Management Papers

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of this Version


Publication Source

The Oxford Handbook of Public Accountability




Private- and public-sector managers face a recurring organizational-design dilemma: the relative emphasis to place on process-versus-outcome accountability in evaluating employee performance. This chapter reviews experimental-psychological research that emphasizes the benefits of process accountability and then notes blind spots in that literature, especially the insensitivity to the relational signals that accountability manipulations convey about how evaluators view the evaluated. The chapter also examines real-world ideologically-driven debates over accountability design in which partisans tend to favor no-excuses forms of outcome accountability for those deemed untrustworthy and uncertainty-buffering forms of process accountability for the trustworthy. Finally, an integrative framework is proposed that examines how managers can balance the inevitable tradeoffs between decision-making control enhanced under process accountability and innovation fostered under outcome accountability, and sheds light on how agent empowerment can compensate for the deficiencies of both systems.

Copyright/Permission Statement

This work has been reproduced with the permission of Oxford University Press.


accountability, process, outcome, ideology, empowerment, trustworthiness



Date Posted: 19 February 2018

This document has been peer reviewed.