What – No Personal Responsibility?

There is something happening more and more today that just has got me fired up, the lack of personal accountability or responsibility. I don’t know if I am more sensitive to it or just that the frequency of the occurrences have increased. Either way, I am sick and tired of witnessing this. How about you? Nothing makes me more frustrated to listen to someone blame another person for their lack of attention to detail. I actually heard this one, “it was not my fault, so and so, did not do what I told them to do, so they are to blame.”  I then had to understand better the complete picture. Asking more questions, spending more time and then getting to solution space to get results, lots of effort. I used to get this on all the time when my kids were growing up. You know the one where you asked who did something. The answer you always got was, “not me.” That invisible additional child you did not know you had. Well, now “not me” is in the workplace. I really don’t like him.

What would make people not want to stand up and take responsibility for their actions?

  • Afraid of the perception that they don’t know what they are doing. I don’t know about you, but this one really makes them look incompetent.
  • Afraid of the consequences. Fear does wonderful things, usually not in a good way.
  • Never had to take responsibility ever, so why start now. This one, is starting to really come out loud and clear to me. As the workforce is changing – this lack of responsibility is a fundamental building block on solid work ethic.

How do we change this behavior? For me, there is one key to turning it around. It all starts with one person, yourself. Demonstrate exactly what behavior you are looking for. Take personal responsibility to your actions. When you make a mistake, stand up and be counted. Demonstrated by say, “I made a mistake, I will do XXXX better next time.” This will let the folks in the team know that you are human and willing to admit that you messed up and how you plan on fixing that mistake in the future. Next up, I would make insure that the work environment is set up for folks to admit to mistakes without fear or perception issues popping up. When people feel that they are open to say what they need to say, they usually will do so. Lastly, when someone opens up and admits it, go ahead and thank them for their honesty. Seems like a strange thing to do, thanking someone for admitting a mistake, but when the team sees this behavior, they will understand that the environment is a safe place. This does not mean that the slate is wiped clean of the actions. Work has to get done and quickly, but what happens is everyone can get on with producing results, rather than wasting time “getting to the bottom of what happened.” I have never seen a person get fired for standing up when they have made a mistake and take ownership to insure that it does not happen again. Have you?

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