. They will not hear a word from me. I will just let them suffer and will not share the solution with them.” We often demonstrate this passive-aggressive behavior when we feel threatened or affected by a decision or a judgment about us. We have all been there, and some of us have even liked it. It is a direct reaction of our Alter Ego to behavior or action that makes us feel uncomfortable and not in a position of power.

The simple solution: Taking others’ perspectives and putting ourselves in the other person’s place. You can call it self-compaction, get into other’s shoes, etc. When you invest time to understand what causes the behavior or action, you will quickly recognize the positivity it takes. That can help you to find meaning, lower your internal pressure generated from the unspoken aggression, and allow you to build a positive outcome.


The negative person tries to be in the mouth and ears of everyone. In a world where the information is on one click, you will need to have something that is not easy to find. This something is the cam block you create and the story you build on it. The gossip is a natural reaction when the person feels forgotten or is out of the circle where he wants to be. It is then created to return the interest toward the person and boost his ego. The gossip is the power its creator uses to be in the center of attention.

The simple solution: Think of the positive and negative effects of the gossip. No matter how many positives you see, try to overcome your ego and paint the picture; you will know when the gossip is discovered not to be the truth. Imagine the feeling you will experience, the looks of others on you, the behavior that will change after the untruth is discovered. Do you feel comfortable with that? If your answer is NO, then move ahead and stop the gossip while you still have time to do it without causing discomfort and burn bridges with others

Venting behind closed doors

We all have our moments when we have to stay alone. There is nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, there are some moments when we lock ourselves without having a good reason to do it. These moments are when we are angry and do not want to participate in group activities. It causes us to isolate ourselves, not worry about what is happening around us, start acting only in the way we think is right and with the tempo we believe is acceptable. And in many cases, this behavior leads us to a dead-end, where we see too late how our behavior has caused damage to others and us.

Simple solution: Keep your door open and your mind even widely opened. In the moments when you want to close the door and not see anyone, push yourself to overcome that wish and move ahead. Showing others that you can live with the pan and transform yourself while transforming the status quo is a powerful tool to win them on your side. And maybe the next initiative accepted and implemented will be yours. Overcoming the frustration and moving forward is a powerful sign that you are adaptable and willing to learn the new reality. That can easily position you in the eyes and minds of people as a trustworthy person able to lead the change agenda instead of someone whose behavior demonstrates a stopper for the change.


There are many signs that things are not going well, and you will need to change something. The five here are just the basis for every leader to start a meaningful change for himself and the others. And while the hard thing is to accept that your accountability level suffers, the action plan after that is only up to you to start and finish it while creating meaningful and impactful change.


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