How to Be Accountable on the Job

Setting your own goals can provide intrinsic rewards.
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If you're concerned about being accountable on the job, congratulations. The mere fact that you're worried about it puts you way ahead of a lazy co-worker, the absent boss, and all other annoying and unaccountable people you may work with. Being accountable at work means you're making an effort to do what you say you're going to do and that you'll take the rap when you don't do it. If you're willing to work on it, you may be able to take some steps to do even better at your quest for accountability.

    Step 1

    Set personal goals for yourself, both small and big. Small goals can be things such as finishing all of your email correspondence or crossing everything off your to-do list before you leave for the day. Large goals can include exceeding your sales target for the year. When you meet your goals, reward yourself with an appropriate reward: a smoothie for the to-do list or an exotic vacation for the sales target.

    Step 2

    Follow through with what you say you're going to do. If you set a deadline with a client or promise to finish a project by a certain date, make sure you're able to do it. This means not setting unreasonable goals for yourself, which can lead to your reputation being damaged when you don't keep your word. To keep your promises, you may have to ask others to get specific about the dates, times or details of what they expect from you, so you'll know exactly how and when you need to complete the project or promised task.

    Step 3

    Own up when you screw up. If you've done your best in whatever task is at hand and you still fail, don't resort to deflecting or blaming the situation on someone or something else. To be accountable, you have to own the results.

    Step 4

    Ask for a performance review from your supervisor or boss. It may sound crazy to ask in detail about the things you're doing wrong, but it's one of the clearest ways to get your boss to spell out what you need to do to achieve success on the job. If you succeed in getting your boss to do the review, don't leave it up to your boss to detail everything; come prepared with some specific questions about your performance and how you can improve it.


    • Another option is to ask for feedback from a trusted colleague. Offer to take her out to lunch and give you ideas for making you a better employee. Whether it's your boss or your colleague-slash-friend, bring your thick skin; you may not like everything they have to say -- and once it's said, that very-accountable-you may be compelled to take their advice.

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