5 Barriers to Accountability

We all need accountability in our lives. No person is above the obligation of responsibility and no one should be exempt from giving an account for decisions and actions. If done right, accountability can be greatly beneficial to growth and development in life, relationships and business.

Psalm 133:1 says it is "a good and pleasant thing for people to live together in harmony” and that we should strive to agree with one another so that we can achieve unity even amid our differences. Accountability is a tremendous vehicle to achieve these ends.

Of course, not everyone shares a high view of accountability. In my line of work, I do a lot of mediation, counseling and brokering of relationships and I’ve seen the damage and sometimes irreparable harm that can occur when individuals are unteachable and refuse to accept responsibility.

Here are the 5 accountability barriers that we most often encounter and struggle with:

1. Narcissism

Narcissism is defined as a singular pursuit of fulfillment from vanity or egotistic admiration of oneself. True accountability requires a humble look at oneself when alerted to behavior or patterns that need to change or improve. A narcissist views this inversely as an attack on their flawless image. To suggest corrective action is to imply that they are not perfect and that simply can't be entertained.

2. Denial

Like narcissism, denial tends to stop the positive outcomes of accountability fast. Early in an accountable conversation, a denier becomes closed off and doesn't recognize that they might be responsible or play a part in the issue at hand. They will not change their behavior and also blame shift and avoid future discussions altogether.

3. Resistance

Resistance is one of the most prevalent barriers. Both parties seem to recognize a problem and the need for resolution but there is always one person more resistant to solving it. Unlike denial, a resister is not unwilling to listen or engage in an accountable dialogue. However, once genuine responsibility is asked for, it can be met with opposition that often leads to impasses and relational gridlocks.

4. Acquiescence

There is an old saying, “If you convince a person against their will, they are of the same opinion still.” Accountability is ineffective for someone who feels obligated to comply but remains unconvinced they are culpable. Their acquiescence is probably due to overwhelming evidence of a problem and not because they arrived at it on their own. In these cases, change is doubtful because they are of the same opinion as when they arrived.

5. Non-Transparency

Non-Transparency is used to alleviate embarrassment and preserve an image that one or both parties are trying to maintain. If details of a situation are held back to excuse behavior or lessen the degree of consequence, the issues will stay hidden and unresolved. Honesty is the first step to real change and also to securing a belief in the words that are spoken, the commitments that are made and each person's acceptance of responsibility.

It's so important for us to identify the barriers that stand in the way of dynamic relationships. But recognizance is not enough, we have to work to overcome them. The long-term positive results of accountability in our marriages, friendships and business networks will far outweigh the temporary discomfort of doing it right.