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Accountability Culture: High Bar, High Reward

By Galen Emanuele

January 2, 2024

The perfect recipe to balance exceptional employee experience and awesome teams: high bar, high reward.

The landscape is shifting inside organizations. In terms of employee experience, culture and expectations that companies do more and give more to retain and keep people happy, there is more pressure now than ever before.

I am a huge proponent of paying the hell out of people, giving them time off, allowing them flexibility and elevating employee experience. I think it’s important to try to “ruin” employees for other companies so that they never leave because they have it so good and love working for the company.

The flip side of that: The relationship between culture and accountability has to flow both ways. Organizations still need employees and teams to be productive and successful. There are some dynamics in this shifting landscape where leadership teams are worried and/or seeing some effects that creating a really cushy, enhanced employee experience can create entitled employees.

The way that I believe companies and employees can navigate this and make this work comes down to the philosophy of high bar, high reward.

High bar, high reward. If we expect employees to perform well, to hustle, to do great work, we should give them the world in return. And vice versa — if your organization is giving employees great benefits, great pay, flexibility, prioritizing exceptional culture, then it needs to be understood that they will also be held to high expectations.

Many leaders fear that if they make it too good for employees that they will become entitled, and also that if they hold the bar high, employees might leave. The truth is, the right balance and recipe for making it great for the employees and for the company is to establish an environment of “give people the world while asking a lot of them.”

Plenty of places to exchange mediocrity. There are many companies that don’t pay well, that don’t care about culture or employee experience, and where employees don’t really care or try hard either — some people and those companies are completely happy with that.

But any organization that wants to be exceptional has to have that balance and trade-off, and it must be transparent and understood by employees. In exchange for wonderful benefits and working conditions, they are held accountable to a high bar.

You can’t ask for people to jump high or bend over backwards for you without treating and paying them well. And you can’t allow people to show up and be unproductive or have poor attitudes when you’re giving them the world. This recipe for excellence requires balance.

Be obsessed with employee experience and culture and give people what they want. In return, hold them to a high bar and expect excellence. Everyone wins.

Galen Emanuele is a speaker and trainer on business leadership and team culture based out of Portland, Ore. Every week, Emanuele produces a video and blog post highlighting vital conversations, building skill sets and showing teams how to drive exceptional culture and leadership. To see more, visit