Academic journal article
By Hall, Angela T.; Zinko, Robert; Perryman, Alexa A.; Ferris, Gerald R.
Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies , Vol. 15, No. 4
Holding people answerable for their actions captures the essence of accountability, which is one of the most fundamental constructs in the organizational sciences and, unfortunately, one about which little is known. This study formulated and tested a model that sought to explicate the intermediate linkages between accountability and job performance and satisfaction. Specifically, the hypothesized model suggests that accountability affects organizational citizenship behavior, which in turn influences job performance and satisfaction through personal reputation. Three alternative models were also examined, but the hypothesized model demonstrated the best fit to the data. Strengths and limitations of the study, directions for future research, and implications for practice are discussed.
Keywords: accountability; job performance; organizational citizenship; satisfaction; reputation
There is perhaps no more foundational element of organizations than accountability, which in essence involves holding people answerable for their decisions and actions. Without accountability, individuals would be able to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. The result would be chaos and the breakdown of organizations. Accountability systems can be construed as control mechanisms, designed to channel and shape behavior in organizationally prescribed directions to maximize goal accomplishment and organization effectiveness. Unfortunately, research on organizational accountability has not kept pace with its importance, and we know little about the antecedents and consequences of this important construct (e.g., Frink, Hall, Perryman, Ranft, Hochwarter, Ferris, & Royle, 2008; Frink & Klimoski, 1998).
Although accountability is, at some level, critical for the effective operation of organizations, recent research regarding the effects of accountability on work outcomes has demonstrated that accountability can produce consequences both positive and negative (e.g., Hall, Frink, Ferris, Hochwarter, Kacmar, & Bowen, 2003). For example, too much accountability might be a stressor to employees, with the accompanying strain reactions such as increased job tension (Hall, Royle, Brymer, Perrewe, Ferris, & Hochwarter, 2006).
Other work has demonstrated that accountability-outcomes relationships are moderated by control-related variables such that personal control dilutes the potentially harmful effects of too much accountability (e.g., Hall et al., 2006; Hochwarter, Ferris, Gavin, et al., 2007). However, what has been missing in the research literature is a more precise articulation of the mediating processes that occur between accountability and important work outcomes.
Research has shown that accountability is related to both job performance and job satisfaction (Hall et al., 2003). However, the processes through which these effects take place still are largely unspecified. In the present article, we test a two-stage mediation model of accountability, which suggests that accountability exercises indirect effects on job performance and satisfaction, namely, through its direct effects on organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and reputation. That is, the model indicates that accountability influences individuals to engage in OCBs, which contribute to enhanced reputation, thereby affecting job performance and satisfaction.
Nature of Accountability
Accountability is a meso- and multilevel construct, ubiquitous throughout not only society but the organizations therein (Frink et al., 2008; Lerner & Tetlock, 1999). Accountability is present across and within multiple levels of organizations and among multiple constituents (Frink & Klimoski, 1998). No conceivable organization could operate without accountability from audiences both external and internal (Frink & Klimoski, 2004); thus, organizations implement accountability mechanisms in an effort to shape and control the behavior of their organizational actors (Ferris, Mitchell, Canavan, Frink, & Hopper, 1995)--for example, accounting procedures, time clocks, surveillance cameras, performance appraisal systems, internal audits, and computer usage monitoring. …