Original Research

Exploring accountability of individuals in the mining sector: A multi-level perspective

Tarryn Brandling, Hayley Pearson, Morris Mthombeni
South African Journal of Business Management | Vol 54, No 1 | a3085 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajbm.v54i1.3085 | © 2023 Tarryn Brandling, Hayley Pearson, Morris Mthombeni | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 December 2021 | Published: 31 March 2023

About the author(s)

Tarryn Brandling, Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria, Illovo, South Africa
Hayley Pearson, Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria, Illovo, South Africa
Morris Mthombeni, Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria, Illovo, South Africa


Purpose: In heavy industries like mining, where safety is paramount, organisations need a well-functioning system of accountability. Yet to whom employees perceive they are accountable differs at varying hierarchical levels. This article reports on the findings from a study that investigated sources of accountability at different organisational levels in a certain mining operation and the mechanisms used to manage such accountability.

Design/methodology/approach: An exploratory, qualitative research methodology was used in the study, underpinned by in-depth interviews with participants from three organisational levels: blue-collar workers, supervisors and managers. The data collected were analysed using thematic content analysis.

Findings/results: Blue-collar workers and supervisors considered self-accountability and accountability to line managers to be the primary sources of accountability. However, managers stressed the importance of accountability to regulatory bodies and the legal implications of non-adherence to prescribed standards. All participants perceived their reputations to be heavily dependent on their accountability relationships. Mechanisms used in the organisation to promote accountability included clarifying roles and responsibilities, building open and honest interpersonal relationships, implementing standardised policies and procedures, and offering financial incentives.

Practical implications: The findings from the study informed the development of a conceptual accountability model, which should help mining executives in other organisations to manage the accountability process and promote responsible and safe behaviour at all organisational levels.

Originality/value: There is limited empirical research on sources of accountability in organisations. This study provides useful insights that help to fill this gap.


accountability; responsibility; management; performance management; mining; safety


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