Mark Craemer 1 Comment

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is intended to inform, entertain and hopefully inspire you to take action towards improving your own or your group’s behavior in the workplace. While the information is based on the experience and expertise of the author, he takes no responsibility for the accuracy nor for any damages incurred from deploying this information.

What happened to the notion of personal responsibility, and when did this no longer become a requirement for being a grown-up?

As a parent of young children I find I am constantly signing waivers so my kids can participate in various physical activities. All these legal agreements have similar language that essentially disavows those providing the service from taking any responsibility should my child get injured while participating in the activity.

These disclaimers are even found in preliminary report cards. Here’s what came home the other day with the grades for our middle schooler:

DISCLAIMER: This system is provided as a convenience. Grades and other information provided by this system are not official records and may or may not be accurate. Neither this institution . . . . or its affiliates accepts any responsibility for information provided by this system and/or for any damages resulting from information provided by this system.

These disclaimers are not limited to the activities of our children, of course. More and more of the products and services we purchase every day come with a limited liability notice so the manufacturer or provider cannot be held responsible should their product or service come up short or result in an injury or death.

I know this is done in order to protect organizations from lawsuits but perhaps this has gone too far. We have become such a litigious society that no one wants to be held liable in the case something goes wrong. The cost is just too high.

But, of course, things do go wrong. In fact, they go wrong all the time and as a result of so many waivers, it is difficult to hold anyone responsible.

My concern is that this lack of organizational responsibility is infecting each of us individually. How long before we send our children to school with a waiver for teachers to sign stating that in no way are we as parents to be held responsible for our children paying attention while in class. Absurd? I hope so.

What about the workplace? As an employee, you may want to be given full responsibility and then held accountable for the results you are asked to achieve. Instead, maybe you are given only partial responsibility, yet still held fully accountable. This can often make the task frustrating if not impossible to accomplish.

If employers gave their employees more responsibility, would they achieve more results? It seems obvious that some would and some would not. In the same way parents provide teenagers with increasingly more opportunities and responsibilities, the same method should be applied to employees. Provide employees with opportunities to achieve success a little at a time. There will no doubt be setbacks and mistakes, but there will also be growth and eventually greater results.

I think many employees would embrace more responsibility and do their best to fully meet the obligations so they could get more respect and career advancement opportunities. And with more responsibility comes greater challenges and opportunities for learning, which includes mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes, but how we deal with our mistakes says a lot about our character as well as how we accept personal responsibility. Denying our own contribution to what went wrong or blaming others is only failing to live up to what responsibility entails.

Responsibility requires that we each own our part in what goes wrong. And instead of attacking others who may have made a mistake, attack the problem that led to this and seek immediate ways of correcting the mistake without pointing figures. Then look for long-term solutions to avoid anyone making the mistake in the future.

And take responsibility not only for the task, but also for the relationship. We all need to work with other people to get things accomplished. Owning up to your mistakes will demonstrate your leadership aptitude as well as protect the relationship, which is vital for cooperation, collaboration and effective teamwork.

Taking responsibility has become all too rare in today’s leaders. If you want to stand out and continue to grow in your leadership capacity, begin by embracing responsibility and behaving like a grown-up.

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