The Human Resource Director of an organization typed “accountability education and training” into her web browser looking for a solution to the lack of accountability in her organization. Problems that should be handled by managers and directors are showing up in human resources to fix. In one week the Human Resource Director:

• Was asked to fix 55 time cards that managers approved but the time cards were wrong.

• Counseled four Directors on the process to remove an employee where the situation had gotten to the point they wanted the employee terminated immediately with no documentation. In each case all performance evaluations reflected good performance and even pay increases.

• Facilitated 8 interdepartmental management meetings when conflict between managers erupted as they held their respective employees to different levels of accountability on certain company policies.

From the perspective of the Human Resource Director, the expectation that a manager or director be accountable for their area of authority is a given. From the perspective of the manager or director, it is HR’s job to fix problems pertaining to the management of employees and their lack of performance.


Melissa works in this organization as the Director of Quality Assurance. She would welcome accountability education in her department knowing most of her Director peers will view it as a waste of time. When HR announces the accountability program that will be rolled out she is one of the first to sign her department up even though they need it the least. It is accountability that makes her successful. She owns the results of her department, good or bad. She understands accountability as a learning tool versus a punitive concept. She steps in when her peer Directors begin finger-pointing and blaming, and leads them to see their role in what is not working. For this, she is not well liked. When other Directors complain about how HR makes it difficult to discipline or fire bad employees, she asks them if they are using the process required, pointing out that she has successfully disciplined or terminated individuals with its use.

The difference between Melissa and her peers that complain and are ineffective with HR issues is that she is clear on her role and that HR is a resource, not a crutch. Melissa sees herself as accountable for having the management skills required of the position. She knows that the more she demonstrates accountability to her employees, the more they will adopt the same level of ownership too. When she experiences any of her employees finger-pointing and blaming another department or director her first step is to explore ways to own the problem fully first. “If we have an underperforming employee, we ensure expectations are clear, lack of ability is documented and an opportunity is provided to step up. It’s what HR asks of us. We keep the conversation with HR open to update the progress or lack thereof to ensure we are doing what is required. And, I don’t resent HR rules and processes, I welcome them. My job is much easier when I am accountable for the development of my people and there is a ready and accountable plan when it’s not working out with someone.”


George, a Director and peer of Melissa’s, listened to one of his manager’s in a staff meeting talk about how a Quality Assurance manager that worked for Melissa met a deadline even though the person he needed information from was on vacation. “I think Melissa expects accountability no matter what, why don’t we do that in our department?” George felt attacked and shot back “I expect accountability but when you come to me with excuses or reasons why you haven’t met a deadline, I’m left with the mess to fix. If you were more accountable, we would be more like Melissa’s department.”

The staff member withdrew. George did not hear himself when he used staff meetings to blame other departments for not getting needed information to him on time so they could meet their goals. He also failed to understand the impact not doing performance evaluations by when they were due. Not meeting the deadline for turning in performance evaluations had nothing to do with being too busy. George hated to do performance evaluations, dragged his feet, and then rushed through them justifying their poor quality. He was never held to account for it. Turning in performance evaluations on time or late was the same difference. George resented HR and thought all the rules, policies and processes were unnecessary interference. George believed that if one of his manager’s wasn’t hearing from him it meant they were doing fine. His mantra – “I’ll show up when I have a problem with you, so you don’t want me to show up.”

Contrasting George’s style and Melissa’s you can see where accountability is and isn’t working. HR has an example to point to when it comes time to make a case to leadership to get accountability education into the organization.


Once the Human Resource Director has settled on the accountability education or training she wants to pursue she has to make her case to the leadership, some of whom are not going to “buy in” but will tow the party line if the CEO wants it. At the very least a few more will come on board, be more like Melissa in Quality Assurance and partner with HR instead of demand that HR solve problems they created in the first place. But it’s bigger than that. The HR Director does not want the accountability education in place so she isn’t so busy with dumb stuff or to lessen her load, she sees the writing on the wall for competitiveness if more of the leaders are not developed in this area. She decides if she does not create a case for accountability as an imperative she will need to leave the organization. It’s nice to have “some” come along but if the culture is rife with exceptions and lack of ownership by leadership she knows her job as “babysitter” will become unbearable. She will search for an organization where “some do, some don’t” is not acceptable.

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