Responsibility means being accountable for what we think, say, and do. It involves working on our own character and skill development rather than blaming others for situations and circumstances. It means choosing to design a life that honors our values and purpose.
Personal responsibility begins from the inside and moves outward. We must begin by taking responsibility for our thoughts, choices, and reactions. Only then we can be responsible for the circumstances we create in our world.
Every choice that is made can either benefit humanity or harm it. Even avoiding choices is a choice, and each choice will have consequences.
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 family and social lives, also in their jobs. But most importantly, they’ll fail to grow as individuals. Hence the importance of addressing the issue.
Signs and Symptoms
Sometimes it isn’t obvious when people are shirking their responsibilities, but there are several signs to watch out for.
- Lacking interest at home or in the workplace and in the well-being of the family, friends and colleagues.
- Blaming others for mistakes and failures.
- Missing deadlines.
- Avoiding challenging tasks and projects; and not taking risks.
- Regularly complaining about unfair treatment by family, friends and colleagues also engaging in self-pity.
- Avoiding taking initiative, and being dependent on others for work, advice, and instructions.
- Lacking trust in family, friends and colleagues.
- Making excuses regularly – they may often say “It’s not my fault,” or, “That’s unfair.”
Strategies and Tools
Start by Talking
Your first step is to talk to the individuals concerned. Find out if there are circumstances that are contributing to the situation, or if there are problems that you can assist them with. After all, bad things can happen in people’s lives, and this can clearly affect their behavior.
Then provide feedback, so that the individuals know that their behavior needs to change.
What you learn in your discussion provides the context for the next actions that you take.
Ensure Adequate Resources
In the workplace, a sensible early action is to ensure that employees have the resources they need to do their job. This might include providing training, equipment, access to mentors and coaches.
This is a key step in helping people take responsibility for their work – if they don’t have the “tools” needed to do their jobs, it’s easy to shun responsibility!
Communicate Roles, Responsibilities, and Objectives
Individuals need to know clearly what their roles and responsibilities are, whether at home or at work. Make sure that they understand every responsibility that they have. Repeat as many times as necessary until they understand.
Help People Take Control
Sometimes, people feel that they have no control over their lives. To them, it doesn’t matter what they do or how hard they work, nothing makes much of a difference. Set modest goals so that they can achieve some quick wins; and then help them build their self-confidence. Also, remind them of their strengths and past successes, and teach them how to think positively, instead of engaging in damaging, negative self-talk.
Give Plenty of Praise
A final thing to do is to give plenty of praise when individuals do take responsibility. Help them improve by providing them with consistent, effective, fair feedback.