How to Take Responsibility and Ownership in Employee Social Agreements

When leaders are genuine and hold themselves accountable for their workplace obligations, they establish a more significant sense of personal authenticity, as well as a better understanding between themselves and other employees.

Psychologically safe work environments are ideal for the growth of companies and their members. When employees feel comfortable at work, they are better able to accomplish daily tasks, innovate, collaborate, express themselves honestly, and contribute to a positive culture.

In order to establish a psychologically safe work environment, leaders must develop and practice lifelong skills such as communication, care for others, and introspection. This article will look at how leaders can begin to take responsibility within social agreements, demonstrate empathy, exercise radical transparency, and develop high levels of Emotional Intelligence within the context of their organizations. The key to developing all of these healthy habits is consistency.

Employee Social Agreements

Employee social agreements outline expectations of team member behaviors. These agreements cover topics such as how employees will:

  • Communicate
  • Cooperate on projects
  • Come to decisions
  • Aid one another

Open dialogue must start with leaders taking formal responsibility for the work they are doing. When a leader takes ownership, it means they are acting in accordance with their expected role as outlined in their conversations with others or their social agreement. If they fail to meet any of the standards set for them, they are responsible for owning up to their actions and resolving the communicative or behavioral mishaps they have caused.

When leaders are genuine and hold themselves accountable for their workplace obligations, they establish a more significant sense of personal authenticity, as well as a better understanding between themselves and other employees.

From this example, employees at every level will follow suit, emulating the behaviors of their supervisors. Ultimately, each instance in which an employee takes ownership acts as a micro-win, contributing to deeply trusting relationships between coworkers.

Demonstrating Empathy

Empathy creates cohesiveness between individuals. When coworkers showcase empathy, logic, and authenticity, they build a deep sense of trust, which allows them to bond. Yet, when any of the three components mentioned above is missing, trust is threatened.

The best way to showcase empathy is to metaphorically stand alongside an individual, seeking to genuinely understand their situation. It can be as simple as being present and listening. Specifically, when an individual uses empathetic listening, they rephrase the content and reflect a speaker’s emotions in order to convey a sincere understanding of what the speaker is experiencing. This is a validating practice and allows speakers to feel empowered. Another way in which to express empathy is to ask an individual when they begin a conversation about their struggles if they want advice or just need someone to listen.

If leaders practice empathetic listening and show up for their employees when in need, they will create a space in which employees feel secure expressing concerns, acting with vulnerability, and sharing their organizational needs. Ultimately, this contributes to a psychologically safe work environment in which employees and their company thrive.

Exercising Radical Transparency

If an individual is truthful, others around them will be significantly more inclined to do the same.

Therefore, leaders must implement the use of radical transparency before their employees will feel comfortable and willing to do so. For instance, if a boss sets a candid tone, workers are more likely to be transparent with them about what’s going on in their organizational roles or outside lives.

In addition to leading by example, individuals in management positions must make sure their employees feel secure enough to be honest. One way for leaders to do this is to practice confidentiality. If employees feel that the sensitive personal or work-related information they entrust their leaders with will be kept between them, they are more likely to share. Leaders also must react quickly and appropriately when they are informed of unjust workplace situations.

Eventually, by creating a culture of transparency, companies will enable their employees to feel safe, trusting, resilient, and valuable. This plays an important role in a company’s overall success, particularly because employees create the products, values, and overall morals of the company for which they work.

Developing Emotional Intelligence within Organizations

The first step in the process of growing Emotionally Intelligent is becoming self-aware of the patterns of reaction you have in response to certain conversations, actions, or other stimuli. Reactions can be helpful or hurtful, healthy or harmful, useful or inhibiting. Leaders hoping to help their employees build emotional intellect should balance offering support with providing the space employees need to truly look inward and investigate the ways in which they process situations or feel emotions.

Leaders should not try to fix others’ or their own inherent reactions, but bring awareness to these unconscious reactions. Then, employees can decide whether their reactions are serving them well or if they want to replace them with more suitable responses.

Emotional Intelligence is an immensely elaborate concept, which is why bringing in a specialist in the subject can support a company’s goals. It is important to remember that no matter who is tasked with advancing the Emotional Intelligence of a company’s employees, the best approach is to be patient and understand that all individuals develop at different rates.


Consistency is an invaluable skill, particularly when aiming to develop any of the beneficial workplace habits listed above. If a company is to thrive, both internally and within the market, leaders must be willing to regularly have authentic conversations that showcase accountability. Trust, Emotional Intelligence, transparency, and responsibility all are developed via interpersonal communication. So leaders must carefully exercise empathetic listening and focus on offering candid, emotionally intelligent responses. Utilizing the tips mentioned above, leaders can create a psychologically safe workplace environment in which employees feel supported, empowered, and valued.

Overall, leaders play a huge role in the development of their employees, as well as their company’s culture. Managers who pause to coach, empower, and advance the success of their employees build a foundation of trust that will equip their team to withstand organizational or personal obstacles, leading their employees to show up stronger for their businesses.

Zach Smith
Zach Smith is the Chief Activation Officer and co-founder of Activate 180. He has been a trusted voice in mindset, career optimization, and leadership coaching for more than 10 years. Smith has coached thousands of employees across mid-market and enterprise-level organizations, aligning their careers with true calling and passion to create total life fulfillment. Before becoming an award-winning coach, Smith spent more than 10 years in senior marketing and client relationship management roles for international consumer beverage brands. He trained with the Ascension Leadership Academy’s coaching program, graduating from their highest level course. Smith received a Bachelor’s degree in business marketing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.