Accountability Overload and Its Consequence and Remedy


December 2021


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Accountability overload (AO) may increase cost, lower responsiveness, and decrease productivity and service quality [103]. It creates an extra burden on employees [163], erodes their trust and morale [185], and decreases their job satisfaction [43]. Specifically, it undermines organizational mission [15, 68] and performance [140, 152, 155]. However, the examination of the phenomenon and its consequence and remedies is still in a nascent stage and predominantly qualitative. This dissertation undertakes three interrelated studies to fill the research gap by advancing the concept, empirically examining the relationship between AO and organizational outcome, and exploring remedies to AO. The first study conducts a systematic review of Public Administration literature on AO. The second study empirically examines the relationship between AO and the performance of public servants across societal cultures. The third study investigates the effect of ethical leadership (EL) on AO and the mediating role of the ethical environment (EE) on the relationship between EL and AO. The first study identifies the elements of AO and its consequence and remedy. The most common element of AO is multiple accountabilities or expectations. Besides, incompatibility between accountability criteria and organizational goals, ambiguous performance standards, and excessively high accountability or performance requirements are some of the dominant elements of AO. In addition, episodic and arbitrary accountability demand, incomplete outcome measures, emphasis on punitive actions, and lack of legitimacy of the accountholder are the factors that contribute to AO. The study suggests that AO generally produces negative consequences: it undermines performance and organizational objectives and makes the accountability system ineffective. Collaboration and dialogue, moderate accountability requirements, appropriate performance criteria, ethical practice in the organization, and an emphasis on the organizational mission may reduce AO. Contextual factors such as poor governance and lack of trust in government influence AO in the organization. However, extant studies are predominantly qualitative and concentrated in a limited number of countries. Thus, the study emphasizes empirical investigation into AO in comparative settings to appreciate the phenomenon and its consequences and remedies. The second study defines perceived AO and finds a negative association between AO and employee performance. It also proves that the relationship between performance and AO does not vary across societal cultures. Therefore, the study concludes that AO is a universal phenomenon and has a similar consequence irrespective of differences in contexts or cultures. The third study finds that EL reduces AO among employees and enhances EE in the organization. However, EE does not influence the relationship between EL and AO. Thus, the study underscores the importance of EL in reducing AO among employees irrespective of the ethical condition in the organization.



Political Science, Public Administration