The Personal Responsibility Elephant in the Room

One area of the workplace that some don’t even know exists is personal responsibility. It seems in today’s world, there’s plenty of “I’m the victim”, blame game and “it’s your fault, not mine” to go around. When it comes to work, it’s so easy to slip into this mode. There is so much gray area around job descriptions that it is easy to defend the “…not my job…” attitude. The thing to keep in mind is that all of us have a choice in how we conduct ourselves. Refreshingly, I have found more success in owning up to mistakes and taking responsibility even when it – legitimately – may not be mine.

I can recount many situations where I have gained more credibility and respect by speaking up and saying, “…I’ll take that…”. In fact, this has helped me win some promotions over the years. Here’s what I’m talking about:

We’ve all been there before, right?

It’s a tense meeting and there isn’t any clear path to move forward. “The Boss” states that “we” need to do better and “someone” needs to figure out what to do. Then the subtle non-verbal cues come out. The non-eye contact, the furious note taking and silence. Then it becomes a game of will…who will speak first? Who will offer a suggestion? Any self-serving employee looks at his/her shoes and waits it out. Someone – maybe the “new employee” – will speak up and let us all off the hook.

Yes, this happens many times a day in conference rooms around the world. Many times the best ideas are not identified and a lot more time and effort is needed to get things back on track.

Some do this purposefully due to their perceived workload, political maneuvering or simply they don’t seen any incentive to volunteer. Others may not even realize that they are doing it.

This isn’t limited to just volunteering for something. Often times, it’s going the extra mile to work with someone….taking the extra time to build the relationship with co-workers or other departments.

I’m not concerned about the lofty moral and ethical aspects. I simply believe that it’s good career management to honestly and actively take personal responsibility in your job. Partly because it’s not necessarily the norm…so it’s not expected! Even if you honestly believe that “…it is someone elses job…” or “…they should have done ___…”, by taking the initiative your boss (and possibly his/her boss) WILL notice. You may not get that promotion right away, but it can be part of the larger strategy to get noticed and build a case for a promotion. Another benefit is that by building better relationships with others, you have a much better chance of influencing their actions next time around. So get out there…go that extra mile…if not because it’s a good thing to do, do it for your career!


Veteran technology professional and manager

Posted in work habits

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