Responsibility and Accountability: A different approach


Before I begin the New Year with an article I think you will find interesting, I want to let you, my readers, know that starting with today’s post, I will be posting new articles every other week rather than every week.

While there are a number of reasons for this which I won’t go into, what I would like you to know is that I am still very interested in providing content which is relevant to you.  With this in mind, I hope you will continue to leave comments (We review all of them.) about both the content I provide and any new content you would like me to address.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support.

-The Emotions Doctor-

Happy 2018!

I want to start the New Year with an article on responsibility and accountability because I am suggesting you begin 2018 with a different approach to how you interact with others.

And, by the way, the principles I discuss below can also be applied to yourself.  This can improve your self-esteem and your self-respect.

Someone with whom you have a “relationship” at some point will either do something “wrong” or fail to do something “right”.

That person could be a child, a spouse, or, maybe, an employee.

Perhaps you are angry because their actions are perceived as a “threat”.

Here are some possible threats:

  • to your view of right verses wrong,
  • they have negatively impacted your goals or your business,
  • or you are convinced that they just “should” not have done what they did.

You want to hold them accountable for their actions in order to:

  • make things right,
  • get justice,
  • or teach them a lesson.

Okay, while each of the above makes sense, I suggest that you avoid being too quick to rush to judgement.

Here is something to think about.

Your anger tells you that you perceive a threat in what this person has done.

Let’s agree that their behavior is a threat (whether or not it actually is).

When you move to the next step about what to do to deal with the threat, the issue becomes a bit more complicated.

If your desire is to “hold them accountable”, then you are assuming that the actions they took (or failed to take) were intentional.

If they chose to do something wrong or chose to avoid doing what was expected, then your assumption is correct and corrective action, or punishment is appropriate.

Notice the words I have italicized above.

But, what if something else is going on?

Let me explain.

When we hold someone accountable for their actions, we assume that they are capable of doing what is expected.

To be accountable is to be held RESPONSIBLE.  

If one is capable of doing what is expected, then they are RESPONSE ABLE.

I am making a distinction between Response Ibility vs Response Ability.

Before you decide how to deal with the behavior of another person, it is important to determine:

1) if they could have done what you expected and either chose not to (or just screwed up) or

2) they could not do what was expected either because they lacked a specific skillset or tool or because they completely misunderstood what was expected.

To hold a person accountable when they lacked the ability to do what was expected will elicit anger because the imposed consequence is viewed as unfair and, therefore, as a threat to their view of right and wrong.

Anger will lead to resistance which will interfere with learning.

If the goal is to change the undesired behavior, then it is important to determine that the individual was indeed response able before we hold them respons(e) sible.

In a business context, it may be your responsibility as an employer to help them secure the training they need.

As a friend (or parent), it is your responsibility to do what is necessary to make your expectations (and the reasons behind them) clear and appropriate and to  facilitate the relationship moving forward.

I welcome your comments.



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