One of the most critical traits to look for in an employee is responsibility.  Responsible employees drive the success of an organization, whether for profit or not for profit. 

Understanding responsibility and the traits that define a responsible employee will help you bring more awareness to its importance. Below is our quick guide for responsibility in the workplace.

Benefits of Having Responsible Employees

Responsibility is the cornerstone of a strong workplace. There are many specific benefits to promoting responsibility in the workplace through corporate training. These include:

Success: Success in the workplace relies on responsible people.  Individual employees that achieve a sense of responsibility gain trust and respect in the workplace.  They have the drive to complete each task to the best of their ability. These individuals take the blame for any mistakes made; are honorable when the easier road would be denial.  They are more engaged in team projects and are more focused on the most profitable approach to any task.  These responsible employees take pride in completion of their tasks; these are individual successes to them.  A responsible employee is worth their weight in gold to any organization. 

Responsible employees are the core to all successful enterprises.  An organization cannot operate without employees that value ethics and morals.  Responsible employees are engaged in their work and realize the importance of their tasks and their timely completion.  Employees that are responsible build better teams driven toward results.  The success of the team is the foundation for a successful business. 

Profitable companies are led by responsible management.  These managers in turn seek out the same responsibility traits in their teams.  Successful leadership cultivates accountability and responsibility.  The result: reduced employee turnover, increased employee morale, and a more profitable company.

Builds Trust: Responsible employees are dependable.  They are accountable for their actions; good and the bad.  For this reason, responsible employees are trusted by the managers and their co-workers.  This trust allows relationships to grow among team members. Coworkers trust their responsible team members to complete their work in a timely and efficient manner.

Coworkers may not trust other employees that are chronically late for work or miss deadlines.  The less responsible employee will have a negative effect on team morale, production, and could possibly put the entire project in jeopardy. 

Responsibility positively affects an employee’s individual success; it builds trust with co-workers, and it also builds the trust that the organization has in the employee. Employers do not have any concerns about  whether a responsible employee is going to finish an important task. This trust grows over time as the employee proves their dependability.

Qualities of Responsible Employees: What to Look For

How does an employer determine who is and who isn’t responsible?  There are several qualities or characteristics of these valued employees; responsible people are good, moral, ethical individuals.  These people often think more of others and their concerns than of their own work or situations.  Assessing a person’s levels of the following traits will reveal the individual’s level of responsibility. Some examples of qualities in responsible employees are:

Humble: Most dictionaries have a few definitions for the word humble, but most say that showing a modest estimate of one’s importance is the meaning of being humble. 

Employees that are humble are not striving for praise from management.  They know that they are doing a job, much like the other employees in the company.  They know that many other individuals could have been hired in the same position.  A humble employee realizes that they are just a part in a machine that is the company. A responsible employee is humble and quick to give praises to the whole team or the team leaders. 

Transparent: Transparency is a key communication trait that focuses on information flowing between employees.  Transparency is one of the qualities of a responsible employee.  Because transparency requires a certain level of vulnerability, with it comes a sense of trust between the employee and management; this is key to a successful work culture. It may sound risky, but the benefits outweigh the risks.

One way to encourage more transparency with employees is to schedule goal setting or feedback/review meetings. Checking in with an employee regularly encourages that employee to open up and express to the employer any issues or ideas they may have concerning their job. Peer reviews and evaluations are also useful to management and employees.

Promise Keeper: A person making a statement of intentions is the definition of making a promise. Everyone is a promise maker but not everyone is a promise keeper.  Some people are promise breakers.

Promises only build trust if the promise is followed through on. Individuals that keep their promises are dependable, reliable, and have positive relationships with others.  Responsible employees are promise keepers not promise breakers.  When a responsible employee makes a promise to the employer, like the promise to work the scheduled shift, a responsible employee makes sure to be working at the scheduled times. 

Proactive: A proactive employee is an employee that is always thinking ahead of what is required of them.  They anticipate any possible problems that could occur and they plan for these problems.  A proactive employee is great to have on the team because no matter how good the planning may be, problems will arise.  An employee that is not proactive has a “wait and see” attitude to the tasks that they are required to complete and  may depend on others to resolve any issues that may arise.

Responsible employees are proactive.  They have a sense of ownership of their work, and if problems arise, they can usually generate a solution.  A responsible employee is proactive and ensures the success of the project and of the company overall.  This employee realizes that their job depends on the success of the company.

Accountability: What it is and its Barriers

A major part of promoting responsibility in the workplace is encouraging everyone to take accountability for their actions and role in the workplace. Every workplace has different dynamics, and it is important for senior leaders to understand factors that could cause barriers in the workplace. They must ask themselves, “What about our work culture does not allow the employees to be accountable and responsible?” 

There are several criteria that may contribute to a work culture that lacks accountability.  After some simple investigation, management can usually attribute the lack of accountability in the employees to one or more of the following reasons:

No Direction: One of the first places to look for a barrier to accountability in the work culture is to assess the amount of direction employees receive from their leaders.  Is it sufficient?  Is there something standing in the way of the employees comprehending the expectations of management?  Employees will only be as responsible as the management requires them to be or sets them up to be.  A critical examination needs to be completed in the following areas:

  • Vaguely set goals or deadlines
  • Lack of priorities in tasks or projects
  • Tension between management and the workforce
  • Lack of communication between management and the workforce

If management has issues with any of these areas, the indication is that there are barriers to the employees being as responsible as they should be while at work.  If the leaders are not clear as to the expectations of accountability, the employees can only assume that being responsible is not required.

No Ownership: Another barrier to responsibility in the company’s work culture is that there is no ownership.  Employees do not feel that they “own” their work; they do not feel they are in control of the task and it’s completion.  To better enable employees to be responsible and take ownership of their production is to give them more control. This does not mean that a manager should toss out the orders and let the employees go from there, but allowing an employee more control over how the task is accomplished is a good idea for increasing the employee’s sense of ownership over the task and its completion.

Once an employee has gained a sense of true ownership of their accomplishments they will garner a sense of pride and will then be able to begin to take ownership of their mistakes.

No Commitment: Employees that have no sense of commitment are more than likely not feeling valued.  They feel out of the loop and non-essential in the grand business plan.  If management does not communicate with their teams, employees have no idea what direction the company is going in, what the goals of the company are, or even the reason for their jobs.  This leaves employees uncommitted; doing their job, but not caring about how they do their job.

Lack of Resilience: The ability to bounce back from adversity is the definition of resilience. Buildings are resilient to rain, animals are resilient to nature, etc.  Individuals that are able to make mistakes and come back having learned from the mistakes are resilient.  Unfortunately, not all people are resilient to issues that they encounter in the workplace.

Have you ever wondered why every interview that you have had, asks the question, “What is a problem you have encountered and how have you handled this problem?”  This question gives the employer some insight into how resilient the applicant may be.  If the answer is, “I cried,” or “I called the supervisor immediately,” then the applicant is not resilient and probably will not get the job.

Overcoming Barriers for Increased Accountability

Once the barriers to responsibility have been identified, plans to eliminate these barriers can begin.  Much like any other bad habit, being irresponsible is easy, stopping is hard.  Simply stating that responsibility starts tomorrow is not the solution to the problem.  In the workplace, the changes must begin at the top: with management.  Management must be the moral compass for the company.  They must first demonstrate responsibility to the employees.  It is the responsibility of the employer to promote accountability and responsibility in the workplace. 

Create Clear Goals: One of the first steps to encouraging responsibility in the workplace is for management to create clear and concise goals.  Whether it be the sales goals for the year in a sales meeting or the simple goals of having the inventory counted by the end of the day.  Management must clearly state these goals. Team leads, supervisors and managers have a responsibility to the employees to allow them to be responsible for the goals that they achieve.  To do this, employees must feel in control of their goals and their achievements.  Management should clearly state the goals, the expectations and the time frame in which the tasks are expected to be completed.  Employees should then be allowed to complete the tasks at hand, without further supervision, unless necessary.

Provide Resources: Management is not only responsible for providing clear goals to employees, they are also responsible for providing employees all the resources that are necessary for them to complete their tasks in an efficient manner.  It makes no sense that a shoe company that produces sneakers, would not provide shoelaces for the employees to put into the shoes.  Employees would have to make their own or order the necessary laces to complete the goal of finishing the orders.  In this situation, the employees would not feel empowered about their production, and would not likely take ownership of the issues.

Management must provide all the necessary resources that an employee requires to complete their tasks and attain their goals.  Resources can include:

  • Reference materials and data
  • Appropriate software and applications
  • Necessary employee support such as human resources, mentors, or trainers.
  • Necessary materials, along with the correct instructions
  • Realistic time frames for completion

Allow and Provide Feedback: A workplace culture that allows and provides positive feedback results in employees that are more responsible and more accountable for their work produced.  Allowing feedback is not defined as listening to the employees complain about having to work.  Allowing feedback is providing the employee an opportunity to voice their concerns about a task, or ask questions about the processes required to complete that task.  A manager should also have an open-door policy for employees who may have an idea for a more efficient process.  Transparent communication between the manager and the employees increases the employees’ feeling of empowerment and responsibility over their work.

One of the simplest ways to provide feedback is to have a review system in place.  For example, yearly performance reviews, project recap meetings, and other scheduled and expected feedback is much easier for an employee to receive positively.  The employer expects to receive some honest feedback from their employees and in turn, the employees feel more empowered and less attacked by the manager or team leader.

Mentorship: One of the reasons referred to most often for lack of employee responsibility and engagement has been the employee’s lack of empowerment over their tasks.  When an employee doesn’t feel valued by an organization, they may actually feel very little responsibility for the work that they produce.  One way to create an inclusive work culture is to provide the employees with mentorship from the beginning of their employment until termination.  Employees should feel that there is a safe and engaging place to voice their employment concerns, to receive feedback on performance, and to receive the necessary information on how to become a responsible employee within the company.

Mentorship programs can also assist management in expressing the work ethics that they expect within their organization.  Requiring responsibility from the employees through regular mentor/mentee meetings is another tool to hold employees accountable for their productivity, engagement, and work habits.


We just released our new course titled Responsibility in the Workplace, which has everything you need to cover the topics discussed in this blog post and more. Get started on fostering a responsible workplace today!

Posted by Katelyn Roy on

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    • Very good ideas, easily applicable.

      Ketan Dholakia on
    • Highly helpful one.

      Mebrate Dinku on
    • An excellent and relevant post for our times with useful and practical information.

      Dr.Susan Stryker on

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