Holding Employees Accountable for Performance

Employee performance in the workplace is a subject that can be evaluated from a multitude of different standpoints, one of which is the importance of setting employee performance standards. Establishing standards for measuring employees’ performance allows you as the business manager to evaluate employees’ achievements and effectiveness and make the adjustments necessary to encourage an increase in overall productivity.

Many business owners, however, make the potentially disastrous mistake of not establishing clear performance objectives for their employees. This can become extremely problematic for your company and should be corrected immediately.

By failing to articulate specific performance objectives for your employees, you are failing to provide them with your expectations. You cannot expect employees to meet expectations that have not been clearly explained; nor can you hold them accountable for failing to complete objectives that have never been explicitly outlined. An employee should receive a clear list of your objectives at the very onset of their employment, and from this point forward, they should be held accountable for meeting these expectations.

Obviously, you must allow a grace period for your recently hired employees to adjust to their new positions within your company, but this grace period should be limited, and this limit must be clearly articulated to the employee. Establish the expectation that after this grace period has passed, the employee will be held responsible for meeting all performance objectives.

Once you have established these performance standards, inform your employees that they will be held universally accountable. By not holding all employees to the same performance standards, you risk creating an imbalance in the workload. If employees are permitted to develop poor work habits, deficient ethics, or inadequate skills, their performance and your business’s productivity will both be severely negatively affected.

The unfortunate mistake made by many business owners whose employees are not meeting performance expectations in terms of attitude or competency is to shift the majority of the work burden from the shoulders of the unsatisfactory employees onto the shoulders of the company’s best workers.

shoes on deskManagers tend to make this mistake for a number of reasons. First, many hold out hope that the weak employee’s performance will improve. This hope is rooted in professional optimism at some times and personal naivety at others. The simple fact, however, is that if you have already made efforts to improve the employee’s performance and they still are not demonstrating marked improvement, there is little possibility that they will make much progress. This could be due to a variety of factors, including the poor work habits they have been allowed to establish, the fact that they know they are unlikely to be held accountable, or just a genuine inability to adequately perform the requirements of their position.

Another reason managers tend to charge their best employees with weaker workers’ duties is because they know these employees are competent enough to handle the responsibility. While this may be true to a degree, ultimately, this type of management is nothing short of irresponsible. With this reasoning, not only do you compromise the strong employees’ ability to meet their own performance objectives, but you also risk burdening them to the point where they leave your employment. Should that occur, you would be faced with a staff comprised exclusively of incompetent employees.

If you have been remiss in your duties to clearly inform employees of performance expectations, the universality of their enforcement, and the methods of their measurement, it is important that you do so as soon as possible. Employees who fail to meet performance expectations even after they have been clearly explained are an enormous drain on your company’s productivity. Therefore, it is an unfortunate necessity that weak employees who show no signs of performance improvement be removed from your company as soon as possible. Doing so produces long term benefits for both the employee and your company.

About Andrew Jensen

Andrew Jensen, a business growth, efficiency & marketing consultant, provides business advisory services for clients in the Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; York, Hanover, Lancaster & Harrisburg, PA regions. Andrew advises regarding business growth, productivity, efficiency, business startups, customer service, and online/offline marketing. Follow Andrew on Google+


  1. Judy Malone says:

    This has the most awesome information ever thanks so much.
    Judy Malone

  2. Mark Campos says:

    This was very clear guidance on how both employees and managers should be responsible for performance in an healthy organization. Thanks

  3. a strong article for sure. Yet, I am not seeing the interaction between employee and supervisor that achieves the ‘buy in’ always critical to meeting performance levels. Accountability can be an empty word when the employee is the recipient but not at all involved in setting the accountability. When I engage the employee in setting up the accountability I show respect and confidence and invitation to contribute. All of those are power sources for the employee to do the things that need doing. A one sided accountability regime is in trouble from the get go. Well, in my opinion anyway

  4. bongstar420 says:

    Owner performance is most important. They have the wealth, they have the power, they need to contribute the most effort and value out of everyone to deserve what they have. That contribution needs to exceed what the employees could do on their own given equal access to capital

  5. Pete Champagne says:

    This article offers great practical advice. A couple of things I would add to the discussion has to do with why leaders often fail to hold employees accountable for their performance in the first place. More often than not these leaders fear having a difficult conversation with a poor performing employee. Instead of engaging the employee, the move away from them and burden other employees as Andrew said. I’ve found if you tell people exactly what they are doing wrong and how they need to correct it, express how their behavior makes you feel, and outline the consequences of continued poor performances, they will usually come around. The key is to also inform them that you will be following-up with them to make sure they have corrected the situation. Try that process and get better results!

  6. Jorge Adam Acosta says:

    Hello Andrew. I have a concern/questing regarding my work environment. I work for a company that requires us to log in and out of a phone everday as well as when we take breaks, lunches, meetings and even have to take a personal restroom break. My question is; from your experience do you believe it is right for a company to hold its employees accountable for their production goals even when they forget to log out of their phone at the end of the day? Meaning I forget to log out when I leave for the day and I come back the next day and I am still logged in from the day before. Therefore my percentage for my efficeincy goal goes down because it had appeared that I was clocked in over night but had not produced any work. I am searching for information on this subject because to me this does not seem ethical. Thank for any feedback you may be able to give.

  7. I’m one of those employees bearing the brunt of the work from a weak employee. It’s obvious that she has no intentions of doing what’s asked of her because she knows it will be passed on to me because they don’t want to deal with it. I have voiced my concerns several times. At this point my only recourse is to look for a job in a different department. I guess reality will sink in for them when she is the only one and the supervisor will have to fill in until my position is filled. I’m sure my supervisor will make 100% effort to make my co-worker accountable at that because she will be stuck doing all the extra work that she really does not have the time to do. Won’t be my problem at that point. I just don’t understand why people insist on learning things the hard way.

  8. Nate Selig says:

    As a new manager (9 months) and 15 years of sales experience, hiring, disciplining and firing is something I haven’t had a a ton of experience with. This is very helpful! Any advice on managing to my expectations versus my subordinates? I find that I may have standards (the standards I have for myself) that I want others to adhere to, but that may be unrealistic. Any advice?

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