Responsibility Strip

Responsibility isn't a state that people just arrive at. As a leader of people, this is really important point to understand. Never assume that the people reporting to you know how to accept, and then act with responsibility. It's a skill that is built - or not - throughout life.

What Causes a Lack of Responsibility?

People duck responsibility for reasons ranging from simple laziness or a fear of failure, through to a sense of feeling overwhelmed by the scale of a problem or a situation.

Whatever the reason, if people fail to take responsibility, they'll fail in their jobs, they'll fail their teams, and they'll fail to grow as individuals. All of this makes it important to address the issue.

Sometimes it isn't obvious when people are shirking their responsibilities, but there are several signs to watch out for.

These include:

  • Lacking interest in their work, and in the well-being of the team;
  • Blaming others for mistakes and failures;
  • Missing deadlines;
  • Avoiding challenging tasks and projects; and not taking risks;
  • Regularly complaining about unfair treatment by team leaders and team members - and engaging in self-pity;
  • Avoiding taking initiative, and being dependent on others for work, advice, and instructions;
  • Lacking trust in team members and leaders;
  • Making excuses regularly - they may often say "It's not my fault," or, "That's unfair."

Strategies and Tools

When team members don't take responsibility for their actions, some managers may just hope that the problem goes away. Others may try to remove these people from their teams completely.

Neither of these approaches is ideal – the situation is likely to get worse if you just leave it alone; while laying people off should be a last resort, especially if you're dealing with people who have the potential to be effective team members.

Instead, your aim should be to provide your people with the skills and resources needed to do their jobs, and then to create an environment where it's easy for them to take responsibility for their decisions and actions.

Personal Accountability

When you’re personally accountable, you take ownership of situations that you’re involved in. You see them through, and you take responsibility for what happens – good or bad. You don’t blame others if things go wrong. Instead, you do your best to make things right.

In the workplace, accountability can go beyond your own tasks. For example, you may be held accountable for the actions of your team.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate history is full of examples of companies that have suffered commercially because they've behaved in ways that are unacceptable to the public.

Recognizing how important social responsibility is to their customers, many companies now focus on and practice a few broad categories of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

1. Environmental efforts: One primary focus of corporate social responsibility is the environment. Businesses regardless of size have a large carbon footprint. Any steps they can take to reduce those footprints are considered both good for the company and society as a whole.

2. Philanthropy: Businesses also practice social responsibility by donating to national and local charities. Businesses have a lot of resources that can benefit charities and local community programs.

3. Ethical labor practices: By treating employees fairly and ethically, companies can also demonstrate their corporate social responsibility. This is especially true of businesses that operate in international locations with labor laws that differ from those in the United States.

4. Volunteering: Attending volunteer events says a lot about a company's sincerity. By doing good deeds without expecting anything in return, companies are able to express their concern for specific issues and support for certain organizations.

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